It was over a year ago that developer Derek Hanna announced plans for a unique dry boat-storage structure shaped like a long cylindrical tower overlooking the Willamette from a riverside spot just south of OMSI on the east bank. The single-tower was a mere rendering based on a German auto storage tower by the Palis company. Now, Hanna's architects at Mulvanny G2 in Portland have revealed the real design.
It's not a single tower anymore, but Portland City Storage has the opportunity to occupy a very prominent if not iconic position along the waterfront. Meeting yesterday with lead designer Eric Cugnart of MG2 (lead designer of the Adidas Village and One Waterfront Place for BOORA before switching firms) as well as principals John Flynn and Gary Larson, I learned the 350-boat facility's design has gone through five or six iterations. "We sort of discovered the program as we went," Flynn told me. The project now consists of two towers, with the front of each tower set back at the front corner.
Cugnart is particularly proficient when it comes to facades, such as the colorful Adidas design and some work for BOORA on the Hatfield US Courthouse. For this project, the budget was much lower. It's also a transitional building between industrial warehouses and something more ambitiously architectural. The Portland City Storage boat storage buildings will be clad in a transparent polycarbonate and layers corrugated translucent fiberglass. For the most part, the structures will be translucent but not transparent. But there will also be glass portions that allow viewers to peek inside at the boats stacked about 100 feet high on several levels with a giant forklift. Larson cited a building by the great Herzog & De Meuron for a dance company in London as an inspiration, with its "partial revelation" of the goings-on inside, which will also include office spaces and a cafe.
The project is also shooting for a Gold LEED rating and one of its distinguishing features is a series of vertical wind turbines and hopes to achieve a "net-zero" energy metering. The project also will harvest its own rainwater to save 20,000 gallons of potable water per month, which will also be a visible part of the project as the two cut-out portions of the front facade will feature collecting pools for the rainwater that recall the upcoming World Trade Center memorial, "Reflecting Absence". It's also much better environmentally for the Willamette River to not have these boats rusting and leaking away in the water.
Also noteworthy is that the river's greenway trail will be continued to cross the storage buildings at the front in an elevated path overlooking the river. The boat launch will be directly underneath the elevated path, so you can stand there and watch the boats slipped down mechanically.
There are other large boat-storage facilities throughout the United States, but this project is unique in how it's also a real work of architecture that people and not just boats will occupy. It will be situated beside the Ross Island Bridge (just across from the undeveloped area north of South Waterfront) between Ross Island Sand & Gravel to the south with the Portland Opera headquarters (formerly KPTV studios) and OMSI to the north. Groundbreaking is expected for this summer with complete buildout in summer 2010.