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Short-sighted is exactly right. According to the DJC the school board "felt that "nostalgia" was not enough reason to keep the building." This only shows a lack of understanding on their part or perhaps they simply wanted to build new from the beginning. While in some instances preservation may indeed be rooted in nostalgia, in this instance that was not the case at all. This is not some cookie-cutter building, it is a rare example of a Doyle school and Doyle's importance is well established.

I'd also like to know how the school board will try to sell kids on "sustainability" or how "green" their new building will be. It's important that when/if they get to that stage, that people point out the amount of waste created by tearing down a nearly 90 year old school.


Well, if this is what Riverdale School District residents, and not just the the school board members...really want, then let them go for it. Do district residents really choose demolition over renovation and updating of their classic Doyle building, or are they simply bound to the possibly arbitrary or contrary decisions of their school board?

Sorry if I missed this info if it was posted somewhere else, but a question: Can this specific decision not be submitted to a vote by district residents, or, was the earlier bond measure vote effectively an affirmation by district residents of whatever decision the school board chose to make on the fate of the Doyle school building?


shameful. our public institutions should set an example by safequarding publicly-owned buildings which make up our common inheritance. so many privately-owned buildings are lost because we do not have a say in their fate.


Let's see, they want the architects to incorporate the existing brick into the new building. That would mean costs to carefully remove the brick, clean all of the mortar off, store the brick in a safe place, and then relay the brick -

TOTAL COST $500,000!


Idiocy. The comment about nostalgia especially rankles me. There is a difference between important cultural heritage and mere nostalgia, and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to recognize it.

It smells to me like the cost estimates have been cooked to favor the new construction. The scope of renovation work can be highly variable and one can basically keep adding scope to any renovation project until it becomes more expensive than the alternative. It is deceptive to try to use a 2.5% cost difference between the two projects as a justification for new construction.


there is no excuse for this, if Portland State University can take a hundred year old elementary school and with a limited budget turn it into a sustainable building for the architecture department, they can easily do the same for this building.

Besides, last time I checked, reuse was a huge step toward sustainability.


It seems that Mahlum Architects deserve some responsiblity for this. They obviously couldn't produce or didn't advocate for an effective design that saved the original school.


Mahlum is just as culpable as the board. at what point will people take responsibility for their own actions?

also, i might add: that website is a joke!

David Owen

I have created a page for Riverdale Grade School in the Archiplanet wiki. Seems to me that a vital part of any effort to preserve this building should also include documentation, especially in case the building is eventually demolished.

Presuming it won't be torn down immediately, quick photo documentation seems worthwhile, as soon as the weather permits.

Perhaps drawings could be found and shared, too.

Anyone can add images, words, maps, and links to the building page at Archiplanet (it works a lot like Wikipedia that way):



What a disgrace. A decision that flies in the face of sustainability. Wrong message to send students. And that's before we get to the issues of aesthetics and the role they play in education.

Brad Cooley


What can I say. This is unbelievable. Not since my days of reading about other cities demolishing great architects work for the short sighted need of more square footage have I experienced such lack of foresight. Chicago often looks fondly at its history of famous architects like Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Burnham, Root but hardly any of their buildings exist except in photos. What a shame.

Good luck teaching history at this school it clearly means nothing to those that live there. Portland does not have a lot of famous sons who have done well but it would be nice to see a few of their buildings in the future.


This is really shameful and I agree that Mahlum should have done a better job of advocating for the building. Although I don't advocate for quitting off projects on a whim, this is a clear case where the architecture firm should have taken the high road and walked.

brian w

I don't know what architecture firm you work for, but now is not the time to be falling on your sword. I find these quotes such as "Mahlum should have done a better job of advocating for the building" and the "cost estimates being cooked" are hilarious. The architects presented options and the client choose to go with a new school vs renovation. Do you pack up your bags and quit every time a client chooses a direction you don't agree with?


Brian W,

It only depends on what convictions you profess to have and which you will stand by. If you don't have those particular convictions, then of course you accept the direction of your client and do their bidding. For me, there are other kinds of project I would rather do.

Jim Heuer

Like many of you I'm fuming about this terrible decision. Herewith some factoids and comments:
- It has been said that the voters of the Riverdale School District voted for a new school. That is only part of the story. In fact, the voters of the precincts that include the residential areas that Riverdale serves voted strongly AGAINST the bond issue. As it happens the voting district includes Lewis & Clark College, however. The voters in that part of the district voted overwhelming in favor of the bond issue. But, those votes were most from students, most of whom aren't sending their children to Riverdale Schools. Basically the district did not have a huge mandate for a massive wipe and reload of the school buildings from their constituents. (Specifically, Precinct 1213, where L&C students outnumber others 564 to 74, voted 76% in favor of the bond issue. In the rest of the district 51% of the voters voted "No".)
- A survey commissioned by the Riverdale School Board itself before the bond issue vote found that 61% of those surveyed favored retaining the Doyle-designed building and renovating it for modern use. Clearly the Board has decided that for a highly suspect 2.5% of the project cost they will go against the clearly expressed desires of the residents of their district.
- The use of "nostalgia" as a derogatory term is infuriating, as if a respect for the past and our history suggest weak-mindedness. Of course I'm nostalgic for the past. I like to feel I'm part of the great American experiment and its amazing history. And of Oregon's and Portland's bit of that. What's wrong with valuing our past -- indeed if our elected leaders had learned the lessons of the past we might not be in the awful economic mess we're in now. I don't want to recreate dial phones and buggy whips, but I insist that our community recognize the important markers of its past and preserve and respect them.
- There is good reason to be suspect of architecture firms that have limited restoration experience when they make cost estimates for the restoration and reuse of historic buildings. Let's face it, under normal circumstances architects are trained to build new buildings. That's reasonable. But the result is that they typically don't have at their fingertips the cost, product, and material options that are available for building restoration and adaptive reuse. One can only hope that with continuing pressure, the Riverdale School Board will set aside their egos and get an informed "second opinion" from an architecture firm that specializes in adaptive re-use of historic buildings.

