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Design

Is the New Portland Building Still the Portland Building?

Michael Graves’s famous Portland Building is undergoing a renovation so extensive, it may be de-listed from the National Register of Historic Places.
The Portland Building before its renovation.
The Portland Building before its renovation.Courtesy of DLR Group

On a recent afternoon outside the Portland Building, the massive copper Portlandia statue sitting atop its entrance was still encased in scaffolding—the marine goddess’s outstretched hand poking the edge of its white plastic sheathing—as part of an ongoing $195 million renovation and reconstruction.

Despite being a famous landmark designed by architect Michael Graves, and one of the first major Postmodernist buildings in America, the building (owned by the City of Portland) was ultra-value-engineered when it was constructed in the early 1980s, and leaked practically from the start. A few years ago, the city decided renovation was critical if it was to have any functional future.