(originally the Masonic Temple, a.k.a. the Art Museum's North Wing)
Architect: Frederick Fritsch
(Sutton, Whitney, Anandahl & Fritsch) /remodel: Ann Beha Architects (Boston)/SERA Architects, 1924; remodeled 2005
The design competition for this commission was the state's biggest prize ever: a budget of $1,250,000. The judges were obviously impressed by the plans for this imposing, squared-off monument built for the use of twenty thousand local Freemasons. The Masonic Temple's dull gray/brown exterior resembled a massive edifice from bygone eras, with its Greek (the stone colonnade) and Persian (the window grilles) influences. Inside, the original layout was no less eclectic, with room themes of "Moorish-Oriental," Norman, and Louis XVI styles.
* Although the Freemasons were something of a secret society, it was one based on unselfish giving. Portland members of the Freemasons helped sponsor the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Fritsch may well have partially based the Mark Building's design on one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. This design proved to be a challenging (and expensive) one to remodel, as the Portland Art Museum discovered when they purchased the 141,000 square-foot building in 1991. Fourteen years and $45 million later, the made-over and renamed Mark Building opened.
One step toward transforming the vast mausoleum had to do with simply getting light into it. A vertical "pleat" of overlapping glass panels was put on the building's south wing to give natural illumination to the building's new collection of galleries, known collectively as the Jubitz Center. Patrons enter this new network of galleries via a semi-bewildering underground gallery beneath the sculpture court. One hates to quibble with the new space, but the flow of the galleries is arguably less than optimal, and the pleat's frosted glass blocks a lovely view.
The Mark Building's central wing contains the Kridel Grand Ballroom on the third floor. Inside are murals on the north and south walls that are simultaneously both impressive and silly. Painted on canvas with pastoral Middle Eastern motifs, these were not part of the building's original decor. East of the ballroom is a forecourt or foyer which now has a 30-foot glass wall looking between the building's pillars onto the Park Blocks. It's a nice touch, but whose idea was that metal bead curtain?
* Architect Frederick Fritsch (1891-1935) joined the Whidden & Lewis firm out of high school. A World War I veteran, he married Oregon's first licensed female architect, Mary Goodin, in 1928. Fritsch suffered from a painful illness that forced him to retire at age thirty-eight; he committed suicide five years later. His wife lived to be ninety-three.Less Text