AKA: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Lloyd District, Portland, OR

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings; built works - performing arts buildings; built works - public buildings - assembly halls; built works - social and civic buildings

Designers: Hoffman Construction Company (firm); Moffat, Nichol and Taylor, Structural Engineers (firm); Poole, McGonigle and Dick, Metal Fabrictors (firm); Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, (SOM), Portland, OR (firm); Dick (building contractor); Myron Goldsmith (architect/engineer); Lee Hawley Hoffman (building contractor); McGonigle (building contractor); John Ogden Merrill (architect); John Moffatt (structural engineer); Frank Nichol (structural engineer); Nathaniel Alexander Owings (architect); Poole (building contractor); Louis Skidmore Sr. (architect); Taylor (structural engineer)

Dates: constructed 1958-1960

2 stories, total floor area: 341,300 sq. ft.

300 North Winning Way
Lloyd District, Portland, OR 97227

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The lead-designer of this glass-walled coliseum, Myron Goldsmith of SOM, wanted to create a compositional contrast between the rectilinear building envelope and the curving seating bowl set inside. At night, the design's sculptural contrast between the square frame and the interior's round bowl was illuminated in a dramatic way and underscored the clear and distinct functions of the building's parts.

Building History

In 1954, voters of Portland, OR, passed an $8 million bond issue to erect a multi-purpose cultural venue to commemorate veterans who gave service to the nation. Erected for the Portland Exposition-Recreation Commission, this "Glass Palace " opened on 01/08/1961.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrills' own web site said of this building: "...[T]he Veterans Memorial Coliseum directly expresses SOM’s conviction that successful architecture depends on the balanced union of art and engineering. The design team, led by Myron Goldsmith, used a grid of reinforced concrete columns and cantilevered steel trusses to form a square building, 360 feet wide on each side. Unlike most arenas, SOM wrapped the building in modular 3.5-foot by 9-foot glass panels, flooding the interior with natural light.Composed of gray-tinted glass, the glass walls are capped at the top of the building by a white strip of acrylic overlaid on plywood fascia. To cover the 80,000 square feet of windows, SOM designed a special blackout curtain which, at the time of its installation, was the largest continuous curtain in the United States. When it opened in 1960, the building was also the only glass-walled International Style stadium in the Pacific Northwest." (See SOM.com, "Veterans Memorial Coliseum," accessed 04/15/2019.) Myron Goldsmith (1918-1996), a Chicago-born engineer and architect, who consulted as a designer for key projects within SOM's offices during the 1950s and 1960s, led the Portland design team.

Portland's important office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrrill (SOM) designed the multi-purpose building in the late 1950s. SOM was formed in 1936 in Chicago, IL, by architects Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings, John Ogden Merrill; after World War II, SOM obtained many large-scale commissions throughout the U.S., and, consequently, opened offices in New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, Houston, TX, and Los Angeles, CA. When Pietro Belluschi, the most influential architect working in Portland between 1935-1950, decided to head to Cambridge, MA, to become Dean of the Architecture School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1951, he arranged to merge his robust office with a Portland branch of the prestigious SOM.

The coliseum's structural engineer was Moffat, Nichol and Taylor and the general contractor, Hoffman Construction. The firm of Poole, McGonigle and Dick fabricated the steel components of the roof's metal trusses.

Building Notes

The Portland Memorial Coliseum stood 100 ft (30 m) tall and covered 3.1 acres. It occupied a total site of 22 acres. The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Oregon Chapter, gave the coliseum an Honor Award for design in 1961; this coliseum was notable for its extensive use of glass around its perimeter envelope. This level of transparency is not common for the building type; the Oakland Coliseum Arena (Roche and Dinkeloo, 1964-1966) is another example of a transparent arena, also another design worked on by Myron Goldsmith.

The Beatles played in the Portland Memorial Coliseum before 20,000 frenzied fans, 08/22/1965. Originally, the building was supposed to seat 8,500 spectators for stage events and up to 14,000 for boxing matches.

The Veterans Memorial Coliseum was voted a "National Treasure" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2016.

National Register of Historic Places: ID n/a

PCAD id: 13918