BY BRIAN LIBBY
The Cultural Crossing at the Portland Japanese Garden by Kengo Kuma and Associates (with Hacker as the architect of record) took the top prize on Friday night, known as the Honor Award, during the Portland Architecture Awards, given out by the Portland chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
A total of 15 different awards at three levels — Honor Award, Merit Award and Citation Award, akin to gold, silver and bronze — were given out over the course of the evening, juried by a trio of San Francisco-based practitioners: Zoë Prillinger of OPA, Allison Williams, and William Leddy of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects.
The Japanese Garden project stood alone as the only Built Honor Award, and that was no real surprise. Nothing could compare to the exquisite detail and interplay of light and shadow brought by Kuma's firm and their local architect of record, Hacker. Kuma is currently one of the world's hottest architects, mentioned often as a candidate for the profession's highest honor (and lifetime achievement award), the Pritzker Prize, and receiving a lot of attention for his National Olympic Stadium project in Tokyo for the 2020 games.
That said, a new category this year, the Small Project Honor Award, did go to a Joseph Albers Exhibition at the Hayden Gallery in Eugene, designed by Portland architect Landry Smith. He created what was described as "a lightweight, flexible framework that could display a wide range of works in various galleries at the university and other institutions...an open-ended kit of parts system."
This year two built projects took home the second-tier prize, the Merit Award, both of which were out-of-town works: the L'Angolo Estate Winery tasting room by Lever Architecture and The Pavilion in Bend by Opsis Architecture.
For L'Angolo, a newer winery located on 23 acres outside of Newberg in Yamhill County, "The goal was to create a tasting room experience that reflects the family’s approach to winemaking—a direct expression of the Oregon soils and climate without embellishment," the awards submittal explains. The architects sought to "reflect this winemaking philosophy with a design that connects to the vineyard experience while also responding to the views, climate, and Oregon’s emerging identity as a producer of great wine." The architecture of the tasting room is defined by two dramatically large slanting roof planes, the larger of which extends over a glass-walled public space. It's a striking little jewel, and it seems to represent the most significant work of winery architecture since Allied Works' acclaimed Sokol Blosser Winery Tasting Room, which won the Honor Award in 2013.
The Pavilion by Opsis is described by the firm as "a seasonal open-air covered NHL regulation ice rink and sports facility located on an 11-acre site." Under a dramatic 30,000 square foot canopy, the facility supports an ice rink during the winter months and a variety of recreation sports activities and events throughout the remainder of the year, all next to a 10,000 square foot support building that provides reception, skate rental, multi-purpose meeting room, concessions, locker rooms, offices and storage.
There was also a third Merit Award given out, a Small Project Merit Award, to Laura's Place by Architecture Building Culture. Laura's Place is described in its submission as "a supportive transitional housing facility for women who have graduated from Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center, an in-patient treatment facility that also provides health services to pregnant or parenting women. Laura’s Place offers mothers who have successfully completed their treatment programs a communal home where they can take their next step in the recovery process and translate new skills to everyday life." The facility serves an average of 16 women and 16 children every year.
Led by Brian Cavanaugh, Architecture Building Culture was a 2015 Portland Architecture Awards winner for the Vomo Island Spa in Fiji, which won what was then simply called a Small Project Award (without an Honor, Merit or Citation designation). Laura's Place also previously won a Citation Award from the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Design Awards, and a national Small Project Award from the AIA earlier this year.
A total of eight projects won Citation Awards. Five came in the form of the Built Citation Award: Pearl West in Portland by Hacker and GBD Architects; Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene by SRG Partnership; the US Embassy Compound in Paramaribo, Suriname by ZGF Architects; Olympia Place in Amherst, Massachusetts by Holst Architecture; and the Doppelganger duplex project in Portland by Works Progress Architecture. There was also a Built Interior Citation Award that went to Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene by Mahlum Architects. There was the Small Project Citation Ward for the Treeline Stage at Pickathon by the Portland State University School of Architecture. And the Unbuilt Project Citation Award went to Guggenheim Architecture and Design Studio for the Sunnyside Veterinary Hospital in Sunnyside.
