February 14, 2013

Another View: St. Lawrence performance hall plan still needs adjustments

New developments should be compatible with historic buildings. What's proposed is not.

By Ann Landsberg and Vana Carmona

The prospect of having a performance hall added to the St. Lawrence Arts Center is exciting to residents of Munjoy Hill. The empty lot where the iconic St. Lawrence Church sanctuary stood will finally be home to a handsome building, a focal point on the Hill.

The performance hall design has raised some concerns, however.

The design presented to the Munjoy Hill community last December looked like a very large box, with almost no features to relieve the plain walls. It was completely out of character and scale with the adjoining historic parish hall.

To his credit, the architect, David Lloyd, modified the plan to break up the masses into several smaller units. He added some small details to echo some features of the existing parish hall.

The revised plan was presented to the Historic Preservation Board on Feb. 6.

However, it still features mostly boxlike elements with a backlit perforated metal skin, along with a glassed-in top floor promenade and a tall exterior elevator shaft. Together, these design elements seem to violate the board's own published standards. Standard 9 says, in part, "The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the size, scale, color, material and character of the property, neighborhood or environment."

It further states that any new construction respond, at least in part, to clearly specified design factors.

I hope that Mr. Lloyd will continue refining his design and that the Historic Preservation Board will keep those clearly stated requirements front and center when evaluating future designs. That is their charge.

Munjoy Hill residents and other interested Portlanders will have their next opportunity to learn about the new performance hall at the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization quarterly meeting at 6:30 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the East End School.

Ann Landsberg and Vana Carmona are members Concerned Citizens of Munjoy Hill.


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