Exclusive First Look: Inside PNCA's Stunning New Building by Allied Works

We get a tour of the college's new central hub—set to open in January—and are the first to see the atrium lit by the incredible skylight.

By Aaron Scott October 9, 2014

If you’ve visited the North Park Blocks or the main Post Office in the last couple of months, you’ve likely noticed the construction crane and trailers in the parking lot on the west side of the historic 511 Federal Building. Originally built as the city’s central post office and most recently housing the Department of Homeland Security and immigration services, the building will open on January 20, 2015 as the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design.

The Pacific Northwest College of Art acquired the building in 2008 with the long-term goal of centering its urban campus around the North Park Blocks—a goal that will be mostly realized when 511 opens its doors just in time for Spring Semester. Ultimately, 511 will anchor seven PNCA buildings near the blocks, including the Museum of Contemporary Craft in the DeSoto Building, the ArtHouse dorms on Couch Street, and several others currently underway.

PNCA has been giving tours of the building since before it began construction, but PoMo was the first to see it with all the skylights, including the main one over the central atrium, uncovered and open to the gorgeous blue sky (indeed, PNCA President Tom Manley was seeing it for the first time during the tour, too). Have a look at the renovation done by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, and try not to dream about going back to college. We dare you.

Designed in 1913 by Lewis Parsons Hobart, who also designed Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the 511 Building was originally Portland's central post office. Coming on the heels of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the building is one of the first in Portland to have a steel frame. Because the building is on the Historic Register, PNCA's renovation must preserve the outside and the historic, marble-lined corridors.
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