Not Too Cool for School

Design education is stepping into the big leagues in Portland; see proof at PSU's Made It exhibit.

By Kristin Belz July 3, 2013

Visit the end of year exhibit of work by PSU architecture students to learn what the kids are learning today. The show is on at the AIA Center for Architecture in the Pearl District, through July 15.

We are lucky that Portland is a vibrant, lively, ever changing city. We have a healthy and active population of young people. We also are home to a number of colleges and universities. And yet, you’d never call Portland a college town. The universities here somehow manage to keep a low profile, unlike Columbia or New York University in New York City, or the University of Washington in the thriving University District of Seattle.

The situation here in Portland is changing, though, and for that we can be grateful. Portland State University has been upping its presence (literally, by building high rise dormitories). The University of Oregon is expanding beyond its decidedly college town home base in Eugene and making its “Portland Center” programs into more than a pied-a-terre in the big city. The White Stag building is its gem.

PSU and U of O benefit the whole metropolitan Portland area by being located in the Central City. By contrast, University of Portland, Concordia University, Lewis and Clark College, Reed College and others are all tucked away in lovely, leafy outer sections of the city.

Even with its Central City location, of course, PSU seems tucked away – nested below the southwest hills, smack against the 405 freeway. It might be best known for hosting the immensely popular Saturday Portland Farmers Market. But new buildings, renovations, and the extension the MAX green line south to PSU have been helping transform the little pocket of SW Portland into a true University District. Now, PSU has taken another step into the big leagues with the initial accreditation of its Master of Architecture program.

They’ve offered undergraduate architectural education for a while, but only established their Master of Architecture program in 2009. (In 2008, they became an official candidate for accreditation.) It takes a while to become an officially credited architecture program, just as it takes a student a long time to go through the process of becoming a licensed architect herself. The student must graduate from an accredited architecture program, work the required internship hours for a registered architect, and pass all the rigorous tests that make up the licensing exam.

For PSU to be a grown up player providing architectural education in our creative, design-oriented city, the masters program had to become accredited. (The U of O program offers graduate degrees from its Eugene campus and from the Portland Center.) As of this spring, PSU has passed all the tests and received initial accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

Another milestone and step into the big leagues for PSU is its new Center for Public Interest Design, founded this year with anonymous funding of $1.5 million over five years. Professor Sergio Palleroni, a recipient of the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Latrobe Prize for Public Interest Practice in Architecture in 2011, heads the Center.

We look forward to exploring more of what is going on in the architecture and design education circles in Portland. The design community, professionals and laypeople alike, have a lot to learn from each other. For now, though, we have some questions for you:

  • What is your experience with the design community in Portland? 
  • Are you a student or graduate of a Portland design program? 
  • If you're a designer, how and where did you receive your training?

And to help get a start on the discussion, stop into the gallery at the Pearl District headquarters of the Portland Chapter of the American Association of Architects. PSU has mounted an exhibit called, "Made It" showing highlights of end-of-year projects from its School of Architecture. The exhibit is free and open to the public through Monday, July 15, 2013.

PSU School of Architecture "Made It" Exhibit
Center for Architecture/AIA Portland
Hours: M-F 9 am - 5 pm
403 NW 11th Avenue (at Flanders)
Portland, Oregon

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