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Holst has a number of Condominium projects on the boards and at least two currently under construction. One is on NW Thurman and the other in downtown Hood River.


The one in downtown Hood River is pretty cool - its nice to see some good architects working in a small town like that... and the building is really interesting.

Now, regarding this rendering of the Hacker condo tower - I thought that this was an old rendering & they had redesigned it? Anyone closer to the project know?


Lets hope they did make some changes. I don't think the praise for this building would be taking place if not for the "name" architect. Its a large, boxy, imposing building with absolutely NO connection to the water.


I agree, it give me shivers looking at it.


Are the comments about this building based solely on this rendering? Because, as is my typical caution, architecture is not about renderings. A much better gauge, I think, is how the architect describes their intent--and to some degree previous projects from the office involved. The two comparisons I have heard in public presentations by Thomas Hacker about this building are the Edge Lofts (the curtain wall system of the east elevation) and Richard Meier's trio of condo towers in New York.
The rendering, for me, does not quite convey either of those buildings. But its just a rendering--not reality and I think we could all be missing what it actually will be like.

Just a thought (and no, I am not involved with this project).


Yea, but with all due respect, if the building is creating the same gestures as a 1960's era commie brutalist apartment block... except it happens to be clad in glass... then what is that saying?

Wall to the river? Separation of the richies with the rest of Portland? Man, if you thought the rift was bad about some people not liking the condo developments, if they built a row of those things... when they promised light, sail-thin towers built to preserve views...
I sure as heck wouldn't want to be standing anywhere near those responsible for it happening. =P


This project is just too damned imposing- its very blocky, doesn't have a very light and open feeling to it, and seems to only reference the grid and itself.

I love towers, but that it ain't.


One more thing... I love hacker. I've been in several of his buildings, including the PSU urban center, Edge, the border crossing up at the US/Canadian border, and several of the libraries.

I think his stuff is great.

However... and keep in mind, all of us (including me) that this is indeed a preliminary rendering. Some birdie up in the grapevine told me that the latest design is far different & refined... although I don't know much more than that.

I was just critiquing the existing rendering, which to me is not reacting to the site in a contextually sensitive way.


Not much you can do when the shape of the building is the problem. I have to agree with Justin, what happen to the 8,000ft floor plate, slim elegant towers talked up so much in the early presentations of SWF? This building is a step back to the slab. Seriously anyone blinded by the name architect take a look at Vancouvers Coal Harbour and compare those buildings to this. You have a gently curving soft river edge, why plop down and incredible hard edged blocky building? Its like the river doesn't even exist to this building.


The blocky base with the townhomes dipping toward the river would be stunning with two blade towers rising above it. Instead the architect and developer choose to switch this from two thin towers to one large wall and than said they did it to preserve the openess of the district. I don't see how putting up a large cutain in the middle of the room "opens" it up.

This project would be better suited over in the north of Lovejoy, Pearl.

Let hope they produce a more refined rendering soon. Maybe it really isn't as bad as it looks.


I don't understand the comments about the townhouses and the "pedestrian/cozy" feel etc., or how this has anything to do with Emmons' concepts from a few years ago. Have you seen the townhouses on the Meriwether? Like the majority if not all of the Vancouver projects, there are townhouses at the street level which bring the down the scale and provide rhythm, etc. The Atwater's townhouses are lovely ans succesfull, and they were fortunate to be allowed to use the same materials as the tower portion, but they are very similar to Block 30 in concept.

Justin: The Edge is not a Hacker project.


I don't know when I turned into defender of the slab building, but here I am--coming to save the day for rectangular floorplates over 15,000 sf. I can't recall how many blocks there are in South Waterfront (a couple dozen maybe?), but having all small floorplates would be kind of odd. Similarly, having all large floor plates might prove equally unsettling. But we don't have either proposed. We've a good mix. And I think its a bit of a stretch to call a building oriented perpendicular to the river a wall. I think more variety in height would have more effect than plate size.


