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Maybe we don't exactly have a design malaise, but we certainly shouldn't be crowing too much either. We have a relatively high baseline for the quality of our architecture (more to do with urbanism), but not a whole lot of really outstanding work. You could say we are raising the bar incrementally.

That said, many of these firms are capable of excellent work. I'd like to see the less established ones getting more important commissions.


Thanks for championing the design cause, Brian, but one more thing: Either go with all architects or really spread the love to the whole design community. There are planners, urbanists, landscape architects, politicians and academics who are having as much (or more) of an impact on the design realm in Portland.


I agree with Monforts regarding the host of enablers who make the 11 you listed able to do what they do. No one works alone these days, unless you're a modern day Henry David Thoreau, building your tiny cabin by the pond.


Great Work Brian , it is glorious to see Design in such a prominent story. The Photos by Motoya were fantastic, and would be wonderful in a gallery show. If one could critique anything , it would be the 'starchitect'
element. Every one of those folks are surely backed up by talented people, who deserve some credit also.


I agree with the "Starchitecture" comment.

If I worked at any of those architect's firms I don't think I'd get much design experience.

Either (a) just another employee lost in an established office of 200+, or (b) a young up-and-coming firm with design being handed down to the staff by the "starchitect" figure heads.

How about some established medium size firms that don't have a signature style? Are there doing work in Portland?


Actually I know for a fact that Roberts comments regarding the "design being handed down to the staff by the starchitect figure heads" is not accurate to at least two of the included firms...whom pride themselves on collaboration and keep a dedicated long-term staff.

Mike Thelin

Great story Brian. I was ecstatic to see this story this morning.


I agree with the truth... it may not always be a perfect system, but great design is always a group effort.


Thanks everybody for your comments. I agree that there should be a way to give credit to the many people involved besides these 11 names in what is clearly a collaborative affair. But it's kind of like movie directors or quarterbacks: somebody has to stand symbolically as the head of the group. So if you work at one of the firms listed in the article, or even if you don't, I hope mention of a principal or design leader at any of these firms at least implies a collaborative effort even if it doesn't say so explicily.

In retrospect, I think what one other commenter said was true: that perhaps the list would have been better off as solely architects, since once you let in a non-architect, you have to consider opening Pandora's Box. But I was trying to focus on architects while also having one developer and one other non-architect (Sohrab Vossoughi) be there kind of symbolically representing others as well.


I for one am glad that SERA and GBD did not make the list. Their projects while being sustainable installations and soft gestures to the urban context, contribute little to architecture and design in this city.

I too would say that the published list could be slimmed down to about 6 or 7 from the 10 - if we are talking hardcore design contribution in Portland.

All too often design topics and designers in Portland are muddled with with discussions/comparisons in urbanism, planning and green building. Many of the designs from the firms represented in the list stand out without shouting their greenness - while still being sustainable and relevant infill projects.

Sometimes, it's okay for good design to come before waving your green urbanist flag.

Hotel Photographer

Portland is a vital city for deisgn and architecture, it seems that the city has a little great group of architects.

condo hotels

Downtown portland would be a great spot for a branded hotel simply because of all the great culture nearby. Maybe a converted older building with style. Are there any older stylie hotel somewhat like the Plaza in NYC?


I don't think you need to apologize for not including some firms.

I agree that Rick Potestio, for instance, is a an extremely talented designer - but the impact he's had on the city is slim.

The GBD's and SERA's and Ankrom Moisan's of the city have perfected the art of bland. They are known quantities and there will always be a market for that.
But if portland is actually interested in spinning its story to include DESIGN - we need to be willing to put our best foot forward more often.


i don't see how it is possible to critique architecture based solely on "design" - it seems to me that that approach implies viewing architecture as sculpture. furthermore, architecture does not exist in a bubble. if it doesn't relate to its context, whether urban or rural, it cannot be as successful as it should be. considering architecture as an object strips architecture of one of its most essential characteristics, that being part of the urban fabric. if you disagree, then the physical city can be viewed only as a series of follies. after all, unless they are publicly accessible, most people only get to experience the outside of buildings.

as for brian's original query, i think that portland is a better place today for creating/building than it was ten years ago, simply because of the growth that has occurred which has given us more opportunity for having these discussions. ten years ago when i was in architecture school all we talked about was how we wanted major arcitects to build in portland. now, i think portland architects and other designers have (for the most part) done a pretty good job developing the fabric of the city into something that provides much more than singular sensational buildings can provide. what i have found most exciting over the past few years are the landscape treatments, parks, and (gasp!) other "green" elements, because they meld static or dead materials with those that are living/growing/changing, something i think that adds significantly to a piece of architecture's ability to inspire.

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