Shattuck Hall blends Portland State’s historical charm and modern efficiency

Shattuck Hall is located in the south end of the Park Blocks.

Since the 1990s, Shattuck Hall has been home to the School of Architecture. With its open studios, contemporary fixtures, high ceilings and natural light, it’s a mix of 20th-century charm and 21st-century modernism, and an ideal setting for the school’s approximately 300 undergraduate and master’s students.

The building underwent a major, award-winning renovation in 2008, which earned it LEED Gold status and transformed its interior. But if you look closely, you will see remnants of the building’s past life as Shattuck School, which opened its doors to neighborhood children in 1915.

Shattuck Hall, Courtesy Portland Public Schools

In each of the open-plan studios — long since stripped of the old classroom walls, chalkboards and children’s desks — elegant built-in shelving units remain, and it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a teacher’s desk, topped with a globe, test papers, and maybe an apple, nearby. Other details belie the building’s past life as an elementary school, including the original wooden stair bannisters, the tall windows, and the hardwood floors.

The lower floor of Shattuck Hall, which now houses the wood and metal shop for the Schools of Architecture and Art + Design, a casting shop, a printmaking studio, a digital lab and drawing classrooms, initially featured a swimming pool. The “tank,” as it was called, was “of white tile, of graduated depth, 75 by 30 feet in size, filled with sterilized water kept constantly flowing,” according to a 1915 article in The Oregonian. The pool was situated on the west side of the building, with locker rooms and showers positioned to the east. The lower floor also included a gymnasium and playroom, roughly where the wood and metal shop is today.

One item from the school’s past is a bit of an enigma, however. According to a newspaper article at the time, a “receptacle containing a history of the Shattuck School” was placed “in a niche in the cornerstone” on May 21, 1915, at an event celebrating the building’s opening. At present, the location of this hidden treasure of history is unknown to PSU officials, so the mystery continues. — Karen O’Donnell Stein, Marketing & Communications Manager, College of the Arts


Architecture students’ outdoor laboratory

Shattuck Hall Ecological Learning Plaza

The Shattuck Hall Ecological Learning Plaza, located on the east side of Shattuck Hall, serves as an outdoor laboratory space for the School of Architecture.

This is where students and faculty build experimental prototypes for the Pickathon Treeline Stage, hammering together full-scale mockups of stage components to work out the kinks before launching the main build at Pendarvis Farm. Passing by during a typical school year, you might also see experiments with vertical gardens, a sloped green roof, Master of Architecture thesis demonstrations and material reuse investigations.

The space hasn’t always been an experimental design-build lab, however. When Shattuck Hall was an elementary school, this area was used as an outdoor playground.

Playground paving still lies just below the surface. When the school building was taken over by PSU, the play area became the site of a prefabricated structure used by Campus Public Safety. Its rusted steel frame straddles the plaza today.

The permeable paving that forms the surface of this space offers another layer of history. The historic basalt cobblestones — some of them estimated to be at least 100 years old — originally lined the streets of Old Town and inner Southeast Portland.

When the Eco Plaza was installed nearly a decade ago, Architecture students braved the winter rains, dug up 30,000 pounds of the cobblestones from a park in St. Johns, loaded them onto rented trucks and transported them back to PSU for installation in the plaza. Now, they mitigate stormwater runoff and remind us that wherever we go, history lies right beneath our feet. — Karen O’Donnell Stein, Marketing & Communications Manager, College of the Arts


Rediscovering Campus is a weekly series that highlights the stories behind popular spaces at Portland State University, as we gear up for a return to in-person learning.

Rediscovering Campus: Simon Benson House, the jewel of the park blocks

Simon Benson House

The Simon Benson House is a familiar landmark on campus, and home of the Alumni Association. But this beautiful, century-old home didn’t always reside in the South Park Blocks.

The Simon Benson House was moved to the park blocks in 2000.

The house is named after logger and civic philanthropist Simon Benson, who built the grand Queen Anne style house just after 1900 on the corner of SW 11th and Clay in downtown Portland across from the historic Old Church. The interior of the house featured rich detail and decoration, and each room was paneled in a different kind of wood.

The Simon Benson House remained there for nearly 100 years. The home fell into disrepair and was condemned in 1991 but it couldn’t be torn down because of its designation on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Benson Bubbler

Over the years, many people tried to save the historic home and to find new purpose for the architecturally significant building. At long last and under the direction of late City Commissioner and PSU alumna Gretchen Kafoury, the Friends of Simon Benson House was founded to create awareness for the project and ultimately raise the $1.6 million dollars needed to move and restore the home. Kafoury partnered with alumna Pat Squire, then Executive Director of the PSU Alumni Association, and the two got to work to relocate the house to campus, with the intention it would become the home of the Alumni Association and serve as a visitors’ center for campus.

