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can you go one post without mentioning brad cloepfil? how much is he paying you?

Brian Libby

Peter, alas, Brad is not paying me. In fact, he's even screamed at me before. But there just aren't that many architects in Portland who occupy a space in the nationa/international architectural dialogue and are considered automatic local candidates for big signature projects like a concert hall. Was it wrong to mention him in this context? Or maybe we could exhume Pietro Belluschi instead?


Or maybe someone who can do concert halls?


The space between the Schnitz and PCPA is unique in its structural and systematic ability to be closed to traffic and occupied by small performances and gatherings. The act of closing a street for an event periodically createsd more civic drama than closing it permanently (leaving it unoccupied at all times in which it is unused). I vote to maintain the periodic-closure concept.

Mike M

I think that opening and closing it creates more confusion than simply closing it would. Portland would do well to slowly create more civic spaces by reducing the access of cars to some streets. This might be a good start.

While it creates headaches, if we can create an actively used space the whole city would benefit.

Creating an actively used space is certainly no small task though, and I wish the project team good luck!


as an architectural critic, i would have assumed that you would acknowledge the fact that this project requires an architect who specializes in the architecture of performance spaces/concert halls/etc. would you recommend (fill in the blank starchitect) to design a hospital without any previous experience designing medical facilities?

Brian Libby

Indeed there are architects out there who specialize in certain program types like concert halls or hospitals. But I'd much rather see a great architect who doesn't necessarily have a lot of concert halls in his/her portfolio than an architect or firm who is good but not great and has lots of experience at that project type.

I'm not an architect, so maybe I have a little different perspective on this. But I'd rather have raw talent than experience. You could always hire an experienced architect/firm to be the architect of record and provide that experience. But being really talented is rarer than having experience. I'd want to settle that first and make sure it's a beautiful building and not just functional or ADA compliant.


As a flexible space that alternately serves theater functions and the passage of vehicle traffic, I'd agree that Main St has worked fairly well. The one thing about it that bothers me...trivial I suppose, is the discoloration of the street's ornamental paving due to dripping oil and rubber from vehicle tires. This has diminished the beauty that plaza once had.

The Schnitzer/Portland Theater, formerly Paramount movie house has long been a dissatisfying experience as a symphony hall. Accoustically, symphony halls are very challenging to do well. Everything I've heard about the glorious former movie house is that despite everything done to make it work as a symphonic concert hall, it's not so good for that purpose. Portland really should have a great symphonic concert hall.

Maybe Carnegie hall in NYC should be duplicated here in Portland. That's the one symphonic concert hall in the world that seems to be universally revered for its impeccably great sound. About that hall, never hear anything bad about sightlines or seating comfort either.

If a new hall is built, I'm just wondering where it will be built. I realize many people consider that in a city, integrity of natural elements should be subordinate to the design and construction of buildings, but personally, I'm worried that a concert hall or some other much taller building will be built on the museum's property(now a parking lot), directly to the west across the park blocks from the Schnitzer. A new symphonic concert hall is needed, but preservation of sun, sky and light in one of Portland's most important urban parks is also very important.


A new concert Hall in Portland would be fantastic in my opinion. The top three concert halls acoustically in the World are (by general admission) The Musicvereinsal in Vienna, Symphony Hall in Boston and the Concertgebau in Amsterdam. The first two are shoebox designs, succesfully (I think acoustically if not necessarily architecturally)) reproduced in Nashville TN for their new Shemerhorn Sympphony Hall.

Carnegie Hall is great acoustically, but its public spaces, lobby and upper tiers are outdated and uncomfortable to sit or circulate in (the sightlines from the "nosebleed section" at Carnegie Hall are terrible.

The Oregon Symphony is rapidly becoming a very acomplished orchestra, technically and artistically. They deserve a great concert space that would also be a great cultural asset for Portland.

first balcony front

To do what you would want to do, you would need two blocks, at least in that area. How many seats do they think they can routinely fill? My impression is that the rehearsal and tech services spaces are what is lacking.

