A mass timber design from LEVER wins the Portland Museum of Art expansion competition
By Josh Niland|
Monday, Jan 9, 2023
LEVER Architecture has been named the winner in the much-heralded international competition to design an expansion of the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in Maine’s largest city.
The $100 million project will add approximately 60,000 square feet of space to the campus in the form of a new facility that “knits together” with the PMA’s four existing downtown buildings in order to provide for an anticipated visitorship of between 300,000 and 500,000 people per year.
LEVER, which has recently stood out for their application of mass timber constructions, will again incorporate the material heavily into the expansion’s design along with glass and terra cotta culminating with a curvilinear roofline meant to frame the movement of the sun in what the firm says is a reference to the local Wabanaki Indigenous community's conception of place.
“The PMA's competition brief was a challenge to the very definition of what a museum is,” LEVER Principal Chandra Robinson said in a press release. “It was a call to action to designers around the world to question what it means to truly design for people, for communities, and for a specific place in the world. We would not have beenable to challenge the idea of a museum without conceptualizing a new model of inclusive participation. Our teams' perspectives on Wabanaki culture, community engagement, and universal accessibility were at the root of this design process.”
The firm beat out three other finalist teams led by Adjaye Associates, MVRDV, and Toshiko Mori Architect in a competition that included 104 total entries from 20 different countries. LEVER will work together with an assembled cohort that includes Scott Simons and Unknown Studio, Chris-Newell-Akomawt Educational Initiative, Openbox, Once-Future Office, Atelier Ten, Guy Nordenson, Arup, and Studio Pacifica to complete the project, which Robinson added will “create a new museum that takes a giant step into the future and brings us all to a time and place that celebrates how art and the human spirit are intertwined.”
“This is one of the most significant moments in the PMA’s 140-year history,” museum director Mark Bessire said finally about the competition effort developed and led by Dovetail Design Strategists. “LEVER, and the team they have assembled, have demonstrated that they care deeply about our region’s future, our unique arts culture, and the needs of our community. They share our values of courage, equity, service, sustainability, and trust, and we can’t wait to get to work with LEVER and our communities to imagine Maine’s next great landmark.”
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