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randy

wow looks like a complete ripoff of holst's neo mid-century modern look

Aneeda

My experience with trex as an experimental material have all ended in failure. The composite properties lend themselves to severe warping which in the application shown here could be unfortunate. I hope they have the bugs worked out of that one.

truth

Hardy panels with PT furring strips and vinyl windows look like shit, no matter how "minimal the box". Baumshlager and Eberle would be embarrassed to know their work was inspiration for this project.

Agustin Enriquez V

quotes:

"wow looks like a complete ripoff of holst's neo mid-century modern look"

"Baumshlager and Eberle would be embarrassed to know their work was inspiration for this project."

Are you guys kidding me? First grilling this project about looking similar to the kind of work Holst puts out--which I like, but has been around and popular since the end of WWII. Are you arguing for a copyright on Pacific Northwest Modernism?

And then to compare a Ferrari (anything B+E has a hand in) with a Honda Accord (a market-rate affordable housing project in North Portland--where incidentally I grew up). Its over the top. Yes, it sounds like SERA looked for design inspiration from Austria. That seems good and like something we should all do more often. But to goof off them for using it as a point of departure is silly. We could all do better, more interesting, sexier, [add your own superlative] if we worked on luxury condos with luxurious budgets; sometimes we have the opportunity but often we do not.

Constantly comparing a twenty dollar bill to a 100 dollar bill is not very enlightening and I just don't see how it helps foster a conversation about making our collective architectural effots better. It just makes for unnecessary animosity.

John A

thank you Agustin -
snooty archibrats!

Doug Klotz

It's too bad that the least interesting facade is the one that faces Interstate. Interstate is noisy? With one lane each way, and MAX trains every so often? Better that they would have enlivened the street instead of turning an almost blank wall to it.

tao

While subjective, aesthetic debates are interesting, we should be celebrating that it's even happening around a project that can achieve this level of performance and affordability. [I hope SERA knows better than to spec vinyl windows.]

I strongly agree with Doug's point about activating Interstate, but it is a good design choice to have proper solar orientation, especially for affordable projects. The simplest way to enliven Interstate would be to ensure that the ground floor - lobby and one retail spot - are explicitly oriented to Interstate. In the photos it looks to me that the ground floor is 'squished' and low-lying, but maybe some vertical element could change that. Maybe even a nice neon sign for the retail spot would tie it into the mid-century vibe along Interstate and create some contrast to the mass of the facade.

Agustin Enriquez V

quote:

"While subjective, aesthetic debates are interesting, we should be celebrating that it's even happening around a project that can achieve this level of performance and affordability. "

I agree and think the two previous comments are a conversation with value; if my comments lent the impression that we should all hold hands skipping down the sidewalk, then my post was poorly worded.

Joe

Not bad for the price. As a potential buyer in this building, I was hoping there'd be more transparency facing Interstate.. I'm doing a walk through next week. I'll see how well it works from the inside.

truth

"snooty archibrats!"
That's probably the case, but you don't really know me.

Anyways, I have a few problems with comments.

First the argument that this as "affordable" housing, is somehow not open to the same criticism as projects at "market rate". Agustin, I think if you looked closer many of the projects that you are prossibly referencing as "luxurious budgets" are actually not. It comes down to a matter of how that money is spent...and unless i missed something, there is no indication as to the cost per square foot for this project, only that "the firm behind the project, emphasized that sales prices had to be kept affordable for entry-level buyers". Isn't that what the CYAN is doing as well? they chose to do it differently, smaller units, not cheaper materials.

Tao, you state [I hope SERA knows better than to spec vinyl windows.] That's exactly what's on the building, along with hardi planks, and hardi panels.

Now for the Baumshlager and Eberle reference, perhaps my earlier comment was out of line, but my issue is that their work has a lot more to it, than form, and "very crisp, boxy minimalist stuff" there's materiality and detailing, things that are more important to architecture than form. So although I'd commend SERA on the original images of the building, and perhaps it will look great in photos from across the street, there should be much more depth to something that we are going to consider "some very nice architecture."

I would be interested in knowing SERA's process for this building, did they design the building originally with a nice skin material and aluminum or wood windows, then then change to cheaper alternatives when they came in over budget, or did they start out with those choices?

I encourage those of you that have not gone by the buidling to do just that.

And Agustin, your argument of Ferrari vs Honda, or $20 vs $100, does no more to help "helps foster a conversation about making our collective architectural effots better", it simply provides excuses. There are no A's for effort in my world.

Agustin Enriquez V

With regards to the Ferrari vs Honda commentary, I simply disagree. I believe it is much more helpful to discuss and critique similar projects--which is why comparing a Ferrari with a Lamborghini makes sense and comparing a Ferrari and a Honda do not; it is not about excuses, it is about real limitations. I do not know what this project cost, but any of us in the profession can make an educated assumption that it is not comparable to the vast majority of the work that leaves in B+E office.

A lot of projects are defended with the "we had a small budget" excuse and I have the tendency to agree with you that the budget is what it is and that the built project is ultimately what matters. But, if I understand you correctly, where we disagree is what the end result is compared to: I believe it is unfair and unhelpful to have comparisons made between Ferraris and Hondas--I believe you have no such hang up. Please correct me if I have typed these words into your mouth unfairly.