Leslie Mahler

Are you kidding me? "The one of a kind,historic building, by the great and seminal Portland architect A.E. Doyle" Clearly many of you need to travel east of the Mississippi River. Buildings like this are a dime a dozen on most school campuses, at least private school campuses out east. Yes, it is unique to Portland, maybe. There is NOTHING unique to this building! It is a rectangle with two boxes on either end. It barely resembles his original design. If it is so important why was it not included in the new book about Doyle? Because it was not considered a good representation of his work, that is why. The downtown library is beautiful as many of the buildings on the Reed College campus, but unique? Visionary? Not even in the same ball park!Show me something that is original to one of his designs that was not done earlier out east on other buildings. This building was NEVER called the "Doyle" building until this whole issue came up, it was always known as the 5-8 building. Some people have equated tearing this building down with murdering our children! Pull your head out of your asses!! This is NOT Monticello, Mt.Vernon, etc.
This community is trying to do the best we can with a 8 acre campus for 350 students. They looked into saving the pile of bricks and it was way over $500,000 over budget, do your research, the MINIMUM over budget was $1.2 million. We would have to give up many items that we need to EDUCATE children and make it a safer campus to save this builing. How is this fair to our grandchildren? That we felt emotion and sentimentality were more important than giving them the best campus we could? This is not teaching our children how to make tough, but smart decisions.If we could have saved this building and still given our children the best, smartest campus possible I would be all for it. If you think we are going to see public works money in the next two years you are dreaming, and yes, I voted for Obama.
Please remember this community gives over $1million dollars to the school operating budget every year to help pay for a music, art, P.E. teacher etc. to cover expenses the state does not give us money for. WE want to give the kids the best, well rounded education we can.
The school district is going for LEED certification, which requires 90-95% recycling of building materials. Why don't you come tour this great building this winter when we have buckets lining the hallway to catch the rain water or come help us get all the mold and asbestos away from the children. Or better yet send a check! This way YOU ALL can help keep the building while still allowing us to provide a safe traffic solution to get the kids off Breyman Ave. during school dropp off and pick up? Or put proper drainage in the one school athletic field that K-12 uses daily!
This school board agonized over this decision. Please remember people educate people buildings do NOT educate people. Many have said this building is hte heart of the neighborhood, I argue it is not. The people in the building are the heart. The building is merely the gathering place. No matter what stands on Breyman Ave. with the Riverdale sign on it will be the gathering place.
We need to spend this money the best we can. Housing prices in this neighborhood have gotten so high more and more young families can't afford to move in. We have lost many tuition paying families because when they come and look at the campus they can't believe how old and run down it is. Riverdale Grade School is a perfect study in the many ways to use duct tape.
We have many, many problems in this city, state, country and world. What amazes me is how people can get so emotional and devote so much energy to saving a building. Where is your fight for child abuse, homelessness, the enviroment, the war, Bernard Madoff.....? It is a building, nothing more, nothing less.


"It is a building, nothing more, nothing less." Leslie Mahler

To you Leslie, to you. Sure, there's lots of far more magnificent, old buildings east of the Mississippi. In NYC too. In fact, for everyone that's been reading the NYtimes stories of late about NYC's struggles with it's historic preservation board and the numerous, extraordinary, period architectural examples it's let slip irrevocably through it's fingers, the fact is made clear that NYC has torn down lots of archictecture more grand than the Doyle School.

Portland doesn't have near the number of great architecture building examples that east of the Mississippi and NYC has. That's why each remaining one Portland has, need special attention.

Sure, the building looks a bit tawdry after 100 years, with buckets hanging around to catch rain, and duct tape. Many things that haven't had a makeover for a long while have this problem. The Doyle, on the other hand, would be like a brand spanking new age building if it were to get a makeover.

Interesting that the school board determined to proceed with their decision in the midst of this snow storm we're having. And then, I read in the O that for Tuesday's meeting, public testimony was not taken.

At any rate, it's Riverdale School district residents responsibility to make the choice that best suits their kids. It's as simple as that, and there's no need or honorable point in running down a great building based on a great design as that choice is made.


referencing anything on the east coast to Portland is a lame excuse to justify tearing down a building in Portland...by your reasoning, all over Portland could be leveled and rebuilt because Portland is barely 100 yrs old and everything here has already been done to the east coast.

And if you are wondering, I will point out again, the more you disassemble a building, the less sustainable it becomes. So while much of the materials that went into making this building would stay on site, the energy that goes into deconstruction is wasted. As a shell, the building itself can be reused and those pesky leaks can be dealt with. The back end of the building could be deconstructed to allow it to flow into the new building. Which would allow the building to not only teach children about sustainability, but would also teach them about preservation, which last time I checked is a good thing to teach.

Out with the old and in with the new has already been done before on the east coast, dont you think it is time for us to change that?

Mr. Jetson

Next up: who wants to help me convince the city to dynamite the Hawthorne Bridge??

any takers? its not very progressive, in my opinion.


Brian, Have you asked the folks at Mahlum Architects just how they can sleep at night?


Leslie, thanks for commenting in this thread. It's a valuable viewpoint.

Leslie unfortunately undermined her best point (it was not even representative of his best work) by admitting she doesn't care for architecture beyond its plain physical service.

"No matter what stands on Breyman Ave. with the Riverdale sign on it will be the gathering place."

Unfortunately, this comment is probably a common feeling. And, it is a result of a education system and culture in the US that does not instill pride in architecture.

It's only been historically recent that the business world has realized that Design (with a big D) does affect people's lives for the better.

For those self righteous designers commenting about walking away or demanding this vote change, the design world clearly STILL needs to educate the community on why architecture is important..."because it's old and (slightly famous)" isn't going to cut it.

How does this building affect lives for the better? How can Leslie get on board with seeing how her kids will benefit with a restored structure?

The two sides are not speaking the same language right now.


i wonder if this would have happened if Potestio was still at Mahlum.

his voice often can bridge the language gap between architects and the community.


There is nothing self righteous about designers passion for this cause. Isn't this one way to educate? Without this chorus of dissent, would it even have dawned on the school board that they were doing something questionable? How many important causes have their roots in passionate protest? It’s more then just a language difference…


Look at the latest schools to be built around the US and maybe the idea is not to inspire kids but to debase them into uniformity. God forbid a small, well proportioned school inspires a student. Put in a new modern concrete box (with a nice large parking lot, how much space are they using for that at Riverdale?) and you can get a box in return. Boxy thinkers are an easier to control work force down the road.

