The May issue of Metropolis magazine profiles an interestingly collaborative new high density housing project in Copenhagen that got me thinking about how such a thing might happen in Portland.
Sluseholmen is a housing development along Copenhagen's harbor, which, as in many cities, is being converted from shipping container terminals to housing and other urban uses. It includes a 14.5-acre site crisscrossed with canals that form a grid of row-house and apartment blocks. The project, inspired by a similar effort in Amsterdam, is being overseen by a large Danish firm called Arkitema (not Dutch, as I originally wrote here), but with as many as 1,100 units to build and concerns about too much uniformity of style, the architect is commissioning 20 young Danish architects to design about 150 different facades for the individual units, which are tall, thin buildings based on Amsterdam canal houses but also not dissimilar to the narrow-lot or "skinny" houses increasingly being built in Portland and were the subject of the city's Living Smart competition.
Of course designing facades isn't really designing buildings, but there are a lot of things to like about the collaborative opportunity Sluseholmen provides. Here in Portland, we face a similar threat of bland ubiquity in neighborhoods where a lot of high-density housing is going up quickly. How we might employ a similar spirit to involve a lot more architects, and preferably younger ones in particular, in a meaningful way? I see this as the kind of thing that might give a developer or lead architect more work and headaches, but also a lot more unique product, which the market would have an appetite for if it was done well.