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University Building Karl Miller Center

Light that breathes

Behnisch Architekten

Another Behnisch Architekten creation, this time developed in collaboration with SRG Partnership. First off though, as someone who for years has commented and critiqued Stefan Behnisch’s projects - starting with the IBN/Alterra headquarters in Wageningen, Netherlands (1994-1998) - I have to own up to being biased. All the projects of this world famous German practice propose the same perfect recipe that eschews passing fashions in favor of an appropriate spatial language in order to develop a technological, natural-energy-reliant machine. With a combination of rigor and clear aesthetic vision, Behnisch contrasts the powerful and the lightweight, color and matter to deliver an architecture that is music - a fascinating melody of pure harmonies. No mean feat this, of which few are capable. Everything is already there in the initial Behnisch sketch of a circumference of leafy branches (oxygen) dotted with human beings (carbon dioxide) woven together in a perfect continuum. The resultant program is of such obvious and apparent simplicity as to even seem naive, were it not for its complex construction demands and the even more intricate maintenance mechanisms to allow the building to withstand time and the elements. Designed in 2014 and completed last year, Behnisch’s intervention at the Karl Miller Center in Portland State University, Oregon, is both a requalification and innovation project. Internal space has been redesigned to include a huge central atrium where emptiness combines with the pulsating energy of light, the major feature of the whole program. A section of the University’s School of Business, the renovation and extension slip into the American urban grid of 61x61 m. The program joins a fairly unprepossessing 1970’s building of about approximately 9,300 sq. m and a new addition of about 4,200 sq. m via a five-story pyramid-shaped atrium that becomes a vibrant internal connection with all the other spaces in the building. Laid out...

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