Angel Hamilton

I am glad that architectural community is as up in arms about this as I am. "its just a building" and "whatever building stands on Breyman Ave will be the gathering place for the neighborhood" greatly under states the situation. I know that I will not be able to stomach driving by the location knowing the gradeschool i went to doesnt stand there anymore.

While it is true that prices are such in the neighborhood that many young families with school age children can not afford to buy there. There is a reason for that, the same newcomers that want to tear down the building, dont want to live in quaint moderate houses. They tear them down, and build houses that are exactly as large as possibly could be fit onto the lot. Then again these same people can afford to travel to europe to see where people preserve history. Why bother with local history? Its not "old enough to matter"? Did they forget that if someone had torn down those historical buildings when they were "only" 90 years old- they would never have surived to be 100 or 200 years old.

And yes I find it very sad that so many of these families that signed the petition who had 2 and 3 generations of students go to Riverdale, can no longer afford to buy into the neighborhood to continue the tradition. Its hardly a starter house neighborhood.

On another note- I agree it is insulting to talk about nostalgia in a derogatory way. Do some areas take nostalgia too far? yes. (IN philidelphia they have a plaques for everything that possibly happened in 1776- though my favorite brass plaque is the one making fun of itself - "Abosolutly nothing happened here in 1776") Do we want the footnote of Portland's History to be- "We tore it down. Newer is better"?


This school is within the City of Portland and it was once part of Portland Public Schools until this rich enclave decided to leave the rest of the district, creating one of the wealthiest, most insular school districts in the state. I think the City of Portland should have a say in the destruction of its historic school.

As past City of Portland Planning Director Lloyd T. Keefe said, "Creation and maintenance of good neighborhood environment in any city is a difficult task, demanding the whole-hearted participation and co-operation of all local governmental agencies, as well as the real estate profession and the State Department of Transportation. Most large cities have failed -- in truth, never tried –and are only now partially waking up to their sorry plights. The underlying cause of this deterioration is an accumulation of public decisions -- or lack of them -- in the name of economy and expediency coupled with an almost universal attitude by public agencies that their responsibility for community well-being stops within the narrow confines of their particular single-purpose function."

I would like to see the city take a strong stand on maintaining and truly sustaining our historic public schools and planning standards.

Keith Walker

I would tend to believe your point of view that this building is artitecturally relevant if you actually took the time to insert some links or photographs of the building itself...

Instead all I have are photographs of Neville Chamberlain, Marlon Brando and an atomic bomb.

The structure may be great, but your post was poor and uninformative opinion...

Brian Libby

Keith, I understand what you're saying. I did write a previous post about Riverdale with a picture of the building, which you can find here:


I took some liberty with the images in this post because I'd pictured it in the previous post. But I agree it might have been better to run Riverdale photos anyway. I was approaching the use of images as an expression of emotion in this case.

Brian Libby

Keith and everyone, I've now added an image of Riverdale to this post.


"Please remember people educate people buildings do NOT educate people." ---Leslie Mahler

On this empty fallacy we'll be schooling our children in soulless sheds. One learns much about the world by the settings of one's life.


Sorry if my earlier question sounded rhetorical. But really, has anyone asked Mahlum Architects for their thoughts about this?


Second on removal of the heated rhetorical photos. It was fun at first, but I've had enough for awhile, of looking at Marlon Brando's mug, and the bomb shot.

How hard would it be for someone to find or or take and post some detail shots of Riverdale? Would be nice to see some interior shots of the entryway, and also, where possible, shots of construction techniques used, woodwork, window details, and so forth. Maybe if the photos were available by way of a thumbnail in the Photo Albums list, it would be easier for people to see them. Or, a link to the wiki-architecture page one of the commenters has set up, though as of last night, no pictures were posted there yet.

I'm still listening to get a better idea of whether Riverdale residents really want to rip this building down and build new and different, or if that wish is actually limited to a minority of headstrong individuals. The tear down faction definitely seems to dominate the school board.


We have SO many issues that need to be dealt with on this campus. Saving this building would take many of the solutions to these problems off the table and leave us with a rehabed Doyle building and a campus still in need of repair. How is that using the tax payers money wisely? Do you honestly think kids ae going to be celebrating the fact that we have a sub standard athletic field, greatly reduced playground space, waiting in traffic jams on Breyman Ave., no lunch room/community room all so we could preserve a building?

I also saw the article about disappearing old buildings around the country and was very saddened to read it. I would never advocate tearing down this building if we did not have to give up so much else for it. This whole process started out with the understanding to Mahlum that the 5-8 building was not to be ripped down. Everyone was in agreement on this. But when the information of all the problems they were finding was coming out and that more and more of our budget was going to save this building and that other issues needing to be addressed would have to be sacrificed to save the building, where were we to go from there? The school boards job is to provide the best educational atmosphere they can. Someone wrote about saving the facade. That alone will cost $1 million. Those bricks are so damaged from all the ivy that has been allowed to grow on the building for years it would be a miracle if any of them could be reused.

Someone wrote they feel it is suspect that the school board met on that snowy Tuesday. They had already delayed by one day. A decision needed to be made. We are living in a divided community and it is awful. We are also under a time constraint. No public comment was taken for a reason. We have had many public forums where anyone could express their views, I have attended at least three. At some point the debate needs to cease and a decision needs to be made.
I have to think that if A.E. Doyle was alive today he would want to see what is best for the future generations of kids coming to this school. I wonder if he ever tore down any buildings to build new ones? Have any of you? What was standing on the site where our beautiful public library is now? Anything? If so, why was it right for him to rip that down to put up the "new" building? But, why are we wrong?
I was expecting a fifty yard line decision. Where we would find a solution to the "Doyle" building issue and all our other needs.
The people on the school board are friends and neighbors to us all and have been treated terribly by some of the "Save the Doyle" group. I can absolutely understand their emotional connection to this building.But this community has a responsibility to squeeze the most out of every tax payers dollar they can. Believe me no one who is advocating a new building is celebrating, this has been a very difficult time for all.
One last thing on this group that wants to save this building, not one of them have offered to write a check to make up the difference so the district may address all the campus problems. They are happy to pull at your heart strings but get very quiet when asked to open their wallets....


