Tomorrow night (Wednesday, March 19) brings the second installment in a new bi-monthly discussion series I've partnered on with Design With Reach called Designs On Portland.
In January our first guest was Portland Spaces editor and former Oregonian architecture critic Randy Gragg. This time we'll have a trio of visitors to the DWR second floor studio to talk architecture and design: Jeff Kovel of Skylab Design Group, and Carrie Schilling and Bill Neburka of Works Partnership.
All three were part of the "Dreamers + Builders" story I wrote for The Oregonian recently on the city's top names in architecture and design. In particular, I think of Works and Skylab, along with Holst Architecture, as representing the best in local design by emerging studio-sized firms. There are many others, of course, but this will be an opportunity to learn about the inspirations, passions, and ideas behind these excellent firms and designers.
In my Oregonian story, I did lots of interviews with the 11 people on the list that didn't get used. Going back through my notes, I found these comments from Jeff Kovel interesting.
On the role Skylab plays in town he said, "We get hired to break paradigms and to reconceptualize the approach. There may be more experienced firms out there, but the product they produce is predictable. We get hired to do something unpredictable."
How Skylab works: "What we’ve come to is this studio environment that’s about anti-specialization. We’re trying to work on as broad a range of projects as possible and keep as many in the studio as possible."
On the emergence of smaller firms over the last decade: "Design was being reserved in 1988 for just a few architects. One of our first projects was a bar in Chinatown. That wasn’t being done by high quality designers. Another was a hair salon. The era we grew the firm into was one where design came back into the public realm. That’s helped promote the idea that there’s no inappropriate place to have high quality design."
Skylab and Works Partnership are also responsible for two of my favorite upcoming projects, Works' bSide6 office building and Skylab's as yet unnamed condo along West Burnside (which may also become a hotel), the latter of which is pictured above. Both designs have me more excited than I've ever been about any of the several large-scale condos built in the Pearl District or South Waterfront.
The Designs On Portland talk with Kovel, Schilling and Neburka will take place at 7PM at Design Within Reach in the Pearl District at the corner of NW 12th and Everett. Admission is free.