As Fred Leeson reported in Thursday's Oregonian, Yost Grube Hall returned with a revised design for Portland State University's recreation center building on the plaza across from the school's very nice Thomas Hacker-designed Urban Center.
YGH won the job a few months ago after beating out both Hacker and Opsis Architecture. At the time, I liked their proposal the third best out of the three finalists. I was particularly keen on the visually much bolder-looking Opsis design with its ribbons of curvy metal. But it's not as if the YGH design was bad or anything. I'll bet if I hadn't seen the other two designs, I'd have liked it more from the start. Besides, as Randy Gragg argued in a January Oregonian column, the university may have been going about this in a "bargain basement" kind of way (as Randy put it), regardless of what designer was chosen.
As it happens, though it seems PSU may wind up getting a pretty nice building, for the rendering YGH unveiled (above) seems much more unified and coherent. It's still not a blow-you-away kind of design, but it's the kind of timeless modernism that figures to age well over the generations. It's Portland for better and worse: a nice fabric building, nothing truly great but quality stuff and a good neighbor - kind of like a lot of the old turn of the 20th century buildings surrounding Courthouse Square that many of us love today, a hundred years later.
One small point of contention Leeson reported from the Design Commission hearing (at which the design was shown) I actually found myself tentatively agreeing with the architect over the commission. It involved the upper portion of the building, from which a metal-clad top floor rises (but set back from the perimeter) from a larger brick-clad portion. In the article, one of the commissioners suggested there should be more done to stitch these two materials together transitionally in the facade. Nells Hall of YGH seemed to resist this idea. And I think he may have a point. I think these are visually a couple of cubes resting against each other; they don't need stitching, I say.
Meanwhile, what do the rest of you make of the revised PSU rec center design? And having had a few months to reflect on the competition, in which comments here got somewhat heated about the university's handling of the selection process, how do we feel about things now?
One other note, about Fred Leeson, who reported on the story for the paper. Leeson recently retired from being a full-time staff writer. It happened with no fanfare, but Leeson leaving was, considering his frequent articles about architecture in the InPortland section, a loss for the architecture community here comparable to Randy Gragg's more talked-about departure for the same paper. But luckily, Leeson has now returned to somewhat regularly contribute as a freelancer. Which design enthusiasts should be happy to see. I know I am; I steal all my best ideas from Fred's articles.