Pearl West is a speculative office building in the Pearl District. Given that it sits in a neighborhood of large multi-story early 20th century warehouses, "the design team wanted to change the typical approach to this building type," the architects stated in their awards submission, "to take a typology that is usually expressed in a generic way, and instead create a contextual building that exhibits a sensitive understanding of its place." They also sought "to look beyond the building’s contextual response to how it could contribute to the transformation of its neighborhood, the Pearl District, into a more connected, pedestrian friendly urban environment – bringing new values that include sustainability, connection to the natural world, and urban walkability.”
Pearl West (Christian Colombres), Jane Sanders Stadium (Lawrence Anderson)
SRG's brief from the University of Oregon for Jane Sanders Stadium was "to create the best fan and player experience in collegiate athletics," as the submittal describes it. A primary design move was to push the stadium back from the street and compress its scale, which allowed the team to create a new plaza and opened up space for a future academic building. "The result for the stadium is a more welcoming entry sequence and a more intimate fan experience. The entry plaza also integrates the stadium with the rest of the university, connecting the site to a popular student pathway that extends through campus.”
For the US Embassy in Suriname, ZGF's submittal explains, the client "wanted this new small diplomatic post to be a welcoming and secure working environment for Embassy staff and visitors while creating a productive and enjoyable place to work that supports the existing sense of community." The new embassy’s exterior palette makes a nod to the local vernacular "by taking cues from the natural landscape earth tones and the white colonial architecture." Exterior facades are clad in shingled white horizontal terra cotta panels, "allowing the sun to cast an ever- changing texture of shadows throughout the day." A two-story loggia helps protect the main public face between the main entry and consular entry, which the architects call "a welcoming gesture off the formal entry court and can be used for protected event space throughout the year."
A student housing building at the University of Massachusetts campus, Olympia Place consists of a new, five-story, wood-framed building that provide 232 beds for students in 73 apartments. "In addition to fully furnished units ranging from studios to four-bedroom suites," the submittal text goes, "the building provides students a double-height common space with multiple fireplaces, study rooms, breakout spaces, a lounge, a fitness center, and a staffed front desk. Digital technology, ultra-fast wifi, and movable furniture put Olympia Place at the forefront of innovative student housing.”
Holst Architecture has won many Portland Architecture Awards over the years, from the Belmont Street Lofts to Bud Clark Commons, but this award may be particularly satisfying for the firm since it comes after Holst's change in ownership, which saw longtime employees Kevin Valk, Renée Strand, Kim Wilson and Dave Otte take over from founders John Holmes and Jeff Stuhr.
Doppelganger is a residential duplex development where, "rather than using the typical development approach of splitting the lot to form two individual narrow houses," the submittal explains, "this development allows both residences to occupy the entire site, intertwined as the living spaces rise from the ground floor entry to the third floor bedrooms. Each residence floor has an adjacent outdoor space and openings to the interior are carefully placed as to allow for maximum privacy between units.” The project is just the latest in more than a decade of awards for Works Progress Architecture (until recently known as Works Partnership Architecture), including an Honor Award last year for the Slate building at the Burnside bridgehead in Portland, a Merit Award in 2014 for the Bowstring Truss House, and a Merit Award for the Langano Apartments in 2013.
In their submission for Roosevelt Middle School, Mahlum cited how the high level of transparency "reflects the local culture of welcoming openness, acceptance and curiosity. Everything happens in full view of the school community, and while navigating their learning environment, students are enabled to discover new interests while their curiosity is sparked."