With financial support from more than 1,000 individuals and businesses, the house was moved to its new location on the Portland State University campus on Jan. 16, 2000. The renovation of the house took nearly a year and was done with care to replicate the significant architectural elements. Today the Simon Benson House is once again listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

At the front of the house, you can find an iconic Benson Bubbler. As the story goes, Simon Benson donated $10,000 in 1912 to buy and install bronze drinking fountains around the city, now known as Benson Bubblers. The Portland Water Bureau maintains more than 50 of the four-bowl fountains throughout downtown Portland.

The Simon Benson House is now home for the university’s greatest assets — its alumni — and a visible presence to students to encourage their lifelong relationship with PSU. Visitors are welcome!


Rediscovering Campus is a weekly series that highlights the stories behind popular spaces at Portland State University, as we gear up for a return to in-person learning.

A Wild June

June was a big month in my household. The Clinton Street Cabaret’s Rocky Horror performance, something I have been involved with since I was eighteen, began again. My roommate finally got her gender confirmation surgery. I added a sweet new partner to my polycule. I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree and the first year of my master’s under my belt. My partner finally changed their legal name. I got married. I went on my honeymoon. 

It’s been a crazy summer to say the least!

I love being married. It’s an absolute dream. I’ve had many cautionary tales thrown at me about getting married so young. I’ve even lost friends over my choice to be married at 21. However, I kept the people in my life that mattered, and our chosen families were beautifully supportive. 

After such a wild month, I’m ready to slow down a little bit. I am still physically disabled and in pain 24/7. I’m still always dizzy, exhausted, and weak. I’ve always pushed myself until I break, and this summer is no different!

So I am practicing the lessons I have learned about taking care of myself and forcing myself to slow down. (Just a little!) 

I am working hard to tell myself that my worth is not defined by my productivity. Sometimes, simply surviving the day is enough. I’m allowed to still be proud of myself for existing. Other people can take up the mantle a little.

It’s not easy.

I hate being idle. I can hardly stand to sit still, chronic pain be damned. But I am trying, and that’s all that matters.

It was a hell of a June — hopefully my July can be a bit slower! 

A Return to Campus

by JP “Johnny” Campbell

Now that Oregon has relaxed their COVID restrictions, students will return to the PSU campus this fall for the first time in a year. I’m both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous. I haven’t been in a physical classroom in a long time! I completed both my last year of undergrad and my first year of grad school in front of a computer screen!

There are perks to going to college in your living room. It’s nice to be around my pets, to let my wife listen in on my lectures, and to sit on a couch instead of a classroom desk. At the same time, however, it was incredibly difficult to stay engaged and pay attention. In your home, every possible distraction looms. Roommates, pets, partners, the television, knocking mailmen and food delivery folks, nosy neighbors — any number of things!

I look forward to being around my peers again most of all. I am an incredibly social person! I thrive around people, and have missed befriending classmates badly. I can’t wait to make new friends and to feel more engaged this next term.

I am going to take concrete steps to stay safe on campus this fall — handwashing and use of hand sanitizer, social distancing/masking if appropriate, and avoiding eating inside. An abundance of caution, perhaps, but one can’t be too careful!

I cannot wait to sit in a classroom, look at the view from the top floor of the CUPA building, meet with my advisors, and study in the library. I’ve missed our campus sorely. I have my reservations about in-person classes after such a long time on Zoom, but I’m absolutely excited! 

Rediscovering Campus: Urban Plaza is Portland State’s front door

Portland State University’s Urban Plaza

The Urban Plaza is an outdoor gathering space and transit hub between the College of Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA) and the university’s Campus Rec building.

Completed in 2002, the space was created by closing off SW Montgomery Street to vehicular traffic between 5th and 6th Avenues. The original designers envisioned the plaza as a “cauldron” of activity that would serve as the university’s front door, welcoming commuters arriving by bus, train and bike.

The new entrance was also intended to connect PSU to the city’s municipal and financial areas, complementing its existing relationship with the artistic and cultural core of the South Park Blocks. 

The plaza captures the natural beauty that surrounds Portland State’s campus by bringing together brick and stone elements, dramatic water features, and evergreen landscaping.