J, you're right: I forgot about the Meriwether project's townhouses. How silly of me.

Also, I think Augustin makes a good point here.


I think the running theme here that I have to agree with is, it's a good building, just not for where it's being sited. It would look great downtown or in the Pearl, but the river's edge demands curve and flow. The similar Edge Lofts works well at it's hard edged site next to I405. A warmer softer building wouldn't have had the presence to compete with the harsh environs. To me Atwater just looks very "imposed" onto a site that should have a lighter touch.


I stand by my affinity for this building. I respect what the detractors are saying. But I just don't see this as a bulky piece of architecture. To me the pattern of balconies cut into the building gives it more lightness. And also, the more curved nature of the John Ross and other buildings in South Waterfront is precisely what makes a look like Atwater Place's seem refreshing to me. If you think of the collection of buildings forming in this new part of town, I think Atwater Place will have a well regarded presence.

But I'll be the first to admit I could be wrong. This debate will have to be put on hold until the building is built.


The Edge base design was started by Hacker, but the developer switched to a different architect later on to finish it out.

It still sorta kinda preserves a Hacker sense of order in it.

Joshua Chang

Portland finally has the opportunity to make an impact on it's skyline, and what happens? All these comments surface on how they all should be these curvy buildings. How dull would that be? I mean Corbu's Ideal City was a good precendet to follow in this location, but I think many have a strange way of interpreting that ideal. Even Corbu himself said that his vision for the Ideal City did not necessarily mean that all the buildings should be the same.

It's not monotony that should be taking place here. Like a family quilt, the diversity of it's patterns make for a richer and more diverse experience of space. We see this example following in suit with other large scale architectural projects (e.g. the Olympics, the World Fair). It's diversity that makes for a constant intrigue.

For the comments made about how the building is not reacting to the river, is it simply because the river is supposedly "curvy" and that the building is angular that this comment is made? In my opinion it provides an even greater magnification of the Willamette River. Big time store window designers know that the best way to emphasize something is to couple it with contrast. A bright scarf stands out when put onto a neutral suit. Women will tell you that the right accessory will make or break an otherwise well put together outfit. Ever see anybody put together with a whole outfit with the same pattern on it? It's ridiculous isn't it? Also, this is OBVIOUSLY not a rendering of the finish design. What, do people really think that there will be no landscaping happening? That this building will just be plopped down on a bunch of brush? Look at the process of our profession. We are never in a state of stasis. Things are constantly changing and constantly being redefined. The image was probably sent out as simply the current state of design.

Look at that image again. Imagine seeing that from the other side of the river, or from the 405 bridge. Standing among these other towers. It could be quite powerful. What it reminded me of, is the marble cliffs of Spain that confidently stand among the landscape. Anybody who has experienced it, will tell you of how powerful an experience it is.


Joshua you'll go far in the industry, you have the lingo down :)

Being that the neighborhood is suppose to be one of the most "sustainable" creations in the country, I find everything you said completly at odds with that premise. "powerful" "from the 405 bridge" (yes for those Portlanders taking their midday meandering stroll on the 405 bridge the atwater will really make a powerful, confident impact on their souls)? Sustainability is about complimenting the natural environment not imposing mans will over it. A huge glass BOX that completely ignores the natural shape of that area is not sustainable architecture its down right arrogant architecture. Its another case of the "IN" form of today trumping sustainable functional design.


The Edge was begun by HOLST not Hacker.

Joshua Chang


I appreciate the dialogue you have created about this project. In what though are your ideas founded? Is it due to the fact that you feel that these projects should move to smaller and more obscure firms rather than bigger names? If this is what you are suggesting, I must say that I agree to some extent with you. I am a strong advocate for the idea that other firms be given a chance to prove their mettle rather than ubiquitously granting these commissions to firms due to their name. I wonder if you have issues with the fact that the rest of the residential towers in this development is going to large names as well. What if the project was granted to somebody like Foster or Morphosis, what about Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid? I agree that projects shouldn’t be given due to fame, but should be based on design quality. But still, if a firm is KNOWN for consistently producing great design, why NOT go with them? There is a reason why Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel rather than some guy who just graduated from the Beau-Arts school.

