Portland Mixed-Use Project

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The sustained growth of Portland’s population is a mixed blessing. While the city’s compact nature, combined with strict control over expansion, give it much of its charm, there remains a need for more housing. Unfortunately, much of this new density comes from large, monolithic slab-like buildings that don’t contribute to the appeal of their surroundings.

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This project is designed to animate the new density. These types of buildings are usually on the city’s east side, on busy arterial streets like Division, Hawthorne and Alberta. The ground floor is occupied by retail – stores, restaurants and services. The upper floors are apartments, either rental or condominium.

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The surrounding neighborhood is typically retail, small industrial and apartments on the main street, with single family houses beyond. There’s usually a mix of older buildings with more recent development, and often there are large clashes of scale.

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In this project, I’ve attempted to break down the scale of the building by articulating the units on the face of the building. While there’s an underlying order to the scheme, it’s casually developed, allowing a feeling of individuality to come through.

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This has a direct impact on the quality of the units. They’re all somewhat different, to the point that a resident could stand on the street and easily point out where they live.

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The units range from studios and one bedrooms to two bedrooms with a den. Some have outdoor terraces and floor to ceiling glass, while others are more cozy. This allows the building to embrace a variety of tenants.

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The modulation of the building’s face also helps it relate to its neighbors. Its articulated volumes reflect the varied forms of the houses nearby, and avoid the image of a bluff cliff.

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Within the units,  the articulated volumes create dynamic spaces. In the two bedroom unit pictured above, the open living area maintains a strong feeling of defined space for the living and dining areas. The outdoor terrace extends the living space outside, and into the neighborhood.

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Befitting the top floor corner location of this one bedroom unit, the living space is wrapped with view and light. The generous terrace is ideal for people who want to live outside, even if it’s raining.

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This building’s composition reflects the diversity of Portland itself. As laid out, this building has 24 units – 12 studios, 6 one bedrooms and 6 two bedrooms with dens. There are twelve off-street covered parking places. The generous ground floor retail space offers multiple possibilities of subdivision and unit size.

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I designed this project, and created all the drawings and renderings in this post.

Portland Infill House

As Portland continues to attract new residents, its fixed land area must accommodate more residences. One way that the City of Portland has encouraged higher density is to enable development of lots previously considered unacceptably small. This speculative house design is tailored to one of these typical lots – 25 feet wide and 100 feet deep. The resulting “skinny house” capitalizes on all the code-required architectural features to create a neighborhood-friendly new home.

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All the living space in this 1,700 square foot, three bedroom house has been concentrated on the upper level. This lofted space is open to daylight, both from full height windows and overhead clerestories.

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Treetop views maximize daylight while maintaining privacy, and the gently rising roof offers an expansive sense of space.

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The kitchen, located in the heart of the home, has its own unique roof form, gathering the focus of the living spaces and ensuring maximum sun throughout the day. Bedrooms are located away from the street for maximum privacy and quiet. A small back yard is accessible to both floors via a spiral stair.

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A one-car garage is provided on the ground level – not required by Portland zoning, but useful for a variety of families. Two full-size bathrooms add to the appeal.

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The home’s simple, clear design balances architectural interest with life-accommodating space. This basic design is really just the starting point – it welcomes input from a specific site, the people who build it, and the family who calls it home.