Have you seen the Riverdale plans for the new building?


Let me guess a box with a larger parking lot?


“Pull your head out of your asses!!” I wonder how serious to take the Vice President of the Riverdale Grade School PTC with comments such as this, and, as result, how serious to take an entire page of commentary.
Be that as it may, I wonder what the long term thought process and goals are of the school board when it comes to this matter - not only on the ‘does this building work’ front, but on the economic front as well. For example, I have been working, over the past year or more, on behalf on an enlightened client, to try and bring a former A.E. Doyle building, since worked over numerous times to a point where there is no present day understanding of the original building, back to its original glory. This has been a large undertaking (including, by the way, finding original drawings in the Belluschi/A.E. Doyle archives at Syracuse University, where drawings of this Riverdale building might be located) during which time our client has invested no small amount of money. Part of this effort has been a wish to see a fantastic building renewed and seen again for what it really is, and part of this effort has been to secure the 20% historic tax credit associated with Federal Historic Building status. These numbers, from a development point of view, are incredibly enticing when trying to make these difficult financial decisions. Without being fully invested in a project, such as this Riverdale Grade School, it is difficult to know what has been investigated and what has not. That being said, there are numerous financial avenues to pursue in this specific time period of construction and economic downturn that put clients and projects of this type into the driver seat and truly in control of their destiny and the direction one might choose to pursue.
The statement “Yes, it is unique to Portland, maybe” is enough said to look into what all the possibilities are towards salvaging this building. Not only is this the correct decision, from a historical/architectural point of view, but also from a ‘green’ point of view. Teaching kids to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in a new “LEED” building on the bones of a tear down, seems a bit too ironic for me somehow. How amazing would it be, at the end of what would be an incredibly long and arduous process, to look across at a renovated Doyle building and new addition, and be able to say, “we made that happen”. That is a fight worth fighting for.
In the event of a tear down/new construction scenario, I have no fear that Mahlum would design a Good building to serve the needs of the community; however, I would tend to suggest that they could design a Great building here in concert with what is clearly a worthwhile cause.
And, I must say, I wonder at where the anger stems from in Mahler’s comments about the “many problems in this city, state, country and world”. “Where is your fight for child abuse, homelessness, …” Who is to say that half the people commenting on this web site don’t below to associations fighting child abuse, stemming homelessness, saving the environment (part of this discussion, I might add), …? To assume that those fights are not occurring in tandem with commentary on this front is something I would opt you not assume only from information gleamed while reading blogger commentary.
In response to the most recent thread by LM, I take some offense to your suggestion, that only by writing you a check, will I then have a stake in this discussion. I pay an enormous amount of money on all fronts including the local, state and federal government. I wish I could pay more. (During this enormous time of need on multiple fronts I am paying more – a lot more.) Times are tough for all. There is a difference between believing in what should be done and personally being able to pay for that change to happen. There are a myriad of historical examples of people of little means changing the course of history – Rosa Parks being one that comes to mind.
These are the times history will remember.


More disturbing than the demolition of this one historic Doyle building is that his architectural language, and the language of his day is discarded and nearly abandoned in today's architectural debate. I am pleased by the earlier post (by Jim H) refuting the term 'nostalgia' in reference to any notion of architectural traditions.

The current architectural culture (practicing and academic) all to often casts distain on any new building that references the architectural past. The talking points usually include: "Traditional buildings are more expensive due to all that outdated craftsmanship", "The 'zeitgeist', or expression of the age must prevail", "It's not creative, unique, or expressive of new technology" or "It's just Disnification." All these excuses are used by architects who have been taught that the ultimate goal of the profession is to become a "Starcitect".

I know for many this is a radical proposal in Portland today. But our architectural heritage offers a wealth of knowledge, imagery, allegory, craftsmanship, patterns, and yes, even style, which we are free to use, advance, evolve and build upon. I am more concerned that the simple, elegant lessons of A.E. Doyle and his contemporaries are no longer being taught, no longer being employed, and no not even being considered in the design of a whole new campus for this elementary school. It could be just as 'green', energy efficient, robust, and sustainable as a modern campus. Style is irrelevant in terms of sustainability, although almost every building that the architectural press heralds as sustainable appears to be modern. It's a serious misconception to imply that traditional architecture has not been climatically responsive and often finely attuned to its environs.

My comments are certainly in no way in opposition to Modernism. After 3/4 of a century, modernism's many movements have grown their own traditions. But all to often contemporary architects express disdain for more traditional design movements. Innovation should not be the highest goal of architecture. The profession should sometimes embrace humility, and simply making great places, regardless of style. If an old building that possesses a modest level of merit is on the site, then it should be honored, cared for, rebuilt and expanded on.

Oh, and in response to Leslie's point that, "people educate people buildings do NOT educate people", I must respectfully disagree. Yes people educate people, but buildings also educate people, and can continue to educate people long after their makers have passed away. The objects and places that people compose embody many of their values and aspirations. It is up to us to instill in our children a sense of wonderment and respect for the best of those embodied values.


I was just reading a few other articles about this and have come across comments that mention the cost would be no different for renovation or rebuilding, the biggest issue is the declining numbers of children that are going there...so to solve this problem, they need a brand spanking new building to get parents excited about the school and relocate to the neighborhood to have their children go there....to me that sounds like a short sighted view on a decline to enrollment and should be more about evaluating the neighborhood and the residents that have been moving into it. I am guessing there are alot of new residents that live in that district that do not have children...so with that said, a new building will not correct this issue.

RECYCLE, REUSE, REDUCE are the key elements to making a building sustainable. LM you have not done anything to convince me that building a new building would meet any of these three terms to sustainability. This is simply a short sighted view that seems to continue to plague this country.

