I am a professor emeritus of architecture from the University of Maine and have followed the discussions about the preservation of the Children’s Museum of Maine – or its demolition – to make way for a new museum structure. There may be a solution, but it requires a change in the either/or positions for all sides involved.

The visual and historic value to the community is the facade of the existing building; an architectural solution might be to preserve the facade only and demolish the rest of the building for the museum expansion. The space between the preserved facade (“modernized,” but without losing its historic appearance and appeal) and the new design of the museum addition could become an exciting public use space for the entire Portland community.

Facade preservation is not historic preservation in the purest sense, but it may be a way to keep an aspect of an earlier time.

There are ample examples of adaptive reuse of facades like this throughout the U.S. The museum addition architects might consider this approach (they may already have). If not, perhaps the City Council may suggest such a design exploration.

It’s not a question of either side getting what they want, but an opportunity for both sides to get a great deal of what they want. The preserved facade may become more iconic because of the city’s desire to preserve its history yet not deny the new museum expansion.

Roger Richmond
South Freeport

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