Portland Museum of Art to Expand

Launches Design Competition

By: - Jun 01, 2022

The Portland Museum of Art, together with the leading independent architect selection firm Dovetail Design Strategists, announced today the launch of an international design competition for its campus unification and expansion.

The unique competition challenges the global architecture community to create an iconic and inclusive place that will deliver on the promise of the PMA’s mission, Art for All. The open competition will be conducted in two stages and the winning team and their concept design will be announced in December 2022.

The PMA sees this as an opportunity to discover the impact a museum can have when it is built through an inclusive lens. The need for expansion and unification at the museum stems from record attendance over the past decade, the growth and diversification of the collection through several major gifts, as well community feedback identifying how the PMA must remain flexible and dynamic. By creating a community hub and focusing on groundbreaking approaches to art, the PMA believes it can become a place where all people belong. More than just a new building, the PMA’s campus unification and expansion is a value proposition, envisioning the monumental impact museums can have on their communities.

“We are excited to invite experts from around the world to internalize the goals of The PMA Blueprint and turn them into physical spaces that bring them to life,” says Mark Bessire, the Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art. ”This is no easy task, as our communities have made their expectations clear for open and innovative spaces that enable a flexible range of programs, exhibitions, and art. Beyond that, architects must understand the unique characteristics of Portland and of Maine, while displaying enthusiasm and reverence for this project’s long-term impact.” 

The site for this project is 142 Free St., the area between the Charles Shipman Payson Building and Charles Quincy Clapp House and an exploration of an additional entryway to the museum along High St. Every aspect of this project will be informed by three pillars: community, collection, and campus. 

The expansion will enable the presentation of new collections and major exhibitions, host innovative events, programs, and performances, create collaborative, open spaces for the community, and consolidate staff offices. Slated to open in 2026, the 60,000 square foot expansion will double the institution’s current size and aim to include a rooftop restaurant, sculpture park, and event space that will have views of the surrounding city and Casco Bay. 

Critically, the PMA wishes to raise the national bar for environmental and ecological new museum architecture with a comprehensive approach to energy conservation and overall sustainability.

The PMA understands the museum expansion as integral to Maine’s flourishing hospitality and tourist industry and anticipates that once complete the PMA will attract 300,000 visitors in the initial year of operation, with a projected annual growth rate of 10%.

“The growth of the PMA in recent years has been staggering,” says PMA Board President Cyrus Hagge. “This is a marquee moment in the PMA’s 140-year history and for the city of Portland and state of Maine.” 

“This opportunity has been made possible by the immense and wholehearted support of the communities that call our region home,” says incoming PMA Board President Eileen Gillespie. “To be involved with Maine’s leading cultural institution at a moment when it envisions the future through the values of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusivity is thrilling.” 

The Portland Museum of Art has engaged the renowned architect selection firm, Dovetail Design Strategists, to develop and direct the design competition. The firm regularly collaborates with major cultural and civic institutions to lead the architect selection process. Dovetail’s expert process will provide the framework for the selection of a world-class design team for this transformational project. 

“It’s been exciting to craft this two-stage competition so that it captures the Portland Museum of Art’s incredibly forward-looking, bold and ambitious vision to redefine a museum’s role in society,” says Dovetail Design Strategists President Susanna Sirefman. “The unique competition we have designed allows for the power of architecture and the potential of ideas to collide, creating a platform that will captivate the very best, diverse professionals and will ultimately turn the PMA’s vision into a built reality.” added Sirefman.

In Stage I of the competition, architects from around the world are invited to form a visionary, multi-disciplinary team to include accessibility, inclusivity, sustainability professionals, landscape architects and graphic designers and respond to the Request for Qualifications. An outline of the competition and the Request for Qualifications can be found at the Portland Museum of Art competition website at

The deadline to submit is no later than 3 pm EST on Friday, July 1, 2022.

In Stage II of the competition, the Portland Museum of Art will select up to four firms to develop a concept design for the project over a three-month time period. The teams will be invited to meet with the PMA leadership for a site tour and informational meeting in Portland, as well as for an interim review before submitting their proposed concept design. There will be a public display of the shortlisted design team submissions in November 2022, at the PMA in Portland and on the PMA website, as well as a public presentation at the PMA and an opportunity for the public to share their comments. 

An honorarium of $50,000 will be paid to each of the shortlisted teams who have met the PMA’s Stage II requirements, payable upon selection of a winning team. 

In December 2022, the winning Design Team will be selected by a Jury, comprised of community and museum stakeholders, global thought-leaders, and world-renowned architects:

Kyo Bannai, Board of Trustees
Mark H.C. Bessire, Judy and Leonard Lauder Director
Milton Curry, Della & Harry MacDonald Dean of the University of Southern California School of Architecture, Principal, Milton Curry ProjectStudio
Eileen Gillespie, Vice President, Board of Trustees, Visual Artist
Cyrus Hagge, President, Board of Trustees, Owner, Project Management, Inc.
Jocelyn Handy, Board of Trustees
Elizabeth Jabar, Board of Trustees, Lawry Family Director of Civic Engagement and Partnerships, Colby College
Bob Ludwig, President and Chief Mastering Engineer, Gateway Mastering Studios
Márcia Minter, Board of Trustees, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Indigo Arts Alliance
Theresa Secord, Board of Trustees, Executive Director at Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance
Jack Soley, Board of Trustees, Partner, East Brown Cow
Monica von Schmalensee, Partner, White Arkitekter
Sara Zewde, Founding Principal, Studio Zewde, Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Susanna Sirefman, Competition Director and Jury Advisor, President, Dovetail Design Strategists