Deport the Portajohn Building


Again Malcolm Millais, of Portugal, author of Exploding the Myths of Modern Architecture (2009), has sent me an uplifting essay, this time from Atlantic Cities, the urban blog, or section, of The Atlantic magazine. The essay, “Should Portland Save a Building it Really, Really Hates,” by Mark Byrnes, lives up to its snazzy headline.

Did Portland's citizens force this fine sculpture, Portlandia, on the Portland Building?

Did the citizens of Portland force this fine sculpture by Raymond Kaskey, Portlandia (1985), on the Portland Building?

What would have happened if this postmodernist building had never been built? Would another one like it have been built? Or might the postmodernist critique of modernism have forced more architects onto the road to contemporary classicism? Alas, the Portland Building (1982) was a beacon for those who disagreed with modernism and yet shuddered at the obvious idea of returning to the tried and true traditions hammered by modernism 30 or 40 years before. Yes, you can reject ugliness and stupidity without necessarily having to embrace beauty and humanity! Thank you, Portland Building. Thank you, Michael Graves. You deserve this essay.

I don’t “hate” even the most disgusting modernist buildings, but it lifts my heart to read that almost an entire city’s population can be strong where I am weak. But I do hate modern architecture in general. Now that I’ve gotten all this off my chest, read the essay itself.

Do it, Portland. Tear that building down. Leave Portlandia there to memorialize a good deed too long in coming. Modernism has tried, with considerable success, to heave classicism down the memory hole. Turnabout is fair play.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to Deport the Portajohn Building

  1. Pingback: PoMo in revival mod(e)? | Architecture Here and There

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