(originally the Georgia Pacific Building)
Architect: Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM), 1971
thirty-two-story Standard Insurance Building is minimalist in its appearance, and its pattern of deep-set window spaces now serves as a good example of the utilitarian approach taken to skyscrapers from its era. At the time of its construction it was the highest reinforced-concrete building in the country, which is odd as a timber company (Georgia Pacific) commissioned the building to symbolize their corporate image.
The designers did try to personalize the site's space with a "plaza" in front of the building, but as it's essentially just an expanse of granite, it may have had the opposite effect from what was intended. The plaza contains what is often dubbed the worst public work of art in Portland. "Quest" (Count Alexander von Svoboda, Austria) shows intertwined nudes frolicking, swimming, gyrating, or just trying to escape. (The piece's aliases include "Family Night at the YMCA," "Quest for the Breast," and "Three Groins in the Fountain" [although there are really five groins].)
Perhaps the problem with the Standard Insurance Building is that it's too big. An entire city block occupied by a building this homogeneous presents pedestrians with little to enjoy. (Inside, though, is another story. This office building often enjoys 100 percent tenant occupancy.) But corporate egos are as susceptible to pissing contests as junior-high schoolers, and every company wants to have the tallest building legally allowed on their lot. In order to bypass zoning permits and maximum height limits (which might vary from one location to another), developers in Portland have been known to put together multi-block parcels. They then simply transfer "air-rights" from one property to an adjacent one. That's how this building was built up to thirty-two stories.Less Text