Transforming our campus
The Rothko Pavilion is just the beginning
The Portland Art Museum was founded 130 years ago, and since then we have grown alongside our community both physically and programmatically. The intervening decades have seen new building additions, renovations, and retrofitting—all in the pursuit of creating an ever-more expansive experience with art. While curators bring the world to Oregon and Oregon to the world and explore new ways of collecting, exhibiting, and collaborating, we have emerged as a more inclusive museum.
Despite our success over the past 130 years, your Museum is not as accessible as it could, or should, be. Our campus spans two buildings that are connected only through an underground link that must be accessed through a network of stairs and aging elevators. The spaces that we occupy don’t yet serve their purpose of providing an accessible and welcoming experience for all visitors, but we have a plan to fix them.
That is why the Portland Art Museum is planning to transform its campus. We are currently under construction to change the location of our loading dock. In its current location, the loading dock shares space with pedestrians, school bus loading, and our only accessible ramp. The next step is commencing construction on the new Mark Rothko Pavilion later in 2023.
This once-in-a-generation project will also provide extensive renovations to existing spaces within our two Museum buildings that have been inaccessible and difficult to navigate for decades. Once the work is complete, the experience of visiting our Museum will be drastically improved.
For the past decade, the Portland Art museum has been planning to transform our location on the downtown park blocks to create a truly world-class arts education institution. In all, we are adding or renovating 95,000 square feet. The project affirms our desire to connect with each other in spaces designed to support ease and access to art experiences that broaden our perspectives. It also affirms that Downtown Portland and our cultural district on the South Park Blocks are vital to the strength of our city. Reflecting shared community values of transparency, accessibility, and inclusivity, the project will be a cornerstone in our city’s revitalization.
Mark Rothko Pavilion
With the new Mark Rothko Pavilion, we have the opportunity to provide not only an elegant and fluid connection between the two buildings, but one that invites all people, regardless of their individual capabilities, into the campus to easily access and enjoy the entire Museum’s collection, exhibitions, and programmatic spaces across all four floors. The Pavilion will be named in honor of renowned abstract artist Mark Rothko (1903–1970), who spent his childhood in Portland after his family immigrated from Latvia. Rothko attended Lincoln High School, took art classes at the Museum, and even had his first exhibition here.
Portland’s newest living room
Located through one of two new central and accessible entryways, the Swigert Warren Community Commons on the Pavilion’s main floor will serve as a free public space, featuring ample seating and direct access to our café and store. This airy new space will invite the city of Portland in to take a break and recharge.
A window to the Museum
The Community Passageway will bridge our campus from east to west, offering passersby an experience with art and a glimpse of what’s inside.
Fresh perspectives on art
The new Grand Pavilion Gallery, showcasing exciting rotations of art, such as the Museum’s extensive collection of 20th century sculpture, will become an epicenter of activity—a place for interaction and performance, to access the new outdoor Jubitz Terrace, or simply for basking in the light streaming through the gallery’s wall of west-facing windows.
The Overlook Gallery on the third floor will offer a welcome place to pause and rest. Guests moving between the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Northwest Art and the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art can sit and recharge while enjoying a view of the Park Blocks or down into the Grand Gallery below.
New art experiences
Crossing over the Ritz Community Passageway to the Crumpacker Center for New Art, visitors will find an expansive new special exhibition space. The Center will offer the Museum a new dedicated space for dynamic exhibitions of cutting-edge art, while the Library will be relocated to the first floor of the Mark Building.
A destination for film & new media
We will expand ways of seeing through film, television, virtual and augmented reality, and audio, welcoming audiences to engage with works as both art and entertainment. On the lower level, the Blair Family Commons, featuring new art viewing spaces and concessions along with the Whitsell Auditorium, will become the new destination for PAM CUT // Center for an Untold Tomorrow, and more galleries throughout the Museum will showcase media arts and storytelling.
Outdoor plazas, terraces, and expanded store and café
New plazas on both the West and East sides offer central, accessible, and beautiful entry points to the Museum. The expansive West Plaza will connect with the Pavilion, store, and café. The Jubitz Terrace on the second floor will offer elevated views of the South Park Blocks to the east, and the west-facing terrace on the fourth floor of the Pavilion overlooks the surrounding neighborhood on Southwest 10th Avenue. Additionally, the Museum café and store will be larger, offering a new modern shopping experience and a flexible kitchen and bar area.