Do agree that the space between the two existing buildings should remain normally open. Having it closed and empty is far worse than having traffic there. Sends a cold message. No reason it can't be closed more often than it is for special events.


I propose that we redevelop Memorial Coliseum for this supposedly much needed concert hall.

Elaine Calder

When it comes to designing a concert hall, the key individual is the acoustician. Here's my experience:

Before coming to Portland, where I'm president of the Oregon Symphony, I managed the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Francis Winspear Concert Hall in Edmonton, Alberta. The Winspear Centre is now 11 years old. It's a purpose-built concert hall of 1716 seats (1932 including the choir loft) with superb acoustics.

it was designed by the Edmonton architects Cohos Evamy, who had no previous experience designing concert halls. (Neither did Frank Gehry when he landed the commission for Disney Hall in LA.) But the key to designing a concert hall is the acoustician - in Edmonton's case, the late great Russell Johnson. The architects wisely left the design of the performance chamber to Russell, and took responsibility for wrapping the public spaces, offices, rehearsal hall, dressing rooms, instrument storage rooms, HVAC equipment, etc. around it. The building is constructed of four separate parts, so that the performance chamber is completed isolated from HVAC and outside noise. As you would expect, the musicians and management of the Edmonton Symphony had a great deal of input into the building program.

The Winspear Centre opened in 1997 on time and on budget, at a cost of only $40 million, in large part because it was built during an economic downtown. The building trades and suppliers were glad of the work and generous with their time and materials. It's a modest building in size and finishes, but it's an elegant, popular and extremely efficient home for the Symphony and its audiences.


i second scott's comment on memorial coliseum. the concert hall can float within the curtain wall volume just like the current concrete "teacup". probably big enough to fit two venues in it for different size crowds and types of performances.


i think a concert hall should be in a pedestrian friendly zone -
where one can walk to an after concert drink. it seems ok to drive away from a basketball game - but a concert hall in portland should be downtown.


I have to agree with j.j. IF Portland were going to get a new concert hall, it would need to be in the "cultural district" near where the Schnitz is now. It even says that on the street signs in that neighborhood: "Cultural District." It makes no sense to declare that kind of district and then put your concert hall across the river in an old sports arena.

But let's face it: Portland isn't going to get a new concert hall in the near (or even distant) future. There's just no money or public clamor for one. Don't foget that the Portland Art Museum and Portland Center Stage both did big new building projects in the recent past, and neither of those are anywhere close to being paid for yet. How does this city raise the money for a new concert hall when it can't find donors willing to pay for those already-completed cultural facilities? (Ah, if only Nike had any interest in anything besides sports!)


All good points about priorities for location and funding of a symphonic concert hall. Nikos, thanks for the info about top rated world class concert halls...you too, Elaine Carter, for your bit about acousticians.

re; Nike reflecting an interest in any cultural expression other than sports athletics; I always thought Nike ought to look into designing and engineering a better ballet shoe. Dancers go through that expensive footwear like chewing gum. And at least to my very limited familiarity with it, the technique required by dancers to wrap their feet so as to make ballet shoes work, seems primitive and insufficient. Is there such a thing as a successful ballet dancer without seriously screwed up feet?

I suppose if Nike did, it would put out of business, a lot of small, niche manufacturers supplying the world ballet performance market. That wouldn't be good.


I'm with Ethan in finding that the periodic closing of Main St. makes the space, when used for events, more dramatic than it would be if it were closed all the time. I've enjoyed a few of the "Music on Main Street" events this summer and there's something particularly wonderful about the fact that I'm sitting (or standing) there, watching a live band, with a beer in my hand, on the street.

Plus, it's hard to imagine what that space would be used for from, oh, say, November 1-June 1? The plaza between the Portland Art Museum's two buildings is a lovely public space, but it's not as if there are a whole lot of people using it in the winter months.

I also think the impact on the Park Blocks of permanently closing Main St. should be considered. Keeping the surrounding area porous to pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers seems to be part of what makes that area work.

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