Architect: Wolf-Zimmer Associates/Pietro Belluschi, consultant/additions: ZGF Partnership, Thomas
Hacker Architects, 1966; additions 1989, 2003
Home to a museum, research library, and shop, the architectural challenges faced by OHS over the years have been daunting. Initial construction began in 1966 with the Brutalist concrete pillbox on the south side of the block. Twenty years later, the entire block (including the Sovereign Hotel), was assimilated into the master plan. This led to a dilemma: how could the existing office building and apartments be married into the already-built History Center? Demolition of the concrete pillbox was out of the question; it looks as if it would withstand a small thermonuclear blast.
The solution in 1989 was to paste a marble rectangle onto the Sovereign Hotel's west side. Calling it an aedicule didn't make it any less incongruous, and first-time visitors had fun finding the real front entrance to OHS. Once it was located, a 100-yard walk through an underground tunnel ensued.
Perhaps to distract the eye away from the strange combination of architectural elements, two trompe l'oeil ("trick of the eye") murals were painted on the Sovereign's south and west sides. Walter Gordon (former dean of the University of Oregon School of Architecture) derided the "visually overwhelming" murals as being "intended to knock our socks off with Disneyland wonder." In any event, they depict prominent symbols from Oregon's history; while observing the west side, keep in mind that only the center, darkened windows are real.
The Society's architectural incongruities were addressed early in the 21st century by a one-year closure of the museum for a remodel and addition (Thomas Hacker Architects). When the building re-opened in 2003, a high-ceilinged and glass-walled lobby made everything seem vastly more open and accessible. The transparent lobby also gives much-needed light and elegance to the Brutalist building behind it. While the bowels of OHS can still seem labyrinthine, this may be as good as it gets.Less Text