The Oregonian: Portland State University has a new glass tower of power for the arts
Author: David Stabler, The Oregonian
Posted: January 24, 2014

Read the original story here in the The Oregonian. 

Sun streams through floor-to-ceiling windows in Portland State University's new dance studio two floors above busy Broadway.

"Take a deep breath. Just look toward your hand. Let the leg drop."

Tere Mathern snaps her fingers as she walks among 16 bodies lying on their backs on the floor. Traffic sounds filter into the airy room.

"Breathe in and release."

Mathern, an active and respected Portland choreographer, is teaching a modern dance class to students at Portland State University. The studio is on the second floor of the brand-new glass tower that bumps out from the Broadway side of Lincoln Performance Hall. Boora Architects designed the $3.6 million addition, finished earlier this month, adding a dance studio, an acting studio, art gallery space and a black box theater in the basement. The money also paid for a new green room and renovated dressing rooms for the 476-seat Lincoln Performance Hall.

The tower completes Boora's $33 million renovation of Lincoln Hall, which transformed the 102-year-old building from top to bottom, opening original spaces, bringing more light inside and earning LEED Platinum certification for green building design.

The three-story glass tower includes a new entrance on Broadway and acts as new gateway to the university. The building's main entrance, with its grand staircase off the Park Block Blocks, remains, but the new entrance acknowledges the university's expansion eastward across Broadway.

The views from the second-floor dance studio include Mt. Hood peaking over office buildings to the east.

Mathern loves the room. "The incredible natural light," she says. "Students can really move. The airiness. It makes a huge difference in feeling able to move freely without running into something or someone else. They feel they can move beyond their boundaries."

Her students cover the sprung floor of light-colored maple, sun and shadows streaking bodies closest to the windows. At night, the tower glows with actors and dancers moving, echoing the lighted glass stairways of Hatfield Hall down the street.

Arlene Schnitzer, one of Portland's best-known philanthropists, gave the lead gift of $2.3 million for the tower. Schnitzer knows the building well. She and her late husband, Harold, attended school there when it was Lincoln High School.

The university loaned $1 million to the School of the Arts for the tower. The School has repaid half that and still needs to raise between $200,000 and $300,000, says Robert Bucker, the new dean.

"A facility like this provides fantastic opportunities to blend the boundaries of arts disciplines," Bucker says. "It's a very creative space, a perfect environment to build collaborations across the college."