After reading a plethora of pro and con articles and commentaries about the Portland Museum of Art’s proposed expansion plans, I was struck by the Maine Sunday Telegram’s April 28 lead story (“Portland Museum of Art hangs its future on fate of neighboring building”) and visuals – especially the visuals.

While no architect, I am a longtime keen observer of Portland’s historical buildings and charming ambiance as well as its strong commitment to both its architectural history and the arts. Looking at the photograph depicting the current building with the proposed replacement of the 142 Free Street building, I was struck by a contrast.

The current building reflects Henry Nichols Cobb’s honoring of Portland’s history as well as an embrace of the future at that time – those semi-circular designs embedded in the brick facade. The new design reflects no honoring of the past in its glass-box configuration.

Why would it not be a good idea to honor the John Calvin Stevens Colonial revival columns facade design, even if the glass structures framed it on the sides, as well as above and behind? I remember one of the other proposals tried to do something with the columns intact. This compromise might solve the current dilemma. Honoring the past is never a mistake – as the PMA’s leadership has demonstrated in several other contexts.

Anne Zill
former director, UNE Art Gallery

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