On Wednesday night at 7PM, winners of the Portland Courtyard Housing Design Competition will to be announced to the public from city offices at 1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Room 2500A. The announcement follows a day of deliberation by the competition's jury panel. The competition has attracted over 250 submittals from around the country and the world. As the press release goes on to explain...
"Participants were invited to submit innovative designs demonstrating how higher-density courtyard housing can serve as an attractive option for families with children, while also contributing to environmental sustainability, providing an affordable housing option, and responding to neighborhood context.
The competition is part of city efforts to foster design excellence and the creation of new family-friendly housing in Portland's neighborhoods. During the announcement event, the winning designs will be on display and competition jurors will be on hand to comment on the competition and their choices. Following this event, the public will be invited to choose their favorite designs as part of "People's Choice" balloting to take place later in November and in December."
Having been in Beijing the week before last, I was interested in that country's traditional hutong housing, which is similarly inwardly oriented, only without much of a real open-space courtyard - just a well, really. But courtyard housing has a rich and very diverse history in places like the Middle East as well as in Europe.
What's interesting about Portland having a go at courtyard housing is that ours is a city that's decidedly oriented to the pedestrian, which in theory can be the opposite of courtyard oriented architecture. Obviously it doesn't have to be one or the other, though, and that's why it will be cool to see what the winners come up with - particularly when you remember that this stuff should ultimately get built here.
Meanwhile, on Thursday from 6-8pm at the Ecotrust Conference Center (721 NW Ninth Avenue, Second Floor), a lecture and discussion will focus on how Portland continue to provide new housing options for families as the city continues to grow and densify, and how can this be done in ways that are environmentally sustainable. Presentations will be made by two authorities on child-friendly housing and sustainable community design, Clare Cooper Marcus and Cynthia Girling, who served as jurors for the Portland Courtyard Housing Design Competition. Clare Cooper Marcus is co-author of Housing as if People Mattered and People Places: Design Guidelines for Urban Open Spaces. Cynthia Girling is co-author of Skinny Streets and Green Neighborhoods: Design for Environment and Community and Yard, Street, Park: The Design of Suburban Open Space.
Sounds like these two events go together. Courtyard housing is an ideal way to densify while still maintaining open space for children and families to play or (if your family was like mine) escape each other now and then. Just remember to curb your dog, people.
I recently read a statistic looking at Portland's number of persons per square mile (4,199.17 according to Wikipedia) versus other American cities like Boston (12,327) and Chicago (12,470), which is to say nothing, of course, of New York (27,083). Portland has such a long way to go in terms of real densification. And if the figures are correct, with millions moving here in the decades ahead, I don't think any of us have really completely wrapped our heads around how much the fabric of the city is going to change. But, considering how few hutongs are really left in Beijing when they once comprised virtually its entire fabric, perhaps such things are largely inevitable.