Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Portland 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.
Inside, terraced seating wraps the arena in an oval bowl made of free-standing concrete. From outside the building, a viewer can see the bowl’s curved form through the grid of windows. The elegant contrast between fluid and rectangular shapes gives the coliseum its unique sense of equilibrium.