With that said, I dont blame Mahlum Architects for staying on this project, though based off of their website's point of view, they should be the ones trying to talk the school board into the importance of saving the building. But in no way should they simply walk away from this project, not in today's times. I know of too many firms that are struggling to find work to say afloat in this current economy.

And once again, I will point out Shattuck Hall on PSU's campus, the school made a choice to keep the original school and update its insides and now Portland has an amazing architecture building in its downtown that is able to teach and inspire new students about the make ups of an old building with new technology.

And being an architecture student, I would go out on a limb and say that if Doyle was alive today, he would suggest renovation his building and trying to expand on his original creation then to tear it down and start over. Also going out on a limb, when the Library was built, it probably replaced a hand full of wood structure buildings, which was a common move of replacing something temporary with something more permanent, which comes to the importance of why so many people wished to save the Ladd's Carriage House, LM are you one of the people that thought it should be torn down because it is an out dated wood structure downtown that was meant to hold horses?


I think most people understand that this is not an easy decision for the board. But there is something you dismiss or don’t understand when you say "The building is merely the gathering place."

The design of a place very directly influences its success or failure as a gathering place. A well-designed building attracts people to it and makes them want to stay. A poorly designed building keeps people away.
This building is well designed and attractive. It also has history. These are all factors that you dismiss too easily. These are important elements of a gathering place.

You also say “the people in the building are the heart”. The fact that so many people have gathered in the existing building is a testament to the success of that building and an argument for preserving it. Destroy the building and you destroy the energy of all the people who have passed through.

We may not have the same history as other places, but it is just as important to save the history that we have.


what an amazing lack of competent leadership at this school district. but whatever, they get what they deserve. bunch of rich kids will have a big-box store instead of this little gem of a schoolhouse. prep for the real world.


I am absolutely astounded, looking over this e-mail thread, at the elitist, snobbish, one-sided arguments posted.

Kitty, you suggest there is a lack of competent Board leadership---on what basis do you make this judgment? Have you read the 300+ page study which summarizes the 15-month review process? Do you even know the background of the sitting Board members?

KDA, you assert the building is well designed and attractive. On what basis do you make this statement? Have you been to the school and seen the narrow hallways? undersized rooms?

It is so easy to read a one-sided, biased and superficial blog and, based on that, conclude that the Riverdale Board is incompetent and short-sighted. The reality is that there are so many facts that are not being reported. About the site and its building limits. About the costs and the tradeoffs. About the risks.

Here's a few facts that aren't and won't be reported:

Riverdale did remodel their high school back in the early 2000s and preserved the existing historical facade and structure. The building went soaring over budget and nearly bankrupted the district. Today we carry a $1.5 M loan against annual operating costs of roughly $10M. Every year we pay out $200K to service that loan, money that comes directly out of operating costs. The new bond will enable us to pay off that obligation, but means less funding for new construction.

We don't have a cafeteria. The kids eat in the gym, meaning that we lose half the room for program and the custodian has to set up and take down chairs every day so 300+ kids can eat. The floor gets trashed. The custodian taken from other tasks. And the gym teacher gets half the gym for instruction. The options that were looked at were: remodel the Doyle and keep eating in the gym and pay $500K plus more, or replace and get a separate lunch room for the kids, and still come in $500K under budget.

Beginning to get the picture?

Other facts conveniently missing include:

Our build-able site is less than 3.5 acres: deed restrictions mean we have limited space. Putting in two buildings as opposed to one will allow future site flexibility.

A pre-bond survey showed that 58 percent of bond supporters favored replacing the Doyle as compared to 30 percent who favored saving it. The remainder were uncommitted.

The Board voted to go after the highest LEED certification possible.

The sheriff and fire department reviewed plans and both suggested the more secure, safer option was to build the proposed one building campus.

No one wants to tear down the building.
But the reality is, after careful study, the Board determined that it was in the best interests of the Riverdale community and kids to replace.

What is frustrating to Leslie and others in this community is how those of you who don't live in the community, have never driven by the building or set foot in the building, or who have even looked at our budget, architectural study, or educational program somehow feel entitled to tell us what we is best for the education of our kids. Will those of you who have never even been in the Riverdale neighborhood somehow have your lives ruined because a building that you will never see or use will be replaced with something environmentally friendly and better suited to the educational needs of our children?

As I read the posts, what comes through is that we have to save the building because it is an architectural treasure. We can debate that point. But, what is missing is ANY real concern about kids. Folks, this is a school. A public school that operates at an annual loss offset by parents and some community members through generous giving to the school foundation. We're not rich, contrary to what you might believe. Every year is a financial struggle. We're a school. And we have a choice: either remodel and take a huge financial gamble and give up educational program options and fragment the campus and maintain two separate facilities, or remodel and be more efficient and economical and true to our educational goals.

This is an incredibly difficult decision.

And those of you who post your thoughts based only on a superficial understanding informed by this incredibly simplistic, biased blog are doing nothing to contribute to the dialogue. But gosh, isn't it great fun to trash the Board!

This is a complex issue that has been through a great deal of study.

Please take the time to learn the facts before you decide to pass judgment on the Board or Riverdale community.


i admit i don't have access to plans of the school and campus, but find it very hard to believe that the school campus will suffer by preserving a shell of the old building and expanding. tear up landscape and build an athletic field, position a space for a new cafeteria, and library. make the synthesis of the old and new something better. it could still posses the character of a modern facility and not necessarily a throw back to the past. The end result does not have to embody the emotion of a historic building, but rather can be a modern facility that has grown as something organic rather than static. Great architecture, ethics, and well designed spaces certainly create a conducive environment for learning, "paying attention", and wanting to be there - a place for community is a very important element of a school no matter what time period we build in.


Thanks KA for not simply blasting back.

Take the time to study the issue so that you don't have to resort to the "I find it very hard to believe..." argument. All of what you write was considered. We can't tear up landscape because of site topography (the back part of campus is a steep hill with a creek running through it). The existing athletic field has draining issues (oh, and if we remodel we can't fix them, but might be able to if we replace).

And we're not going to build back a soul less, concrete block building: plans and preliminary elevations show a tasteful, brick, esthetically pleasing building on a scale appropriate for our neighborhood and in keeping with existing architectural themes.

