For today's Oregonian,I wrote a profile of Holst Architecture, the firm behind (most recently) the 937 condos, the Clinton Condos, the new Ziba Design headquarters, Hotel Modera, and much more.
In newspapers you almost always generate more material than will fit into the article. Below are some additional comments from John Holmes and Jeff Stuhr, the founding principles of Holst. One point I also want to make here, which may not have come through in the original story, is that besides John and Jeff there is a whole team of talents at Holst. I also did not give a comprehensive mention of all their projects. Besides the aforementioned ones, they've also got the Sunrose Condominiums at Southeast 28th and Burnside, they're doing the controversial parking garage finally approved for NW 23rd Avenue, collaborated on the AIA Center for Architecture, and are designing a retrofit and facelift for one of my favorite local buildings, at 415 SW 10th.
Here are Holmes and Stuhr's thoughts about Holst's place in town and the current economy:
Holmes: "Now for us you’ve got two minds. You’ve got the overall economy sort of going
like this (motions downward), but because of our development as a firm we’ve sort of
gone like this (motions upward). It’s less steep for us, but it’s definitely not going down. Not yet. I think part of it is we have some significant work being completed now. Hotel Modera, I think that was a real successful project. Clinton is finally wrapping
up. And 937 is a big deal."
Stuhr: "With 937, what I like is the patterning. It’s fairly normal throughout the district. And ours sort of breaks that pattern. And I think that’s a good thing."
On Holst style and use of materials:
Stuhr: "Certainly there’s a tendency we already had toward a more kind of focused modernism, I’d say. That’s always been our natural tendency. But if there’ some thing a lot of buildings in Portland do, it’s having too many things going on, especially on the façade. If people would edit things down and keep the richness, that’s what I think we’re striving for.
Stuhr:"It’s a very collaborative process and we’ve got a great staff that works with
us here. As we’ve grown up and as you’ve grown older and you’re…I feel like
John and I are like, ‘Here’s the concept of the building.’ John may tend to
draw and I may tend to more critique, but what’s good in our marriage, so to
speak, is that we bring out the best in each other. As I got involved with the
policy a bit more, it’s not that John doesn’t.
Holmes: "I think through drawing. Drawing actually helps me think. I’ll draw something,
almost like a scribbled mistake, and it helps me get an idea. I don’t think
that’s necessarily the way Jeff approaches it. But I would say the best work
that we do, I would say there’s a real exchange between Jeff and I. he can make
a comment and it’ll make something click in my head. I just really respect that
level of feedback.
"I also think what has changed in the last few years is we’ve built up this strong
group of people we work with. It’s 18 people now. We’re both in position of
directing people more now. Jeff or I might draw something, but three other
people might be too. In a weird way it’s becoming more collaborative."
Stuhr: "There are so many facets to the creative process in business. The romantic idea
is someone is out in the monastery driving out their vision. That’s the myth. The world’s so much more dynamic now. Especially with computers now, it just moves so fast the things you can do. It’s like you come to this point where Clinton or 937 is finally built, you can render these things so completely now that we feel like we’ve seen the building before it’s come to fruition.
Holmes: "Profession-wide the computer has changed the process. Our upstairs is full of
models. That’s how you used to work, literally building it. But with the 3d
programs that we have now, and more and more evolving from this physical hard
to build thing to a computer, we can experiment ten times more and flip it
around and be inside of it.
"I know for myself early on in my career I would draw a perspective sketch before
I would draw a floor plan. That’s kind of opposite of how people were taught,
especially in my day. Now I think when people come out of school they’re doing
it more like I did it years ago. They’re more spatially oriented than the
computer. It’s a more 3-d exercise than it used to be. It’s an exciting time to
be an architect in that regard. It’s a very rich time. I think modernism is
finally in a way finding its kind of true place.
Holmes: "Modernism started out as very rational, almost an outgrowth of science, this
belief that rational thought was the be-all end-all of human existence. Well it’s not, it‘s just one piece. Architecture has to be a reflection of who we are more completely.
Stuhr: "This morning I flipped over to 89.9 and they said art is of the heart and of the mind. And architecture is that way. It’s rational and it’s structure, but if it stays in that realm, it misses that whole chance to affect how you feel.