The plaza draws frequent comparisons to downtown Portland’s iconic Pioneer Courthouse Square, and for good reason: local design firm Walker Macy consulted on the master plans for both spaces. While the Square — which opened in 1984 — creates an amphitheater by cutting a circle into a concave set of stairs and steps, the Urban Plaza thrusts stairs and stadium-like steps upward into the space. It was once aptly described by a PSU architect as “Pioneer Courthouse Square turned inside out.” 

The plaza fountain

Londoner John Aiken created the mountain-like sculptures that mark the Urban Center’s main entrance. Composed of stone and light granite, the monoliths create 20- to 40-foot shadows across the plaza’s bricks, reminding passersby of the “hugeness of nature” that surrounds the campus on all sides. 

The plaza’s fountains draw attention to the main pedestrian corridors and provide a tranquil backdrop for passersby who elect to sit and stay a while. One fountain creates gentle ripples like a fish ladder, while the others create narrow streams that plunge like the waterfalls in the nearby Columbia Gorge. Students can often be found chatting in the sun or grabbing coffee while sitting atop a fountain parapet. 

Perhaps the most surprising feature of the Urban Plaza is the streetcar that carves a diagonal path through its bricks and stones. Each new car announces itself with a friendly chime and gentle shake of the buildings above it.

With no physical separation between the streetcar tracks and plaza pedestrians, the placement was intended to conjure images of busy European streetscapes.

— Erin Sutherland, Marketing & Communications Manager at Portland State’s College of Urban & Public Affairs


Rediscovering Campus is a weekly series that highlights the stories behind popular spaces at Portland State University, as we gear up for a return to in-person learning.

A Sunshine-Filled Summer

by Beth Royston

Anyone that knew me while I was attending high school in California would be shocked if they saw me voluntarily leaving my house during the summertime. In my defense, when it’s super hot almost all year long, one can get rather tired of that weather. I’ve never liked the heat, but living in Portland has definitely changed my perspective. I am always grateful that Portland actually has seasons, and I find myself looking forward to every one, because there’s things I can only do during that season coming up. This summer, I will actually leave my house and voluntarily be under the sun! If you’re looking for fun summertime activities, I’m here to finish off my list of seasonal jaunts with one tailored to celebrate summer.

Attend a festival!

Portland has some awesome festivals and events over the summer. Portland Pride, the Soapbox Derby, tons of concerts, floats on the river, and more. There’s something for everyone, and there’s great ideas here on Travel Portland. I’ve done a bunch of these, and it’s always a blast! My favorite event ever has to be the all-you-can-eat ice cream festival in the city a few years ago. Pure heaven.

Get outside!

Summer is a great time to go camping, and there’s plenty of places to go. Even if full-on camping isn’t for you, there are still swimming holes and gorgeous short hikes close to the city. You can swim in natural rivers, kayak, and visit waterfall trails when nature is in full flourishing mode. I highly recommend seeing if any hikes that end with a swim might appeal to you!

Berry picking!

You’re really missing out if you’ve never gone berry-picking. There are a ton of places fairly close to Portland to drive out to, and afterwards you can make a jam, a pie, or just cram bucketfuls of berries into your mouth. You’ll probably find other U-Pick farms while you’re driving about, and I’ve come home with homemade lavender products from a lavender farm and more fun goodies that make me excited to go exploring every year.

Attend a Thorns game!

I’ve written before about how much I absolutely love going to Thorns games at Providence Park. And great news — the Thorns are coming back after the pandemic! In June, ticket sales will open for summer games, and it looks like all attendees are required to be vaccinated. Personally, I’m over the moon, and can’t wait to go!

There are plenty of fun things to do this summer. It feels like there’s a different energy in the air — people are ready to get out and enjoy the sun, especially after all this time locked up. While it’s critically important to still follow state regulations and be safe — acknowledging the pandemic left lasting scars for some of us — I’m so excited to get out. I’m graduating and will soon be enjoying the purchase of my first car. This is my last post for PSU Chronicles, so thank you all for reading and following along with my posts while I’ve been at PSU! Best of luck out there, and enjoy your summer!

Portland State grad serves community by fixing up Black-owned homes

Randal Wyatt

In June of 2020, Randal Wyatt started Taking Ownership PDX, a grassroots nonprofit that helps Black property owners keep their homes by repairing and renovating them. He’s about to graduate from Portland State University with a degree in Social Science, a double minor in Black Studies and Sociology and a 3.92 GPA. 

