On Wednesday the Cascadia region chapter of the US Green Building Council will be hosting a tour of five buildings in Portland with exemplary sustainable credentials. Three are new projects and two are green re-habs.
The first rehab project, the 200 Market Street building (near Keller Auditorium), was the first multi-tenant building in the United States to earn LEED-EB ("Existing Buildings) certification. I've never written about this building before, but it's in its way a distinctive downtown piece of architecture. According to the Green Skyline tour's website, it's been dubbed "black beauty", for its dark skin of exterior metal and shaded glass. Like it or not, the GBD Architects designed building is a real monolith. I'm not so crazy about it just because of the proportions - it's a Portland stump. But the utter blackness of the building does indeed have a certain appeal.
The other re-hab project on the tour, the Lovejoy-Opsis building at NW 17th and Lovejoy, is a more than 80-year-old structure. I visited Opsis Architecture's offices there a couple years ago and they looked fabulous: lots of wood everywhere, but natural light everywhere. This project received a 'Gold' LEED rating, and I like the fact that they have that kind of sustainability factor but also can create very handsome modern buildings (the early 20th Century place they occupy not withstanding).
In addition to the Glumac offices by Emmons Architects, mentioned in a recent post, there is the LEED 'Platinum' rated OHSU Center for Health And Healing (designed by GBD Architects) and Stephen Epler Hall at Portland State University, designed by Mithun of Seattle, which received a 'Silver' rating. As I've said many times, when it was on the drawing board, I was less excited about the OHSU building than the nearby South Waterfront towers by Peter Busby going in about the same time. Now that they're built I definitely prefer the OHSU building. It's also arguably the greenest piece of architecture, at least on this scale, ever built in Oregon.
'Green Skyline' is a nice, catchy name for this tour, but ironically, this one of the only movements in the history of architecture that isn't rooted in primarily in aesthetics. What does it mean to have a green skyline? When I think of the word skyline, I think of the view we have of a city's major downtown tall buildings from a distance. That's an act of aesthetic observation. Unfortunately, the building on the tour I would actually consider part of a green skyline is the OHSU Center.
But really the purpose of this tour is to go check out projects and meet the people who made them happen, in large part from a practical perspective. That's just as important as the look of the skyline - even more so, arguably. But I'd still like to know what a green skyline in Portland, or elsewhere, might look like.