To that end, I also disagree that what I am arguing for is not helpful. If we collectively started making our comparisons between like projects, I think the conversation would be very helpful. None of us would then have the opportunity to sidestep a real criticism by using the "we didn't have the budget" comment because the observation would have been tied to another project that had a similar budget and solved the challenges observed.

truth

Although I feel we may continue to disagree Agustin, I am interested in knowing your opinion in what projects we should compare this project to?
Other 4-story mix-use infill projects on the eastside? or only projects with a certain budget...?
If this is a Honda, what else is a Honda, and for that matter what would be considered the Ferrari. I'm thinking specific projects, preferably locally that can be visited and studied for a true comparison.

I have to say i do find this discussion interesting, because I've never been a believer in the argument that a small budget is an excuse for poor design.

I would completely agree that comparing the probable budget of this project, and that of B+E would be unfair, but I do not think it's unfair to compare the level of thought given to this project as opposed to those of B+E. And in my eyes this project falls short in what I perceive as a lack of consideration on how that budget was spent.
For example, is it really a good idea to provide fancy faux wood screens if you can't afford something other than vinyl windows. Sure they make the "image" of the building better, but they don't make the building better.

When it comes down to it, we are discussing this project with very little information, which is probably unfair to SERA and the developer.
I feel my concerns with how one judges architecture or design, run much deeper than this project.

Mark Kirchmeier

Hi,
I'm the co-developer of The Overlook project. In answer to
Tao's comment on "...a better way to enliven Interstate would be to ensure that the ground floor - lobby and one retail spot - are explicitly oriented to Interstate. Maybe even a nice neon sign for the retail spot would tie it into the mid-century vibe along Interstate and create some contrast to the mass of the facade."

Tao, that is what we hope our first-floor commercial tenant's signage will help achieve. Our tenant (I'll co-own with my Polish emigree biz partner) will be "Krakow Koffeehouse & Market."
We're placing our fairly large, 30 sf exterior neon sign on the lower 2nd floor to help vary the building facade. We think the sign is cool enough and substantial to help do that.
Our separate stylized "The Overlook" building sign that Sign Wizards, landscaping, and 9 x 10 IFCC Gallery mural visible from our main lobby, should all further soften the building, too.
Thank you all for your FRANK and informative observations.


Agustin Enriquez V

"Fair" comparisons, for me, are similarly scaled projects with budgets that seem to be within, oh let's say 10%-20% (that is significant more amount of money to design with but not enough to drastically change the essential kernel of an idea). Examples of similar projects in Portland abound, some are:

Belmont Street Lofts-4 story for sale units
Overton Park Condos-4 story for sale units
The Andria Condominiums-4 story for sale units
The condo project on Belmont that has Dosha in it would be another and if I remember correctly, I think it is also 4 story for sale.

Those all seem to be similarly scaled and similar amounts of money. Comparing and contrasting them--I think--is more enlightening for architects around town because lessons learned or design cues between them could be used as a point of departure for future work. What would not be very fair would be to compare these buildings to the Dosha building on NW Glisan that appears to be significantly more expensive and much smaller (I think only one unit and much more money to spend per sq ft).

I am not aware of any "Ferrari's" in Portland. We all are probably aware of Meier's high rise condos in New York that sell for upwards of $2000 sq ft. But we do have residential projects that are intended for and marketed to a different population than the Overlook--The Casey Condos and Atwater Place come to mind quickly. And don't quote me on this, but if I recall those are in the neighborhood of $500 sq ft--25% as expensive which would roughly be the difference between a new Ferrari and a high end BMW.

I think I've beat my horse to death and even I am getting tired of my Ferrari / Honda comparison. However, if anybody can present an argument for why my approach is wacky I am sincerely interested in hearing it because my hunch is that these kinds of comparisons are a constant source of frustration for more architects around town than just me.

genre

First of all it was the architect who referenced B & E as a source of inspiration. Once they brought them up I think its fair to respond as truth has. Secondly, There are many many decisions along the way that contribute to the overall budget of a project - not just the skin. The particular solution that this project exhibits is from my point of view week at best, at first glance an amateur knock off of Belmont street lofts which I understand was done on a very modest budget. When you attempt a minimalist simple piece of architecture every move has to be on the money. It can easily come off as looking banal in the wrong hands.

Agustin Enriquez V

I'll take a look at this project when it is finished and occupied (as we all should), but I don't see the amateur quality referenced.

However, I do agree with the comments made by genre about the number of decisions made during the design process and the difficulty in successfully accomplishing a minimalist approach to design.

kolas

it's funny because, holst's belmont lofts is a B & E look a like, and sera's building is a holst inspired.

Mitch

I agree that the particular solution that this project exhibits is from my point of view week at best, at first glance an amateur knock off of Belmont street lofts which I understand was done on a very modest budget. When you attempt a minimalist simple piece of architecture every move has to be on the money. It can easily come off as looking banal in the wrong hands.

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