Portland State University (PSU) located in the heart of Portland, Oregon has a long history of providing innovation and education to the pacific northwest city. So when the campus discussed Fariborz Maseeh Hall, a building constructed in the 1960s, the choices were to demolish it or renovate it. PSU decided to leave the structure in place and hired Hacker’s design team to lead the transformation. 

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Outside of a grey building lined with trees

Fariborz Maseeh Hall, originally known as Neuberger Hall, is an academic hub on campus. The client requested the space not only be converted from the original dark, pragmatic Brutalist architecture into an open and bright space, but also that it be brought up to modern standards of accessibility. 

Related: PSU’s LEED Platinum School of Business features regionally sourced timber

A lobby area with orange sofas and a reception counter

To achieve this goal, the team at Hacker removed a large central area of the five-story building with a focus on creating a flexible, welcoming and engaging space. The flow of the interior space placed an emphasis on the user experience for students, faculty, community members and other visitors to campus. Opening the middle section of the building welcomed in copious natural light, while removing only a small portion of the massive 250,000 square foot area.  

Students working at individual large tables

The second goal was to “prioritize life-cycle and life-safety upgrades to the building as a whole.” In addition to incorporating light into the space, the team created a seamless connection between the indoor work and gathering spaces to the outdoor experience. The pacific northwest is known as an outdoor destination, a moniker seen throughout the Fariborz Maseeh Hall renovation in its connection to the main nearby streets and nearby urban parklike settings. With safety and accessibility in mind, the building was equipped with handicap features and enhanced way finding.

A white window building and seen through it are students working at individual desks

The decision to renovate instead of replace the building reduces embodied carbon emissions that come with new construction. Although originally constructed in two phases, the recent upgrade joins the interior spaces with a cohesive look, while keeping the dynamic exterior appeal preserved. The facades did receive an upgrade with the addition of energy-enhancing curtainwall systems. The combination of replacing all windows with modern, efficient products and draping the entire interior design with natural light, the building sees an estimated 25% reduction in energy consumption and qualifies for LEED gold certification.

+ Hacker 

Photography by Pete Eckert