a.k.a. Pill Hill
OHSU has been involved in medical care, research, and education since the 19th
century. From its spot high on the hill, the nonprofit public corporation casts a large shadow on Portland in terms of employment and prestige. Buildings have dictated the particular shape of the shadow, and OHSU has a nearly bewildering variety of them, from vintage terra-cotta decorated structures, through more brutal International styles, and including some very distinguished modern buildings.
* A (Small) Pox on Thee! At an 1853 city council meeting, then-mayor Simon B. Marye (twenty-seven years of age) grew frustrated at Portland's inability to contain a smallpox outbreak. He recommended that the city invest in a huge black dog. The ancient Romans believed the spirit of the god of healing, Aesculapius, dwelled in such animals. Said god would absorb the bad humors and diseases into himself, solving the smallpox problem. Said god was voted down.
OHSU's scenic but impractical location has led to some creative architectural solutions over the years. And unless you're already familiar with its layout, plan on being initially confused when you visit. The elevator rides alone can be bewildering; one frustrated visitor cursed OHSU as "a mishmash of disconnected ugliness." This seems a bit harsh, but OHSU does have an evident lack of cohesion from building to building and a failure to include the surrounding natural landscape into the overall plan.
* Trying to find the tram? Try the ninth-floor entrance to Kohler Pavilion across from the Shriners Hospital.
While you're stumbling about, see if you can find the second building ever built for OHSU, Mackenzie Hall (1919, Ellis Lawrence) on the north side of Sam Jackson Park Road. Across the street from it is the well-regarded Biomedical Information Communication Center (1991, Thomas Hacker and Associates), a research library perched next to the canyon. Other highlights include:
Doernbecher Children's Hospital, 1998
Architect: ZGF Partnership
A hospital can be a scary place, especially for children. That made the challenge for the architects of this building two-fold. First, this needed to be a healing space containing design elements that would set children at ease, or "cozy" in architect Robert Frasca's word. Second (and more daunting), a hospital needed to be built spanning a canyon.
Doernbecher's creation was dictated more by the air rights of the hospital than by actual land-holdings. The plain yet powerful hospital somehow manages to occupy virtually no actual land, instead stretching like a bridge across a steep ravine and, with near magic, connecting the north and south parts of the hospital. The stated objective of the architectural firm was to "play big" with the exterior space while "playing small" with the interior, giving it a low-key feel and scale for the patients within. Described by architectural critic Allan Temko as "probably the best children's hospital ever built," its curving paneled metal exterior, beautiful tableaus, inner courtyards, and playful design elements make it a first-class addition to Portland's buildings.
While the exceptional "suspended curvilinear" exterior is noteworthy, it is the inside of the building that astounds. Flocks of birds fly down halls, bright colors surge, and natural themes are illuminated by waves of natural lighting. The central courtyard is rife with copper animal life by sculptor Wayne Chabre.
Vollum Institute, 1987
Architect: ZGF Partnership
Wedged between two pre-existing buildings, the unique shape of the Vollum Institute allows it to stand out separately even under such crowded circumstances. This in-fill building is bright enough and has enough classical influences to make it notable, and its rooftop greenhouse-glass top is perhaps a first evolutionary step towards OMSI's later glass pyramid lobby.
The southwest side of the building is busy, full of angles, and reflects bright light from its terra-cotta facade onto the courtyard below. Opposite it, on the northeast side of the lab is a very different look. Visible to downtown Portland, it is brick, with a curved architectural feature (called a belvedere) to allow an appreciation of the vista below. If you need a steady hand to play Operation, this is the building; portions are "vibration isolated for delicate instrumentation."
"Flexural" Bridge, 1993
Campus Drive between Terwilliger Boulevard and Sam Jackson Park Road
Designer: Mike Walkiewicz
Only the faint-of-heart (or cardio patients), should decline to take a walk across this remarkable 660-foot bridge. The Flexural is both the longest suspended skybridge in North America, and the longest climate-controlled bridge in the world. Linking OHSU with the Veterans Hospital, it also provides its users with a unique experience in both horizontal and vertical vertigo. Constructed in accordance with building codes, the skybridge was designed in 24-foot sections because of the limited physical space available for installation. This was made possible by repeatedly bracing and cantilevering the sections out from the two structural towers.Less Text