We're trying to build a place for a community. And we already have three other buildings on site that will stay no matter what.

The replace option is, unfortunately, the most effective, efficient, and appropriate option for Riverdale. I think that if you and others went through the process and put emotions aside, you'd come to the same conclusion that we did.

But, hey, I get it. This is an architectural site, so I'm not optimistic that most readers can put aside the emotions or commitment to preservation. I respect that. But, unfortunately, life isn't easy or always full of simple choices. This is a complex one. We all won't agree on the outcome.

But KA, and all you others out there. Before you put fingers to keyboard to blast a decision and people you know nothing about, think about this: Does preserving a building of modest architectural history trump doing what is educationally best for kids? Because, ultimately, that is what at stake here.

I will say it again. After reviewing all the facts and weighing them against the preservation arguments, the best decision is to replace.

I doubt that my words will convince most, if any, of you. And I support and encourage all of your efforts to save Portland's architectural heritage. Unfortunately, this particular building and set of circumstances is somewhat unique (gad, I can already hear some of you gasping in outrage).

But don't take my word for it. Learn more. Get facts. Visit and talk to teachers, parents, and kids. See the site and building. Look at the reports and financial information. If you want to make this building the battle front, then fine. Do so. But for god's sake, be informed.


actually SR and Brian Libby, that is my issue, what are they replacing the building with. I did some research and could not come across any real information about that. So right now, much of the argument is to save an old building, but no one is showing why we should build a new building...I am curious what the new building would look like. Cause to me, saying the new building will be LEED means nothing, any building old or new could be LEED.

Also, I still stand by my statement that they can reuse this building but would require the architects to think creatively...something their own website seems to brag about. And I say they could reuse because there is nothing seriously important about Shattuck Hall at PSU, and I am sure SR you probably will never step foot in it, so does that mean it is okay to tear it down over reusing the interior space? The not visiting it argument is an easy one to shoot down because think of all the historical architecture you never visit...does that mean it is cool if it gets torn down?

But SR, you are right, I tend to hate one sided arguments and this seems to be one of them...so someone please, shed some light on the other side...and I dont mean in the sense that it should be torn down because the new building will be better and more efficient cause a mall is a much more efficient way to shop, but doesnt make it better.


Hey Dennis.
Couple quick responses:

So should we preserve buildings simply because people who won't use them, send kids to them, even ever see them want them preserved? This isn't about my visiting Shattuck Hall; this is about my kids getting the best education in the most effective, safe, and cost efficient manner. And planning for the long-term viability of a school district (which is woefully underfunded by the state, but, hey, that's a blog for someone).

Obviously we should preserve when we can. But, I take issue with an argument that we should preserve simply because we can. We should preserve because it makes sense and is the 'right' decision to make across the board (as it were).

If you want information, go to the Riverdale Grade School website to start. It's not my job to educate you or everyone else. The whole point of my writing is to get people to get to see beyond superficiality. If you or others disagree with the Board, make sure it's a well-informed, thoughtful decision. The information is out there. You and others need to take the time to read it.

And that's hard given our busy schedules.
But, too bad.

It is always easier to cast stones than to carve them.

Jim Heuer

OK, SR, be careful of what you ask for. There is substantial information in the Architect's Report posted on the Riverdale School District website. This is the 305 page document produced by Mahlum Architects that lays out options and recommendations. You can find it here:

Having reviewed this document in detail here's my quick take on it:

1) There were three overall approaches considered: "A" with basic upgrading only at $5-9 million, "B" keeping the Doyle building and achieving "50%" of the "instructional goals" at a cost of $13-17 million, and "C" achieving "100%" of the "instructional goals" at over $20 million. There appears to have been a consensus regarding the prudence of the "B" option, and clearly the overall budget allowed by the bond issue would suggest fiscal wisdom in sticking with "B".

However, through a bit of policy-making legerdemain they ultimately wound up with the budget-busting "C" but are calling it "B+" to make it sound more prudent than it really is. "C", of course, contemplates demolition of the Doyle building. Since it inevitably will involve more expense than the bond issue supports, there is a lot of fine print about things that will have to be dealt with later.

2) There is a rational approach to evaluating the current buildings in the Mahlum work with a scoring system that shows which ones likely make sense to keep and which to replace. Nothing like this kind of rational evaluation was ever applied to the grab-bag "Christmas wish list" of "instructional goals". One might expect that a budget constrained school district facing declining enrollments would at least come up with some formal approach to prioritizing these goals and identifying which ones can either be discarded or fulfilled more economically than with dedicated facilities.

3) The key driver of "replace" rather than upgrade the Doyle doesn't appear to be any loss of goal achievement, but in the supposed greater cost of rehabilitating Doyle versus building new -- a sensitive issue when the plan is bumping into the bond issue funding limits. Yet the cost figures provided by Mahlum are highly general. They posit a $200 per square foot for building a new school building and $225 for rehabilitating Doyle. The $200 figure is only supported by a statement that is based on other recent school projects. There is no substantiation of the cost estimate for the Doyle building rehab.

4) There are numerous site layouts in the Mahlum report showing both the current layout and solutions with and without retention of the Doyle building. I'd love to see some creative work by local architects who could move those blocks around the layout to see just how the school's goals might reasonably be met, and met economically with a preserved Doyle building.

My bottom line take away from all this is that the issues are 1) Need for proper prioritization of goals, 2) Need for a more fiscally prudent plan that stays well within the bond issue budget to allow for inevitable cost overruns (i.e. the plan "B"), 3) Need for realistic cost estimates that embody the best thinking on costs to rehabilitate historic buildings.

These concepts run through all the commentary in this blog thread, and at least this one observer's effort to explore the facts hasn't altered my perception of the situation.


Much food for thought in these last 6 comments. I second a thought Dennis raised: "...I am curious what the new building would look like." . Are there renderings of a new building? Certainly would be nice to be able to see them.

