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A 1.5-acre site fronting on Congress Square

Index to Projects in Maine

Portland, Maine

Gross Floor Area

Portland Society of Art, Portland, Maine

Time Frame
Planning: 11/78
Construction: 1/81
Completion: 3/83


Charles Shipman Payson Building, Portland Museum of Art

Portland, Maine
Completed 1983


Lead Designer: Henry N. Cobb


Expansion building for a New England regional museum

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This museum expansion building fronts on a major public square and is literally surrounded by landmarks. The challenge was to provide extensive new facilities in a way that would respect the living presence of the past on a constricted, awkwardly shaped site. The solution involves an indigenous brick and granite building which, while fronting boldly on the square, steps down amid gardens in the rear in deference to smaller neighbors.

The galleries were designed to celebrate regional masterpieces in the museum's State of Maine Collection. Spaces both intimate and grand were required, and lighting both natural and artificial, yet order and coherence were equally essential. To achieve these goals, identical spatial units (21' x 21' x 13') were variously combined to form diverse gallery configurations within the unified whole. The visitor thus encounters a rich but disciplined elaboration of space throughout. Domed clerestories illuminate the collection with controlled daylight as they shape and animate the interior.

The expansion building revitalizes PMA (Maine's oldest public art museum) to better serve modern needs. It provides new public facilities, infrastructure/support and 15,000 s/f of additional exhibition space (five times more than in the two historic houses that comprise the original museum).


Major Components

15,000 s/f skylit exhibition galleries, 200-seat auditorium, library, museum shop, administrative offices, boardroom, conference and meeting rooms, storage and work areas, landscaped gardens




American Institute of Architects, Portland (Maine) Chapter: 25 Year Award



American Institute of Architects:
National Honor Award


I. M. Pei & Partners services

Complete Architectural Services; Interior Design; coordination with associate architect on construction documents and construction administration


Architectural Consultant

Terrien Architects, Portland, ME



Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, Robertson, New York, NY


Mechanical / Electrical

Kunstadt Associates, New York, NY



Jules Fisher & Paul Marantz, New York, NY



Hanna/Olin, Philadelphia, PA



Photo credits

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