“The Portland Art Museum’s redesigned, glass-ensconced addition, due to open in summer 2025, will make viewing easier and could be a boon to an ailing downtown.”Framing the Rothko Pavilion Brian Libby, Oregon ArtsWatch
At its core, the Rothko Pavilion project does more than connect two buildings. At every stage, planners have worked to make the Museum as accessible and inclusive as possible, while also meeting the challenge of merging two aging and historic buildings. The architects integrated Universal Design principles to ensure that all people, regardless of their individual capabilities, will enjoy ease of access throughout the Museum’s art exhibitions and programmatic spaces. While complicated and costly, this resulted in a wonderful design that centers the community and engages passersby with art and programs inside the Museum. Improvements to accessibility range from small gestures such as widening sidewalks, push button doors and easy-to-find ramps, to massive investments like gender-neutral bathrooms on all floors and an open-air passageway that provides improved access to public transportation, including the popular Streetcar and the Jefferson Street bus transit corridor.
In consultation with Vinci Hamp Architects, the Museum is working with Hennebery Eddy Architects for the pre-design phase of the project. Vinci Hamp Architects, known for its work with museums and historic preservation, counts the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and award-winning projects including the Illinois State Capitol, Chicago Tribune Tower, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio among its roster of clients.
Portland-based Hennebery Eddy Architects is an architecture, planning, and interior design studio with specialty focus in historic resources. Projects include the Pietro Belluschi-designed The Reserve building in downtown Portland, Yellowstone National Park Youth Campus, Oregon State’s Strand Agriculture Hall, and the Albina Vision Plan for NE and NW Portland.
Among the groups and constituents who have been involved in feedback and approvals are the Museum Equity Team and Accessibility Advisory Committee, Portland’s City Council and Historic Landmarks Commission, elected officials, and many community and cultural organizations.
Mortenson Construction has a deep history in the arts and culture community with its construction of hundreds of projects around the country, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Denver Art Museum, the Visual Arts Complex at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, and the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis. Their Portland office employs nearly 100 people.
Urban Resources, Inc. is a Portland construction management company with experience in cultural, civic, and higher education projects, including the Japanese Garden expansion, The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, and The Crocker Art Museum expansion in Sacramento, CA.
“Vinci Hamp have shown great skill and sensitivity in all the work they’ve done, whether it’s working with traditional historic preservation or working with more contemporary projects.”Blair Kamin Chicago Tribune
At the center of the expansion is the stunning three-story Rothko Pavilion. The pavilion is named in recognition of painter Mark Rothko’s legacy in Portland – his home as a youth after immigrating from Latvia – and his connection to the Museum, where he took his first art classes and where he received his first solo exhibition.
The Rothko Pavilion was made possible by a first-of-its-kind partnership with the children of Mark Rothko, Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel. The partnership includes the loan to the Museum of major paintings by Mark Rothko from their private collection; paintings will be loaned individually in rotation over the course of the next two decades.
Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia (today Daugavpils, Latvia), on September 25, 1903. Rothko and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old, and settled in Portland where he attended Shattuck Grade School and Lincoln High School.
Rothko attended Yale University in 1921 with an initial intention to become an engineer or attorney. Before leaving in 1923 he studied English, French, European history, elementary mathematics, physics, biology, economics, the history of philosophy, and general psychology. After giving up his studies, he moved to New York City where he attended classes at the Art Students League, briefly studying under Max Weber, who encouraged him to work in a figurative style reminiscent of Cézanne.
Rothko was given his first solo exhibition in 1933 here at the Portland Art Museum, followed a few months later by an exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in New York. His early work in landscapes, and later abstract compositions and watercolors, developed into his now signature style—multi-layered oil paintings with vertically aligned rectangular forms set within a colored field.
Physically ill and suffering from depression, Rothko died by suicide on February 25, 1970. At the time of his death, he was widely recognized in Europe and America for his crucial role in the development of nonrepresentational art. With a steadfast commitment to a singular artistic vision, Rothko celebrated the power art over creative imagination.
How to Visit
The Museum will remain open to visitors throughout the project. Some galleries will be inaccessible during various phases of construction.
We are committed to reducing the environmental impact of construction (filtering air and reducing noise, for example), ensuring visitor and staff safety, and our visitor services associates are always here to help. During the loading dock construction (January to November 2023), you can expect to see fencing along the south side of campus on Southwest Jefferson Street, between Southwest Park and 10th Avenues.
Support this project
Be part of this essential project that will allow the Museum to welcome visitors of all ages and abilities for generations to come and pay homage to Mark Rothko’s deep Portland roots.