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Where's Angry Neighbor when we need him?


I'd love to see PSU Architecture and/or UofO Architecture do parallel studio projects for this site. It would be an interesting way to inquire about what ought to be done. Or maybe Brian or Cityscope can sponsor an open weekend charette with this premise.

The images shown above sure look nifty. Any commentary here on urbanity, domesticity, or Portland's version of either?


This is great news! It seems that this idea has a lot of similarities to Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam, one of the best contemporary developments around (though on a much larger scale).


It hinges on two very simple rules: rigid volume massing (all projects are 4 meters wide by 3 stories tall-approximating traditional Amsterdam housing), and 30%-50% void. After that, they choose excellent young designers and let them have at it. The result is architectural diversity while preserving urban continuity.

As Adriaane Geuze (the urban designer) admits, however, choosing the best designers was probably the most important aspect. Let's hope Cavenaugh finds the right ones for this project.


“...testament to the fact that the most successful urban designs emerge when there is collaboration between the planners and architects.” from www.archnewsnow.com/

So, is Cavanaugh the planner?

Borneo Sporenburg Residential Waterfront sure does look nifty. It also sounds like a thorough exercise in collaboration. We can assume the "rigid volume massing" was carefully allocated by the planners. I wonder how Cavanaugh's platting unfolded.

As for "riskier but potentially far more appealing". I think this kind of experiment is far LESS risky for the city/community. I'll accept urban experiments/errors on this scale. The bigger projects with bigger money and much greater embodied scare me. And, alas, those are often left to the architecture factories.

Proforma+novelty=Developer Work.


The site plan is a bit uninspiring, especially when you consider the back edge is an on-ramp.
The preliminary massings also seem to be trying to be too different from eachother; "shed form here, round form there, gable form over there, etc" Is the pyramid form next in line?
I'd like to see something more akin to the courtyard competition where there are several cohesive units, complementing instead of competing, and creating a unique outdoor space.


Kevin's Box+One does this more successfully on a slightly smaller scale. Why not start from there? Establish a palette or language that will pull it all together, even if it is by different designers.
Otherwise you will get "olympic village syndrome" where each buiding is doing its own thing at the cost of the whole.


Box+One isn't trying to do much (is it?), or ask tough questions.

I don't buy into "the whole" as a desirable proposition for this kind of development... at least not on the "shed form here, oval form there," issue. Why does this site need to be a macro development. Why not a neighborhood with distinct houses. My street contains no two homes that look exactly alike...hip roof here, two-story farmhouse there, a front porch, no front porch, etc. Is a cape code next? Well, yes, actually.


I agree. The architecture can be all over the map as far as I'm concerned as long as the overall forms are responding to the street and outdoor spaces in a meaningful way.


Yes, and that meaningful response to the outdoor space looks specious (at best?) in the images above. Granted, there is much work to be done, but that wiggly winding way betwixt the houses has my brow deeply furrowed. Hopefully the commons will be well considered as the houses develop.

I see nothing in Cavanaugh's premise statement about how the design process(es) itself will unfold. And, if 1, 2, 3, 4?...5,?...WTF... Well, three of the houses appear to be designed. So much for collaboration.


Yes, we must stick to the strait line of the grid. Please don't try to complement nature with all its winding ways. Architecture should stamp its dominance over nature at every turn. All kneel before the clean simple strait lines of our betters!


a mere winding way is no complement to nature. No, it's an insult, in fact. The magic of nature is not its aloofness (because it's not aloof) nor its winding way (nature is ill cast as a wanderer). And no, the 'structure' of nature is not the grid, either. Who brought up the grid? That was you, Greg Quixote.

As I stated before. I suggest the commons be carefully considered. It looks carelessly considered at present.


i think this could be a very interesting proposition. it could be improved by an overlay of massing and setbacks associated with heights - a vision - an overarching concept. Similar to what was laid out for great neighborhoods such as Ladd's addition and Laurelhurst for instance. A strong "zoning" or massing concept can create a lot of complexity by the intervention or interpretation by other architects. it does seem a shoe horned into the site, so i wonder if a more linear site would be better suited. As well the open space seems more residual than integrated.


(massing + setbacks)*overlay =vision?

