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Norman Oder

Many Brooklynites have a critical take on Ouroussoff's piece today. Readers would have no way to know that, as currently planned, the Atlantic Yards project would be more than twice as dense as any other major project in NYC. Or that the Gehry graphic on the front of the Arts & Leisure section depicts the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank as only a fraction shorter than the 620-foot Miss Brooklyn (and clearly taller than the 511-foot second-tallest building in the project). Take a look at the analysis linked below.


What about Jumptown (www.jumptown.net), the eastside project pairing internationally-renowned architect Ken Yeang with SERA? Sustainable, daring, beautiful... Portland would seem at first glance to be a natural fit for the eco-conscious Yeang, but the project appears to be un-fundable and defunct.

Is Portland just too provincial for what you are suggesting? Too safe? Too dedicated to its own echo chamber of mediocrity? Allied Works should have projects all over this city. I don't get it.


NEWS FLASH. developers like to make money. there is cause why some architects work with a client ONCE. that is often the case - call it a clash of egos, or call it frayed nerves, nevertheless, building condominiums is risky business beyond a clever renovation, vacation house, or museum for that matter. We all like to be associated with the hip and the sexy, the star power fashion mag architects, but one has to be careful to generalize that fame brings prosperity to those who pay to build buildings. i think a lot rides on the architect in these litigious days. For that reason alone many developers stay safe with their partner architects - they help keep them out of court.
-Meier in Miami is a dead project.
-Allied is talented, but a museum is one thing, while a condo is another.
-The Eliot - i may be alone on this, but i am not a fan of that building. The proportions stink, the clever shadowbox play in my opinion is not strong enough, and who cares if some other firm did the inside if the outside is not that great to begin with? I think early versions that ZGF had for this building were much better, and striking.

Have you seen a Gehry building under construction? It is a rubber blob decorated in skin - it might be sculptural, but it is also very expensive - arguable it is the new Post-Modern. How would you as a developer or investor for that matter rationalize risk for a decorated blob? Does this really create a better place for all of us? i have a real hard time embracing your line of thought here - it all just seems so personal.


Excellent post, very well said.

My comments to crow would be that the eliot is an outstanding example for why we need good design in Portland, Pietro Belluchi's Portland Art Museum could not have had a better neighbor.

I'm stymied by people who talk against good architecture. It might be easy to pull out a few examples to demonstrate failure in architecture, but the fact remains there are far more examples of success.


Just for the record, Ankrom Moisan did not "just design the interior" of the Eliot. They took the preliminary SD design package designed by Gene's team at ZGF and carried the rest of the project through to it's now near completion. Interior and exterior. A full effort of a full team for multiple years.

A far greater contribution to making the building work than "designing the interiors".

The Eliot, for all its flaws, is the best example of an urban mid rise condominium built to date in Portland, by a large yardstick. It took the typical developer package of 120 foot wide shotgun lofts and made the blob palatable.

It'd be great to make the building taller, smaller or narrower, but those things are not possible with height restrictions, and the proforma of a developer.

Developers love the term - "MAX F.A.R. and "50 bucks a foot on the skin".

The Eliot is certainly not 50 bucks a foot on the skin, but it's fancy skin is paid for by the MAX FAR.


"Better them than corporate firms with lesser talent and vision. But of course it isn’t so simple"

Your dream will only happen if these starchitects you are lusting over, come to town, lower their fee and take on the risk of condo design.

Then they get to sit in meetings with the developer asking "why does this costs so much, I can't sell these units at a price that will pay for your design...".

There's a reason why they haven't come to town.

$$$. It's not in it for them. Not here. Not yet.

Throw something highly innovative at a construction company to build and price and see what happens. It's been tried. It comes back overbudget. Sometimes wildly. The contractor rules the roost when it comes to meeting an always tight developer budget. Things get cut. Quickly.

Not to mention both windowall and curtainwall manufacturers that have specific systems they will build, unless you can convince the developer to go with a very expensive, totally custom system like the one that's coming in Northwest Portland soon. That system is being pushed to the limit of function, in the hope that it changes the game. An adventerous and young developer has entertained the idea, unlike many developers who are fearful of the inherent risks both financial and legal. It should work out fine (IMHO), but many are not interested in even trying. They can sell the project without the risk, so why bother?

Then there are envelope consultants, who dictate a tremendous amount today regarding your exterior design. They have specific details they expect to see, before they rubber stamp your project. Whether its flashing details or window and door details or window opening coverages or masonry details.... They have influence on the visual impact. These consultants are often hired directly by the developer and not as an architect's consultant. That has an effect on the architects influence as well. Envelope consultants are paid to help make your building not leak up here in the Northwest, not make it aesthetically better.

Then there's the wildly fluctuating cost of materials that make your project vulnerable to design reductions. Things can and have changed drasitically in as little as 6 months.

Soemtimes even the developer has little fetishy things they insist on. Whether it's Carroll's absolute insistence on the black window mullions on his Gregory project, or an arched facade base mixed with a Benson Curtainwall, on the coming Ladd Tower. They have their preferences and they are paying for it, so they get the last word. No matter how many options and alternates you show them that you might prefer as a designer, it's not your project.

Jsut a few things to consider that affect the product.

As far as Allied Works is concerned, I'm sure they'd do a fine job, although they'd need an assist from a firm with like experience. Condos have a greater risk (than other building types) of legal issues when things do not go perfectly. When you are a first time designer of a building type, particularly condos, things often "do not go perfectly".

Just some food for thought.


"The Eliot, for all its flaws, is the best example of an urban mid rise condominium built to date in Portland, by a large yardstick."

I believe a healthy argument could be made for the The Edge Lofts--which Carroll also developed--but I gladly acknowledge my bias on that.

Why keep shopping at Payless Shoesource when you can have Prada? The justifications I've heard never seem to...well, justify.

I suspect you say this tongue in cheek. However, if you're genuinely serious, consider Richard Meier's condominiums in New York. They are among the most expensive places to live in the world--being sold at up to $4000+ sq ft. Same story with Calatrava. It's delusional to assume that this city could support anything remotely on that scale (or that it should for that matter). The justification is simply that it doesn't make financial sense.

Incidentally, what is the rationale for comparing the architecture community in Portland designing condominiums--Ankrom, GBD, Holst, SERA, ZGF, who else am I missing?--to "payless shoesource?"


Id actually rather have local developers take some chances on young up and coming architects then big name egomaniacs. Holst has a masterpiece in them if they get a chance. Big names can do a lot of damage to the fabric of cities trying to impose their personal wills on a place rather then working with it.



Id actually rather have local developers take some chances on young up and coming architects then big name egomaniacs.

I agree; though some of the commentary up above about the extraordinarily litigious nature of condominiums can not be overstated--unfortunately there is a tremendous disincentive to hire an untested office to perform this kind of work.

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