A new, larger, more ideally placed school building that replicated and expanded on the Doyle design could probably be built, correct? Seems like that idea would be widely received amongst everyone except those that have a particular dislike for the Doyle's architectural style.


i would be interested to find out where the $225/sf number came from for rehab. and are they including demolition of the doyle in the $200/sf for new build? as an architect that has done plenty of both, it is very rare that rehab is more expensive than new construction (especially when the new construction includes lots of demo) and when rehab is more expensive it usually involves boutique types of projects like the armory. foundation and structure is the most expensive thing in your building. if you can reuse then you have cut costs right away, even if there is a significant seismic upgrade. mahlum is not known for historic renovation, where are they getting their numbers from? clearly i am not completely informed of this situation but from my general knowledge of the industry i would say something is off.


Hey, now we're having an informed discussion instead of venting! Excellent.

Ben, you'll be pleased to know that the Board tasked the architect and builder to go back and reevaluate their plans prior to making a final vote Dec. 16th on the renovate/replacement option. The new proposal, what has come to be called the B+ build out, came in at $214 for the Doyle renovate and $225 for the new building construction.

New price tags and possible site plans were drawn up and shared at the recent meeting when the Board met. School has been out all week, so not sure when the updated materials will be posted. But they are public documents and those of you who care about this should make an appointment at the district office to read up and see the options.

Although cost is clearly an issue (see my earlier post about the tradeoffs regarding educational program and renovate vs. replace), other nonquantifiable issues, such as scattering classrooms, administration, and teachers' meeting rooms around the campus; getting rid of instructional pods where differentiated instruction can occur; and having multiple access points in different buildings; among others, also enter the equation.

And to the point WS made; yes, new rough renderings were made for a new larger building that carries forward the Doyle design and will incorporate the cupola and existing entranceway to the building. These plans were shared at a community visioning meeting.


"So should we preserve buildings simply because people who won't use them, send kids to them, even ever see them want them preserved? This isn't about my visiting Shattuck Hall; this is about my kids getting the best education in the most effective, safe, and cost efficient manner. And planning for the long-term viability of a school district (which is woefully underfunded by the state, but, hey, that's a blog for someone)."

I think you missed the point about this statement. It isnt about where you visit, it is what is best for the building and the students using the building. How much I use or dont use the Doyle building is not the point. Again, my point with that statement was, if you never visit old town Portland, is it okay for it to be torn down?

The statement means, one person's use of a building is not what is at question here, the question is, is it a good idea to renovate or build new?

Looking at the rough plans, I like scheme 4, which I am guessing is the most innovative idea that would create the best learning environment for the children because it allows the building to fully use the sunlight in the classrooms which does create a stronger awareness in students...with that said, just by glance, I can tell you that proposal is the most costly one...they always are.

And often times, the reason for renovation rather than rebuild is that it is often times cheaper to renovate, the downside is that you have to work within the shell that is currently there. Now the Doyle building isnt a large building so seismic upgrades to the building will not be that costly.

In the end, I have a sneaking suspicion the new building will end up costing alot more than originally quoted after demolition and preparing the site for a new building happens.

I am not against new buildings over old buildings, I just dont like it when it comes off as a short sighted idea like this one does.

And thank you Jim for the report, I will read through much of it tonight...which I was asking for something like that for a reason, not because my schedule was busy, but because I had yet to come across it and I figured if someone already had, that would save me and others in here time.


What is interesting here is that no one, except Leslie, has addressed the question of whether this is in fact a good building or not. Not every project put out by what later became a well-known office is good - this goes for Belluschi, Wright, Kahn, Mies, etc. There is a fairly thoughtless reactionary process going on here which assumes that because this building came out of the Doyle office it therefore must be "great architecture" regardless of its actual qualities and ability to adapt over time.

Maybe this little school is a good building, maybe it isn't - I haven't been to it or seen plans. But a little informed information would certainly help us decide.

Also, no one on this site, including Brian, appears familiar with the real implications of the clients (teachers, kids and parents), the budgetary issues (you're all tossing around random numbers), and the architectural issues - which you presumably know can be complex. Most here are blaming Mahlum for not taking the apparent High Road when most comments do not appear to be able to define what exactly the High Road is.

For example, there is no detailed discussion or summary on what the options would be for the final project if the old building was kept or replaced. As a web site sponsored by the all-powerful AIA, one would expect more research and knowledge from it's initial postings - that in turn might encourage a more intelligent exchange on issues like this. They are important architectural and cultural issues - they deserve better.


Just revising my comments regarding some of the later posts by Jim et al that included some facts and figures and a link to the report, etc. It helps understand the issues more.


Gino, thanks for making some good points.

The reality is, for anyone who's spent any time in the building, that it's really not an example of AE Doyle at his best. The interior has no interesting architecture, it's drop ceilings, narrow hallways that are nearly impassible when the kids are moving between classes, and parts are inaccessible to the handicapped. But don't take my word for it (though my kids have been their 7 years): GO VISIT IT and see for yourself!

As to yours and others calls for more information: I think that we have to be realistic here. This is the comment section of a blog, not a place for a serious, dispassionate review of architectural plans and budgets.

If you really want facts and want to know, in full, what is going on, then, I'm afraid, the best option is to do what concerned parents, community members, and others who really care do: attend Board meetings and/or go to the district office and review the materials.

This is going to be my last post here. I've said my piece. In parting, I'll suggest that you go back and, putting aside any emotion or subjectivity, review what others have written, starting at the beginning. You'll see that most of these posts are from people who are uninformed and predisposed to save the Doyle at any cost.

This is about children, people. This is not an ideal world we live in; it requires making tradeoffs. That's life. And the tradeoff here is quite simple. We can save a building designed by AE Doyle to the detriment of educational program, cost, campus safety and cohesiveness, future site utilization, and resource efficiency, OR we can build a new, tasteful, LEED-certified building that will serve the needs of our district.

And I can already imagine people reading this and getting all pissed off and ready to fire back with comments about this or that. I'm tired of quibbling.

I've spent the last 7 years of my life living in this community donating my time and money to keep this district afloat. The last thing I want or need is some last-minute quarterbacking from people who do not fully understand what we are facing or who put more value on the bricks in the facade than the people using it on a daily basis.

Good luck to you all.
I'm out of here.


SR, I have visited the Doyle school several times in my 17 years in the community. The drop ceilings are obviously not part of the original Doyle design, but they are a good example of how your impression of this building has been damaged by relatively recent changes to the building.

