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Park Blocks: Spring 2014
Author: Sara Hottman and Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: April 21, 2014

An artful entrance

A CANOPY of three-dimensional twists that create abstract, cloud-like formations now hovers over the main entrance to the Science, Research and Teaching Center (formerly known as Science Building 2). Inspired by the lighting and layering of trees in the Park Blocks, Faulders Studio designed the sculpture, Entrium Light Cloud, as "a corollary to the open-ended twists and turns encountered during the process of creative research and innovation." The art was funded by Oregon's Percent for Art program, which sets aside at least one percent of the cost of state legislature-approved construction--in this case the remodel of the science center—for public art.

When newspapers die

THE VALUE of newspapers to their communities may become most apparent after their demise, says communication professor Lee Shaker. Using data collected by the U.S. census, Shaker discovered that civic engagement in Denver and Seattle dropped significantly from 2008 to 2009 compared to other large cities. He argues that the decline could be explained by the demise in 2009 of Denver's Rocky Mountain News and the transition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to an online-only format. Shaker concludes that metropolitan newspapers provide communities a unique sense of identification with their cities, "and as dead newspapers are replaced over time by new media, it is possible that citizens' relationships with each other and their society will fundamentally change as well."

Computing the cosmos

HOW ARE GREENHOUSE GASES from homes, farms, motor vehicles, manufacturing plants and even forest fires affecting our air quality and ultimately our climate? Scientists at Portland State have a new tool to help find the answers: a supercomputer 10 times more powerful than all other computing on campus. Located in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, the new computer was named Gaia after the Greek earth goddess. With 20 teraflops of computational power, Gaia will enable advanced modeling of the factors behind air pollution and climate change. Gaia was funded by a $350,000 grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust. Photo from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.

Architects get down to business

THE SCHOOL OF Business Administration is getting a $60 million makeover, and Northwest firm SRG Partnership was chosen to design it. The firm will work closely with German firm Behnisch Architekten, a world leader in sustainable design, on the project. They are tasked with tripling the size of the business school with a design that brings its nearly 5,000 students under one roof. Included in the remodel and expansion is a new 42,000-square-foot structure on the north side of the current building, seen here. An $8 million gift from alumnus Rick Miller MBA '91 and his wife, Erika, brought the school closer to the $20 million in private funds it needs to raise. Expected to be complete by 2017, the project has received $40 million in state-backed bonds.

A window to the arts

LOOKING UP at the right moment, drivers on Southwest Broadway may catch a dancer's leap in the new three-story glass tower addition to Lincoln Hall. The glass entrance is the final piece of a $37 million renovation of the historic building. Lincoln Hall, built as a high school in 1911, is home to the University's College of the Arts. The new tower adds 3,400 square feet of dance, drama and gallery space. Philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer made construction of the $3.7 million tower possible with a $2.3 million gift in memory of her late husband, Harold.

Four and no more

PORTLAND STATE has taken the lead among Oregon's public universities and created a Four-Year Degree Guarantee to help students graduate on time and save money on tuition. Here's how it works: Starting in this fall, students entering PSU as full-time freshmen may sign an agreement to follow a four-year degree path. If they stay on track, the University guarantees they will have the courses and advising they need to graduate on time, or they won't pay tuition for any remaining required courses. It's guaranteed.


Good design and good will

ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS took on a design-build adventure in Haiti this past winter for "definitely the cutest and most appreciative clients in the world," says Todd Ferry, PSU architecture faculty. The children of Montesinos Orphanage, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, were close at hand as students built dormitory overhangs they designed. Ferry (right) and Portland State colleague Sergio Palleroni led the project. For years, students and faculty from PSU and Ecole Speciale d'Architecture in Paris have worked on designs for the orphanage, a school and the surrounded town. The smart, new overhangs provide seating and shade for the children and also channels water runoff from the area's torrential rains to a bioswale—a future building project.