Letter to the Editor: Cobb’s Design Vision Should Guide PMA’s Expansion
Thursday’s report announcing the selection of four architectural firms to submit plans for the expansion of the Portland Museum of Art refers to the 1983 addition of the Payson Building. The addition was designed by architect Henry Nichols Cobb of New York and North Haven, a director of the firm Pei Cobb Freed and Partners who gained a worldwide reputation for planning such well-known buildings as Boston’s Hancock Tower and the US courthouse.
Cobb’s ancestral ties to Portland included Federal period merchant Matthew Cobb and a First Parish Church minister, Reverend Ichabod Nichols. These local roots gave him a unique perspective when he was selected to design the Payson Building in 1978. The result was a post-modern masterpiece, a bold contemporary statement using traditional materials and forms of architecture. architecture of Portland. When the building opened in 1983, it was hailed as one of the most important museum designs of its time.
Henry Cobb cared deeply for Portland. He gave several lectures there on the history and urban development of the city, highlighting its particular qualities. Towards the end of his life, he closely followed the redesign of Congress Square with respect to the Payson Building. As the four architectural teams prepare their proposals for the museum, let them keep Cobb’s example in mind.
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.
Letter to the editor: the opposite of a simple post