I submit that the overarching vision is not necessary...and maybe contra-indicated. I am more interested in how a group of brilliants (presumed) might negotiate a well considered, dynamic, engaged commons space despite (or because of) a lack of dictated constraints. What if good judgement and congenial cooperation makes an even better, and non conforming, whole.


I'll add here that the plats on the west side facing the on-ramp really are right in traffic. Yikes. I suggest soot-eating concrete.


(massing + setbacks)*overlay =vision?

I submit that the overarching vision is not necessary...and maybe contra-indicated. I am more interested in how a group of brilliants (presumed) might negotiate a well considered, dynamic, engaged commons space despite (or because of) a lack of dictated constraints. What if good judgement and congenial cooperation makes an even better, and non conforming, whole.


I just hope they can also grab a good landscape architect to develop the open space. I've learned never to put that in the hands of an architect.


sorry "a" but i completely disagree. i think it is okay not agree to not agree on this one. i think that for such a site to be successful it requires some micro-urban design approach as opposed to just plating the property. not to create a "design" vision in some suburban way, but some order that cannot perceived, but rather holds the pieces together to create a bigger solution. that is why i mention Ladd's Addition and Laurelhurst - those actually have/had strict guidelines - and believe it or not it actually worked and yet supported diversity while not creating tract housing. chaos will certainly find its way, but you might find it in the smaller parts.


For a development of the scale of Ladd's addition or LH Park I can see your point, kyle. Those are sections of the city. And they're 5k to 7500sf lots. Huge plots by comparison.

Cav's scope is about a half block with what may be 2k sf plats. So, what kind of progressive setbacks do you propose? 5' sides at level one, 5'-6" at level 2 and 6' at the upper floor?

I say take this proposal as a true experiment in public process. The risk is very low for the community at large and the potential outcame very instructive.

True, this maybe be just enough rope for these harvard punks to hang themselves. Your guidelines amount to micromanagement in the extreme.

I suspect hat the group of designers will come to a negotiated set of guidelines and restrictions by virtual of the play of ideas between them. THAT seems like a purer form of public process. One that arises from a true 'common sense'.


good point about the lot sizes. i was thinking more about massing in respects to frontage, rather than side yards. and true - good designers in their own right will certainly play well of each other and the result could be very interesting. if they are all playing together that makes more sense than making something for incremental growth.


I am curious - are the designers also being asked to purchase the individual parcels and fund the individual houses as owners / developers? What will be the ownership structure of the units and the common space?


Why not 14 Lscrapers?


I wonder about the reality of how this project comes together. That is, if we do look at the Borneo in Amsterdam as some sort of precedent with regards to Cavenaugh’s project (granted, the Borneo is a completely different scalar animal), it seems logical that there needs to be some sort of master planning process whereby ‘rules’ are engaged and set in place around which the designers operate. There are a number of comments contained here which address the nature of the site, or lack of nature as it turns out to be. This is an extremely difficult site to develop. No one knows this more than Cavenaugh, who has been sitting on it for years now.
Not really knowing where the current layout came from, it might seem logical for Cavenaugh to run a studio, or charette of some sort, whereby the ‘zoning’ and guidelines (need to be kept loose to allow freedom of design process) are set in place. For example, with a site such as this, there might be a focus away from the street, or Naito Parkway in this case, towards some sort of shared internal space. One does wonder about the ownership of this common space as Kyle asked. As well, how does that space come about? Is it individual backyards? Is it shared common space? Is there connectivity through that space? One would hope that the “meandering line of nature” is not set in place, but merely a place holder for something still to come. I would assume Cavenaugh has engaged many of these questions. It would be interesting to see and hear more.
In either case, as engaging as some of Cavenaugh’s project’s have been in the past (not necessarily as architectural andeavors, but more as social and process oriented expressions), this is truly a bold move. How many developers do you know willing to open up their own land for development with nothing in it for themselves other than to say “look what we were able to accomplish”? i.e. from my understanding and conversations with Kevin there is no financial incentives for him this time around. (Not that there really was much in the way of financial incentives in his last three developments.)
I think we are again seeing his years of Peace Corps showing up in his “business” decisions. Good man.