Have there been any architectural illustrations presenting a vision of a properly restored or remodeled Doyle school? If not, the community deserves to see such a vision to make a fully informed decision.


I'm glad the issue of architectural significance is finally being seriously addressed in the last few posts. Doyle was one of Portland's greatest architects. So was Belluschi, who oversaw a later expansion of the school (full disclosure: I revere Belluschi and, if asked, would name the Portland Art Museum as the city's most beautiful building).

But, as has been pointed out, some works by great artchitects are more significant than others. Where the Riverdale school sits within the hierarchy of Doyle's body of work is a central issue in this discussion.

I'd be very interested to hear more from architects and architectural historians on the importance and relevance of the Riverdale schoool.

Earlier it was mentioned that Riverdale was not included in a recent book on Doyle. Was this justified, or was it a flagrant omission?

Also, I have read that Doyle designed one or two other schools in the area (K-12, not Reed College). Does anyone know if this is true, and if they still stand? If Riverdale is the only extant Doyle grade school, then preserving it is all that more important.


One of the things I wonder about, is why renderings for the proposed, newly designed school building option aren't more readily accessible by way of the web or otherwise, to those that would like to see what architects that were consulted, the school board, and those approving of demolition, have in mind. Couldn't those renderings be displayed on the Riverdale or Mahlum's (the architect consulted)website?

SR wrote:

"And to the point WS made; yes, new rough renderings were made for a new larger building that carries forward the Doyle design and will incorporate the cupola and existing entranceway to the building. These plans were shared at a community visioning meeting." SR

Is this a situation where, if you didn't make it to the community visioning meeting, you just lucked out?


This is an 8 acre campus with about 3 acres of usable space. This is a neighborhood considered to be wealthy but requiring about a million dollars a year to maintain the educational product. Not long ago the District was threatened to be merged with adjacent districts because it had no high school with a hard fought for bond of which the current bond is still being used to retire that debt. The District fought to build a high school to maintain its independence. This decision has provided a new high school option to the Portland area in the creation of a small H.S. program with a decidedly unique program that tuition students in the Portland area can take advantage of. However, the District still struggles to keep up the level of education that the neighborhood demands: small class sizes with college prep programs k-12.

Because the larger Portland metropolitan area recognizes a good thing when they see it: small class sizes, a strong parent participation level, commitment to a high level of educational programs and the uniqueness of a true community school and the attributes of k-12, the school has attracted a larger enrollment over the years. The original building housed about 90 kids. The same building today with some cheap add-ons houses 300+ kids.

It is unfortunate that the original building can not meet current educational needs. The community demands articulated education and, yet, without additional space to pull out kids for special instruction, this cannot be achieved. For brevity, that is one example of how the current building cannot achieve the goals put forward by a sharp and dedicated educational staff. Saving the original building and renovating the school facilities would require building another 2-story structure next to it on the limited 3-acres of usable land. As charming as the original building is, this option would continue an ongoing trend in patching the facility problem. A new 2-story structure replacing all the mickey-moused educational structures will probably not be as quaint and charming as the original building, but, most residents feel that this tough choice is necessary to improve educational goals, provide a safer environment for the children, and create a facility that can end the constant maintenance costs that have eaten away the school districts funds raised from hard-earned volunteer hours. If the district existed in a small town instead of a small district outlined as a school district, there might be room to preserve the school as an historical society or a community library. But to preserve this building to house the education of over 300 children for the next 100 years with the heightened and ever-changing technological needs in a district that desperately needs funds to provide the kind of education that the neighborhood expects is really an example of irresponsible dreaming. The lesson to be learned is how to compromise wants and needs. No one doubts that Doyle was an accomplished architect. The man, himself, however, when confronted with the mandate to build a school in light of the aforementioned parameters needs put forward by the neighborhood and the teaching staff would probably not recommend preservation.

A small, passionate group has argued for the preservation of the original school building and their eagerness is to be applauded. The majority of this group is made up of community members who no longer have kids in school and have fond memories that are being threatened. The majority of the petition signers have been older community members and many alumni and kids who are not taxpayers in the community nor (concerning the younger signers) have really any idea the complexity of the issues that face the voters. They are a minority -- they are a very vocal minority and represent some of the most moneyed members of the community who may not understand the extent of the fiscal and educational responsibility involved in the school board's decision.

It must be noted that the Riverdale School District is considered to have a wealthy population. This is true for maybe over 50% of the district. This percentage does not necessarily correlate with the amount of foundation contributors. It is surprising and disheartening that some of the most impassioned citizens desiring to save the building have put more time and funds into this fight than the educational program.


brady, you don't have to persuade me, because I don't live in the Riverdale District. The people that do live there can do whatever they want with the Doyle building, and hopefully, this decision to demolish is what they want. I still think the way the Doyle school building and its design style is being dispensed with is a bad idea.

All the reasoned rationalizations that have been assembled to wind up with a perhaps, functionally superior, but aesthetically less accomplished building are not commendable under the apparent circumstances. To those favoring this demolition and banishment of the Doyle design styling...don't feel bad, just proceed with your plans, because it's for the kids educational welfare that you're doing this demolition, correct? Rather than, a group of Riverdale District residents really appreciate the opportunity that needs for upgrade and expansion provide to just dispense with the Doyle building and its style.

If they're asked, 5-10 years after the Doyle building is gone, kids at the new school may express that they couldn't care less about the old building. In fact, I'm trying to remember whether the sentiments of the Doyles current student body about the Doyle building as opposed to a different design has been expressed and published somewhere. Maybe they want a different style too. So let them have it. Isn't that best?

Young kids without a first hand memory of the old building and lacking a comparative experience of many different architectural design environments, will probably be satisfied with whatever new design that is eventually put together. So, they'll probably like the new, differently styled building. Does it matter that they might like an upgraded, refurbished Doyle or Doyle styled new building better? Or is this even a reasonable consideration? The adults must decide what's best for the kids education, and they've decided that replacing the Doyle or it's architectural style best supports that objective. So, it's a done deal.

[name removed - spam]

But a little informed information would certainly help us decide.

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