His PSU story: “I was born and raised in Portland, attended community college, then had twins at age 19 and dropped out. I started a band called Speaker Minds. We rap about social issues, and I built a name for myself doing benefit concerts and fund raisers. I went back to community college and got my associate’s degree, became a residential treatment counselor, and then a mentor for Black and Latino boys on probation. Then I moved to Portland Youth Builders as a student advocate with the stipulation that I go back to school and get my degree. I started at PSU half-time in 2017, worked full-time, raised my sons and my music career was taking off. So yeah, it’s been a long road.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the way society works, why things are the way they are, why are  systems the way they are, why can’t we have nicer things in America. Last year around this time people started asking me how they can be better allies to Black and marginalized communities. We have to develop more of a village mindset, develop equitable practices that help uplift communities that have historically and currently been excluded. That turned into Taking Ownership PDX, because my studies at PSU taught me that one of the most effective ways to use resources is to keep wealth in communities that are preyed upon for their land.

“I didn’t want to just talk. I decided if we’re really going to change the social climate,
I’m going to go out and do it.”

— Randal Wyatt

“I didn’t want to just talk. I decided if we’re really going to change the social climate, I’m going to go out and do it. I was naive about it initially, I thought we’ll just get a bunch of volunteers and start swinging hammers at homes and fixing them up. There’s a lot more to it than that. By the end of the first week, I had $10K. I had one home to work on, so I took the money and started fixing it up, redid the carpet, windows, gutters, all that. Then I got two to three more homes to work on. 

“In one year we’ve helped 35 black families fix up their homes with jobs ranging from fixing leaks to roof and window replacements, landscaping, cleanup. We serve primarily the elderly. We’ve raised about $400,000.

“At PSU, not only have I gained knowledge of myself, but it’s inspired me to create an organization that helps the community. It gave me the know-how and what areas to target. It’s worth it. It’s been stressful, but the knowledge that I’ve gained has been invaluable.”


Randal’s story has been featured on KGW, Willamette Week, Portland Monthly and CNN’s United Shades of America

Different But The Same

By: Adair Bingham

When I was a preteen, I remember getting flack from extended family for lugging my old Nintendo DS around and always venturing over to the toy aisle in stores where we were shopping. Teachers marked out my harmless doodles on the corners of homework with red ink or took away my art supplies until the end of the period. In elementary school, I was thrown in and out of special education classes because of my overactive imagination. It often felt like I was getting side-eyed for following my interests and doing things I happen to like, no matter what form they took. 

At the time, the criticism bothered me plenty, but as I’ve gotten older, I care less and less. It’s cliched to say, but life is too short to spend it worrying about what others think. Although I still find myself bothered by feeling “immature” or behind everyone in life (enough so to write a post about it), I‘ve made an active effort to stop censoring myself around others. I no longer berate myself for living my life the way I’d like to live it.

Remembering the quote “growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional,” helps me to settle down and think things through when I’m feeling down. Over time, it’s gotten to the point where I’m unfazed by what people may think of me or how I may do things. Although it may catch me by surprise when someone gives me the side-eye for doing things my own way, I remind myself that as long as I’m happy and content, I really shouldn’t be bothered. I’m a firm believer in there being no age limit on harmless fun or interests. Other people’s mental hangups shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem but their own. 

If I’ve learned anything since starting (and graduating!) university, it’s that I’m different, but also very much the same person I was when I moved into my dormitory back in 2017. While I might not have reached many of life’s milestones yet, I feel like I’ve finally grown into my own person and I know that I’ll get there one day. At the end of the day, I’m different, but the same. If anything, I know for a fact that I’ve changed for the better.

Moving Forward, Looking Back

by Beth Royston

Somehow, we’re a few weeks away from the end of spring term. I’m about to graduate, and it feels really bizarre. While I don’t necessarily feel like a completely different person from when I started, I recognize that I’ve grown a lot through the things that I accomplished and the trials that I went through. I also don’t feel as thrilled about graduating as I thought — this past year was really difficult, and it’s caused some burn out from school. Graduation definitely feels bittersweet, as I was really looking forward to being able to walk. However, I absolutely respect that Portland State is holding off on the in-person ceremony due to safety concerns. To help celebrate my own accomplishments as I prepare to graduate, I wanted to remember some things that really marked personal growth for me during the years.

Shifting my attitude towards life

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m a very type-A person. I have a folder that has the things I’d like to accomplish in the next five years of my life organized by season — if that’s any indication of how I think. Planning is soothing to me, and helps me feel like I’m in control. But frankly, a lot of things happened while I was in college that I couldn’t control, even though I planned otherwise. It freaked me out. I definitely had a crisis or two where I felt like I didn’t know who I was and I wouldn’t ever recover from what was happening. But I made it through. I not only got through life taking crazy twists and turns, I can feel that my own attitude towards life has become more relaxed. There’s definitely things that I’d like to be proactive about and make happen in my life over the next few years, but I’m learning to slow down more. There’s a lot that fulfills and sustains me that I want to spend time on, and I have plenty of time to accomplish the things I want to accomplish. I definitely suffer from worrying that I need to do everything important I’m ever going to do before I turn 25 — a sentiment that I’ve seen reflected in a lot of other people my age. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be up to in the next few years, and that’s okay.