"(not necessarily as architectural endeavors, but more as social and process oriented expressions)"
ah, the 400# gorilla in the room.


"how does that space come about? Is it individual backyards? Is it shared common space? Is there connectivity through that space? One would hope that the “meandering line of nature” is not set in place, but merely a place holder for something still to come."
These are great questions. Though your "meandering line of nature" is your own phrase. So, don't frame it in quotes.

The design guidelines don't need to be kept loose to allow freedom of design process. That's a naive idea. All processes happen within a frame of reference. eg...the ultimate frames here on earth are (arguably) gravity, diurnal and seasonal rhythms, money, etc. Design without constraint is akin to providing an answer that lacks a question. Where do you begin? And why?

Still, I strongly urge that the design rules of the game be allowed to emerge during the design process (guided by respect, community, discourse, negotiation, conflict) If this is to be an experiment (which I advocate) then put those zoning questions on the table...or off of it...depending on how you look at it.


"a", I guess the "need to be kept loose to allow freedom" comment was in reference to some of the standard language one might come across in zoning codes we see nowadays. For example, a certain close in Portland Suburb mandating that buildings along the waterfront adhere to a pre-defined 'style' and look. I totally agree, allow the "design rules of the game" to do just what you suggested through a design process that involves all the players involved.

Kevin Cavenaugh

Hey All.

This is great. As a wee experiment for me, this project has many 'right' answers. I'm happy to hear from you; as, having never undertaken anything like this before, I'm desperate to avoid any of the numerous 'wrong' answers. There seem to be a couple of hot topics here: 1) What design limitations should exist to make the development sing best, and 2) What should be done with the Common Area. Before diving into those, however, please know that the renderings here are simply placeholders so folk get what I'm trying to do. They're more for the banks than for us. None of the cottages will/should look like what's shown. Each designer gets what amounts to the 'space' shown in the renderings, to do with what he/she is moved to do. Thus ...

1) Design Overlay. (...or lack thereof) This is intended to be a true Request For Qualifications. I don't care about a designer's 'Proposal'. I think that there's a huge risk and a huge upside in allowing each designer to do whatever the hell they want on their little chunk of dirt. (The smallest sites are 24'x36'x45'height limit.) Choosing the most talented designers will be key, as was mentioned above. The 6 GSD students (all getting advanced degrees - average age of 26) are much more talented than I am. And because this has a blanket of design/development mentorship thrown over it, it ought to allow for some compelling pieces. (Obviously there will be a cottage or two that might miss the mark. That's OK too. This should be an evolving project. The weaker cottages have the opportunity to be remodeled and re-visioned in the future...) I certainly hope that the different designers chat amongst themselves to make sure their work supports or is supported by what their neighbors want to experiment with. The 7 of us here (the 6 students and myself) will be treating this like a true studio, meeting every week to discuss specific designs as well as larger philosophical ideas. (i.e. should we all do a large geo-thermal system shared by each cottage? Do we give a crap about LEED? etc.) Likewise (and to speak to the anti-grid person above) any of the designers have the right to redraw the lot lines with their neighbors should they feel that it gives them better designs.
Note: The City's zoning will thus be the only design parameters that will be enforced on each parcel. The zoning allows for a mix of uses, commercial and residential, numerous units, live/work, zero lot-lines (Each site has at least 2 sides that can be glazed. Pulling a wall 3' off the lot line allows glazing on any wall.)

2) The Mews. As soon as I posted the flyers at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) 2 landscape students pulled me aside (separately) and told me that the "mews" deserves to have the same singular vision that each of the other 14 parcels will receive. I instantly agreed that the commons be treated as the 15th site. Once all of the designers are chosen we'll gather 'round and figure out the process for choosing the landscape architect for "Site 15". I'm guessin' we won't finish the final unit for 30 months or so, and I hope we can have the landscape architect chosen by later this summer. Like the RFQ aspect of choosin' the designers for the 14 parcels, once the landscape designer has been chosen for 'Site 15' we have to give up the temptation to nitpick that person with our own 1/14th of an agenda. (This ought to be an interesting study in Sociology in and of itself...)

