a.k.a. New Theater Building, Portland Center for the Performing Arts
Architect: Barton Myers, BOORA
Architects, ELS (Berkeley), 1987
There is a yin and a yang in all worldly affairs, and Portland architecture is no exception. Some buildings in the city utterly ignore the history and appearance of the area they are in (yin). Others mightily strive to not merely fit in with their surroundings, but even to provide aesthetic segues between them while simultaneously making their own unique statement (yang). At the time of its construction, there was much debate over which part of the Tao this building belonged to.
Hatfield Hall has been criticized for not fitting in well between the First Congregational Church and the Schnitzer to the north. Local architect George McMath said, "It looks like a bunch of pieces stuck together." Yet while the external form of the center may not be referential or unified enough for some, it is considerate of its surroundings on a practical level.
The First Congregational Church granted a ninety-nine-year lease on this former parking lot for the Hatfield. A condition of the lease was that sunlight still had to fall on the stained glass on the church's north wall. To see how the architects allowed this to occur, check the gap between the two buildings. Also, the Hatfield's "fly" or staging area above and behind the Newmark Theatre has been cut away to allow a view of the church's tower from the east side of the city. And attempts were made to have the Hatfield's roofline and exterior patterns emulate the church's roofline, cornice, and checkerboard stonework.
Walking into the Hatfield from the north side can be disconcerting. The building is designed to make those entering feel like they are onstage. A floor design is patterned toward them as a focal point, and the lobby has a multi-level rotunda likewise focused upon the entrance. The fact that there may be a number of people in the balconies looking down only heightens the sense that the theater-goer has become an unwitting performer.
* The central atrium has a glass-domed "spectralight" ceiling. The glass decorations are not colored, but rather chemically treated, so as to appear bluish at some angles, turquoise at others. The results can be spectacular on one of Portland's frequent sunny days.
Three "theatres" exist in this building, with the Newmark Theatre being the largest. In fact, its stage was too big for Portland Center Stage, which moved across town to set up shop in the revamped Armory. As PCS's artistic director, Chris Coleman, explained, "No one could decide if [the Newmark] should be a theatre, an opera house, or a touring venue. So it landed somewhere in between."
* In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some Portland theaters specialized in "box house" productions. These were so named because the balconies were curtained and divided, allowing the occupants to enjoy the show in secret. Box house shows specialized in raunchy vaudeville, and female performers not on stage served as "waitresses" for balcony patrons. Portland's fleshpots (theatrical and otherwise) contributed to a 1912 city report that estimated one-quarter of all trips to Portland doctors were for sexually transmitted diseases.Less Text