Making it through college

I didn’t doubt when I started that I would get through college — I love school. But a lot of things happened that really tested my perseverance. The worst part was the massive mental health struggles I had in my junior year when I was incredibly physically sick. Trying to be a good student during that time was really taxing, and continuing to get up and go everyday while I was feeling so awful was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I got through it, despite being really sick, despite the pandemic, despite other things not going so well. I’m also graduating with honors, which may not mean much to others, but after how things went for me I feel incredibly proud of myself.

Starting a business 

I’m really proud of myself for starting a business in 2020. While it’s been a blast, it’s also a lot of work. I wasn’t particularly intimidated to start, but it’s a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. It’s taught me a lot and humbled me a lot, and while I don’t intend on making my side business my main source of income, I want to try to grow it even more this year. I’ve learned a lot about how to improve my products, and made a lot of advancements that are very important to me, like making my packaging process as eco-friendly as I can. 

Other accomplishments

I finished the first draft of my book in college, which has been a lifelong dream. I got engaged to the person that makes me the happiest in the entire world, and felt our relationship strengthen over time. I’ve come into myself a lot more, and feel like I know who Beth is a lot more clearly. My sense of self is already strong, but I hope that I only continue to hone that over time. I grew a lot, in directions that were healthy for me to move in. That’s definitely what I appreciate the most as I prepare to graduate.

23 Things I’ve Learned in 23 Years 

By Claire Golden

This is my last post for PSU Chronicles, and I’m going to miss being a blogger here. But since I’m not a student anymore, I couldn’t stay around forever. My life has changed so much since I started at PSU. I’ve been diagnosed with and treated for OCD, had my gallbladder removed, made some friends, lost other friends, came out as bi, got engaged to the love of my life (whom I met while working at PSU’s Learning Center), got a degree, and got a book published. But I’ve also cried in many PSU bathrooms, failed homework assignments, had an existential crisis (or three) and wondered what on earth I was doing. 

A lot of the things I learned in college weren’t academic, and I think they’re the most valuable lessons I took away from my time at PSU. So I thought I would share the top 23 things I have learned in my 23 years on this good ole planet. (I forgot how old I was and had to ask my fiancé to confirm.)

1.     Say “I love you” to people more often.

2.     Every bad moment will pass.

3.     Learn to be okay with good enough.

4.     If you wait for something to be perfect, you will be waiting forever, so go after your dreams.

5.     Don’t procrastinate things on your bucket list, because life is unpredictable.

6.     Take care of your body — go to the doctor when you need to!

7.     Do the things you want with your hair, it grows back! (I am rocking a DIY pixie cut at the moment.)

8.     Approach things with a sense of humor and learn to laugh at yourself, kindly.

9.     Reach out to people you think are cool, because you might just make a new friend.

10.  Learn new things just to experience being a beginner again! (I am working on my third language, German, as well as how to read tarot cards.)

11.  Do things that you’re bad at if you like doing them: draw, sing, dance, write.

12.  Be generous with your compliments, because you never know what they will mean to someone.

13.  It’s okay to ask questions, big or small. And it’s okay if you sound silly while asking them.

14.  Just because your parents or family do things one way doesn’t mean you have to do things that way. This applies to little things like loading the dishwasher and to big things like religion. 

15.  Waste time with the people you love, because that’s not actually wasted time.

16.  If you can, live somewhere you love, because every day will feel like a vacation. (Shoutout to Portland, from a former Midwesterner.)

17.  It’s okay to be childish…collect stuffed animals, read Middle Grade or Young Adult books, color a picture.

18.  Don’t be normal just for the sake of being normal, but also don’t be weird just to “stand out.” Find your happy medium.

19.  If you get excited about the little things, then life will become much more exciting: a great glass of ice water, a spinny door, a really shiny pigeon.

20.   Write down your feelings to help make sense of them.

21.  Send letters to people you love — it’s fun to have a pen pal and it will make both of your days to get mail.

22.  Reading books helps me escape, but also makes me a more empathetic person as I learn about new things.

23.  Probably the most important thing of all that I’ve learned: It’s okay not to know the answer. 

Bonus tip: Hugging a fluffy animal makes everything better.