The Last 6 Seats. The 7 of us will be flying back to Portland in a month or so to study the site. The real question for us now is: What guidelines do we use to choose the designers for the remaining 6 seats? There certainly needs to be a Portland presence. Should we solicit folk like Jeff Kovel and Brad Cloepfil? It'd be good to get some more seasoned folk at the table to counter the youth. Or should we solicit outfits like Seed Architecture and Architecture W - younger up-and-coming outfits? Likewise, does it make sense to tap the shoulders of other hip-yet-out-of-state/country folk such as Tod Williams, Studio Dwell, Atelier Bow Wow, Graft, and the like? (And why the hell would they even want to do this anyway?) The fact that this isn't a 'job' but a true development for each designer will undoubtedly chase many folk away; so far it's been pleasantly self-selecting.

At any rate, we'll hit the ground running come summertime. And, while I appreciate your input (kinda) of what this shouldn't be, I'm really open to hearing about what my fellow Portlanders think this could be.

Thanks a bunch,



"nitpick that person with our own 1/14th of an agenda"
Well said... and wow, so a larch would want to play team-mate with 14 architects on such a small site? Hm, does BYU have a Larch program?

Do you select that person or does the group of 14?

Good luck with that. You'd better schedule some "team building" events early and often.

Hey, I hear Rick Potestio is available for one of the lots.

Kevin Cavenaugh

um .... thanks?

I wasn't aware of the fact that the size of a project dictated whether or not it was good.
Again, this is quite a self-selecting project. If you think this is a dumb experiment ... don't call me. Architect, Landscape Architect, Designer, whoever.
I'm actually more interested in the compelling ways that this can progress, especially in how we identify the shoulders to tap for the remaining 6 seats at the table.
So .... any (pertinent) thoughts?



It's not clear you're responding to me but I'll rework/interpret my comments just the same.

1.I agree that the 14 architects will have to resist the impulse to nitpic and manipulate the landscape architect to their own ends. I'm surprised a landscape architect would want any part of that...kinds like having 14 spouses.
2. I'm interested in how you select the L.architect. Or do the 14 architects help with that? Or, do the students participate in selecting the remaining 6and the L.arch?
3. I also think that 14 (or 15) designers working in such close proximity will present stunning and unforeseen challenges. Fostering strong and collaborative working relationships will be critical.


Oh, and
4. Rick Potestio probably has the chops to garner consideration.


Kevin, Any thoughts about a parallel studio at PSU or UofO.

Brian Libby

I would love to see Rick Potestio included. And I think he's unquestionably talented enough to be excluded. Plus, unlike most of his peers at that same level of design acumen, he's not busy and would probably really give devoted attention to the job.


i think this is an awesome concept - one that the portland design community has been craving and one that will foster future conversations about collaborative architecture, community and the private/public realm.

i think my only concern is whether or not the courtyard space will be public or private. the completed project will attract a lot of attention and visitors - almost like a cult street of dreams for the hard-core design community. how will these gawkers be accomodated into the future? its a very intimate space and the residents will probably be fairly protective about it.

also, i think the grid is necessary in order to define boundaries for each designer. however, say this project works and we want to do similar projects in the future...if we want order and we want to respect or invoke "nature" at the same time, perhaps fractals could serve a similar purpose.


i expect the courtyard space...the mews...will be private...or, not open to the broader public. I foresee an intimate series of spaces with varying degrees of enclosure. perhaps the community of owners can realize a private/shared space.

'privacy' in american culture is a rich and fraught subject. we have a very high expectation for personal space.

the mews seems like a naturally intimate space as rendered here. making it a public thoroughfare is probably quite a challenge. i wonder how one keeps a visitor/tourist from feeling like an interloper?


I have to disagree with Kyle and "a". Good architects designing buildings next to eachother concurrently rarely results in a cohesive whole.

That's the "Olympic Village syndrome" I was referring to in an earlier post. The olympic athlete villages every four years are perfect(or terrible) examples of what you get in this situation. I've been to a few and they are scarey places just a few years after the games.

SoWat could be another example if development doesn't become more incremental, which the current slump may force.

There needs to be stronger planning and ground rules, and especially on these tight sites. They are not isolated from each other like towers in a park. They will be unsuccesful follies if there is not more planning.

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