The Treeline Stage at Pickathon is a wonderful student project, in which 690 wooden trusses were formed into three towering, variable height ‘sanctuary vessels’ surrounding the performance stage, and which will later, as the award submittal explains, "become the structural basis of 30 micro-houses (aka sleeping pods) for a new village for houseless veterans in Clackamas County, Oregon. Following the Pickathon festival, the stage was dismantled and the trusses are being reused to construct the 30 sleeping pods.” This is the fourth year that PSU students have designed and built a Pickathon music festival stage, but this year's is both the most visually striking and, even more importantly, doubling has future homeless housing. It's a wonderful act of ingenuity, not to mention beautiful.
The Sunnyside Veterinary Hospital "represents an innovative and leading-edge approach to veterinary medicine for cats and dogs," Guggenheim Architecture and Design Studio writes in its award submission. "We created an efficient and functional design that innovates on how pet treatment, care and client hospitality come together." The design was also inspired by Happy Valley’s rural history; the architects describe their design as a modern barn.
The final project award of the night, the Architecture 2030 Award, targeting sustainable design excellence, went to the Yellowstone National Park Youth Campus by Hennebery Eddy Architects. This is an ambitious undertaking, with some 10 buildings being constructed. The architects describe a design that's "inspired by the dramatic landscape and rich cultural history of the region," with a campus of buildings that "reflect a contemporary expression of vernacular architecture of the West.”
One final accolade was the Emerging Professional Award, given to Nada Maani of Opsis Architecture. Maani is a 2015 graduate from Portland State University's master's degree program in achitecture and, according to Opsis's submission, "embodies traits that reinforce our confidence that the future of our profession will be in good hands...Whether as a member of a project team, active participant in office focus groups, or ambassador of this girm within the community, she has made herself integral part of the successful growth and culture of this office."
As I look at the entire list of winners, what's noteworthy is that there are few Portland-based projects led by Portland architecture firms. The Honor Awards went to a Japanese firm (although a Portland firm was architect of record, it's not quite the same) and a temporary Eugene exhibit by a Portland architect. The two primary Merit Awards went to projects in Bend and Newberg. It's only when we get to the Small Project Merit Award that we get an award for a local project by a local firm. Of the eight bronze-hued Citation Awards, only Pearl West by Hacker and GBD and the Doppelganger by WPA were entirely local. That makes only three out of 14 that were entirely Portland-designed and built.
One thing that seems to have slipped off the list of awards given out this year is the Mayor's Award for Design Excellence. This is a tradition that dates back to Mayor Vera Katz, and apparently either Mayor Ted Wheeler decided it wasn't worth his time, the AIA thought it was unnecessary, or somehow the awards were given out but not mentioned.
Don't get me wrong, though: I'm not alarmed. First of all, having a world-class architect Kengo Kuma contribute a project here is a big deal, not only because the Cultural Crossing is utterly masterful but also because it has already led to three other Kuma-designed projects in town: a restaurant and two houses, with other projects proposed. What's more, many of the aforementioned awards went to Portland architects for work in other cities. It's always impressive when a local firm is tapped to design a United States embassy, for example, even if America's reputation has been disgraced and tainted terribly by Donald Trump. We see in these awards a sizable presence for Portland firms in nearby cities like Eugene and Bend, but we also see firms' reach extend to further locales like Massachusetts.
In trying to think of any projects that I didn't see on the award winners' list that surprised me, the first that came to mind was Snøhetta’s unbuilt design for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk, but perhaps the firm didn't apply; same goes for Allied Works' design for the former Oregonian building. In either case, I'm not sure whether they applied. Sometimes you expect these projects one year and they wind up on the awards list the next year. Looking towards next year's potential winners, projects like Kengo Kuma's house at the 2017 Street of Dreams seems like a good candidate, as does the Karl Miller Center at Portland State University by Behnisch Architekten. But you never know.
Looking at the list of winners, we see some familiar names: firms that win an award almost every year such as Works Progress Architecture, Holst Architecture, Hacker and Hennebery Eddy. But there are also new names, and that's always nice to see: architects like Landry Smith and Guggenheim Architecture and Design Studio. It's nice to have a balance of both.
Meanwhile, congratulations to all of this year's winners.