Also, what do you mean by “sustainable” design? Are you suggesting that a more boxy building is any less sustainable than one that is more organic? A building does not have to be covered in PV panels and have a lawn growing up it’s façade in order to be sustainable. Are you just saying that it needs to “look” sustainable? If that is the case, that is a highly subjective notion and you should be careful with stating such opinions as fact. I doubt people would drive by the Opsis design office and realize it as one of the most sustainable buildings in Portland. Also, I do not see why a building having a “powerful” experience would be contrary to the mantra of green building. In fact, I believe that sustainable architecture is inherently powerful, much like its inspiration, NATURE. Does this would mean that Piano’s Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre would not be allowed to be considered sustainable? Just for being powerful? I guess I don’t understand what you are saying by that comment. Don’t tell me that seeing “Big Pink” as you emerge from the West Hills with Mt. Hood in the distance doesn’t have some sort of an emotional impact on you.

What then IS the natural shape of the area? Umm… a hill that comes down to a waterfront that meets a river… So should this TOWER be a huge undulating hump? And what I meant as “powerful”, is not JUST seeing the Atwater, but seeing all the towers, some rounded, some boxy, a diverse and varied neighborhood. You’re right, we shouldn’t just do something that’s IN. Portland has never really been a follower, it has usually been a frontrunner in urban design, and it’s time we got back on that horse after such a long reprieve.

I doubt that when William Val Alen was designing the Chrysler building or when Cesar Pelli was sitting at his desk with the commission for the Petrona Towers thought, “What does the building two blocks away look like? I’ll design it like THAT.”


I'd love for a smaller firm to get a crack at the area, but I'm afraid their design would end up very similar to this. A boxy slab driven by the economics of the site and developer. What bothers me is the architectural communities willingness to defend and dress up the cheapest design form possible, the communist, blockish, slab tower. Again the slim TOWER design form hasn't been done in PDX. The John Ross has come the closest. The elegance of an actual tower is what is missing. Look at the tower on the PDX train station, image if the designer decided to stretch it out into a more slab shape. It would loose that slim elegant design that so many people love. What bothers me is, here we finally have the chance to produce actual towers and instead we regress back to the slab design and the inevitable cave like units produced by that design. We haven't even begun to explore the architectural nuances of real towers and your applauding the standard Slab design for its uniqueness, that just doesn't make sense.

As for sustainability, my argument rests more on the blocky nature of PDX. The John Ross is the first building in a long time that even attempts to round an edge, a more nature state. The hard edges of the atwater are so far removed from nature. The first rule of sustainable design should be to FIT into the natural environement. The Atwater would be better served along a channeled canal, not on a river that is trying to return to a more natural state.

Also, don't forget the street. The Atwater presents a solid 22 story wall for the length of the 200ft block. That is incredibly imposing it blocks light, views and forces a far to harsh urban environment too close to the river. Powerful doesn't have to be imposing.

Hump...how about a blade of grass, or a ship like design, or something that mimics the water, or the trees on ross island...Your the architect, I'm sure you can think of something better then a hump or Slab :0)


Was it begun by Holst? My bad; must be getting all those firms mixed up by now. =)

Joshua Chang

Several of your points are valid, several I still don't agree with. I understand the viewpoint opposing mine though. As in any debate, both sies naturally have valid arguments. I like the idea of the precedent of the ship, roots back to the early history of the growth of Portland.

Not a bad discussion, but, we are starting to repeat ourselves. I am not involved with the project and I am guessing that neither is the majority of people on this blog. Let's move on.

the crow

justin - hacker had absolutely nothing to do with the Edge Lofts. i worked on this project and i can tell you first hand this is not the case.

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