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Hey (first reaction, haven't even read yet) that looks kinda cool! In Jules Verne-y kinda way.


The wind turbines will contribute how much power to the tower's own energy needs? I have a feeling it will be minimal at best and merely something to allow the architect/developer to label the entire tower "green" and "sustainable." Also the parking (particularly in an urban location) makes the "green" bragging label a joke.

Waterfront Park is the place for this. I have no problem with the height or the idea of an observation tower. I am not so sure about the design looks like a giant tornado. It even has the spiraling motion and deformed shape in the design.

Ray Whitford

I like it! Maybe modify the top to allow a rotating restaurant level though. I believe the best location is still the Rose Quarter for all the reasons I have listed. It's at the river bend and is away for the main business district for spacing and sealing the connections over the river. There will be two rail lines (MAX and a new streetcar line) near by. New office towers are being planned near the OCC and the new OCC HQ Hotel could use this new attraction being close by.

Having more parking near the Rose Quarter is a positive (one of the arguments against a MLB stadium at the Blanchard Site was the lack of packing). You could create a nice park for this Tower at the East End of the Steel or Broadway Bridge I think.

And again, the view coming into PDX from Washington on I5 or from the East on I84 would be outstanding with this Tower close to the I5/I84 Interchange. Rose Quarter is the spot for me more then the Burnside Bridgehead.

This Tower could really connect the Lloyd District to the Westside.
At some point, my hope is that I5 will be tunneled under the Lloyd District to increase capacity and to open up more land near the river.

We should plan our buildings and tourism assets toward a agreed future city view.



yay! portland's very own giant phallus! we really do need more of this macho kind of architecture in town, except it looks like its wearing a dress. really, what is the point? the only reason this is remotely palatable for me is that it actually creates energy. but still, these things always seem like a gimmick for me, something to take your out of town guests to, because most residents will go only once on their own, if at all.

Peter S.

In the larger scheme of things, it may serve as a datum for future tall buildings. They're likely to happen, but perhaps the city can use this project as an initial scale?

I'm just thinking out loud here. Don't mind me.


Can any ecologists tell us how birds might feel about those wind turbines? My untrained eye thinks the lattice structure looks like good perching.
That said, I really like this concept and think it's high time Portland made a statement like this. It would be best placed away from the central core, rather than being surrounded by other tall structures, to give the viewer something to look towards. Is that the Rose Quarter then? Maybe.

Mike Thelin

I love it. I agree with Andrew that it's time our city made a statement, and there's no better way than a monument to sustainability. I hope this project doesn't get whittled away to mediocrity.

Mike Thelin

And PS: I'll still be contributing the the Burnside Blog once in a while.


Come on! A tower like this belongs in Dubai, NOT PORTLAND. Is this really what Portland needs? Instead of focusing on "iconic" mega-structures, Portland should continue to focus on human-scale cutting edge designs.

As a counter to this proposal; I would like to propose that 20 small scale observation decks (say 20' to 80' in height) get built around the entire city. We could then spread the love amongst many different design firms (and neighborhoods) instead of having a single firm (one that specializes in designing Costcos) contribute in such a heavy handed fashion to our cities skyline.


You guys are no fun. We're human beings, not an ant colony; we make art and do stuff just because it is TOTALLY RAD. If we don't go all the way on this, though, please don't bother. You know how when you visit Seattle, and you want to see the space needle soaring out of the city, but actually it is tiny, and off to the side in a chintzy mini-theme park? If this Portland spire is even approximately as tall as office buildings from the 80s (big pink), or if it goes east of the river, diffusing the cityscape rather than being the torch raised above, it's not worth it.

Good luck dreamers: Go the distance.


JG , right on ! 20 mini-decks all over the city , we could have bike rally action , 'Tower Circuit'
Twenty Designers from all over the world , a legendary design competition ,
yee haaa


Hmm-m-m-m... . Maybe there is a bit of Northwest influence in that design. I christen this stunning work: 'Slug with Bustier'

Put it over by Omsi, and it could be 'The Visible Stand-up Slug'. Not quite as good as 'The Visible Woman', but this would generate power. That would be fun.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm sure there will be lots of people that will love this tower.


I propose 1000 observation decks 1 foot high, more accessible and so many more decks to design! (You do the " aesthetic math", since one 600 foot tower=twenty 80 foot towers etc etc)

I am all for a tall structure to be added to the skyline, so add my vote FOR the proposed tower(or office building, or condo building or whimsy stucture, anything to announce we are HERE!)

Although I would rather see that money spent on a Concert Hall or some performing Arts facility instead (but then, this is private money, so ...)

Lance Lindahl

I don't think that next to Oak's Park is a viable option. This area sits low on the flood plain. The modern design, which I do like a lot, would not fit the character of this historic area. The scale just doesn't work at all in a quiet, residential neighborhood.

If built, it should be in the heart of the central city. Would this project work at the Burnside Brigehead site? This spot will have streetcar service, is close to MAX, is close to downtown, close to the river, close to the freeway, close to the Rose Quarter, and would be easy for tourists to find. The land is certainly available and now mostly clear of buildings.

The old Thunderbird Hotel site in the Rose Quarter might be another option worth considering.

Or how about on the Central Eastside near the soon to be built rail transit hub near OMSI?


Nikos, some of us do not need any "announcement" to know we're here. That seems so insecure. Isn't 1000 articles in the NYT and a floating tram-orb enough to show that we've arrived?

Oh, and a massive mountain?


Having said that, if it has to happen, please don't put this homage to here-ness in our world-renowned park (which, for many, provides a great deal of civic pride without a tower). Placing it at a distance from the central core allows views between the two, as well as the oppportunity to charge a new district. I agree that Rose Quarter or OMSI would be ideal. They're already semi-established, but have much potential growth to come. Finally, let's not upstage our existing landmarks (ie. Fremont Bridge, west hills, tram) by plopping this too close to one of them.


Obviously Mt Hood is in itself a world class sight from the city, but I am pleasantly surprised at how many (in humble, self satisfied,nostalgie de la boue Portland) came out in favor of the tower in this blog!


This is great. The Space Needle is a symbol of technology and now Portland's tower will be a symbol of the environment. I think the building should be located on the east side of the river by OSMI where an emerging green technologies district is begining to take off.


I like the idea of a tower that creates a visible anchor for the waterfront.

The turbine function is an interesting idea. I have views of the Fremont bridge flags and I can confirm that the North/South winds are fairly consistent.

Mike Thelin

This think should go on the waterfront somewhere in the Central City. The problem with the waterfront park is that it has no amenities. This is changing with Bike Republic's good proposal plus the relocation of Saturday Market. However, there still needs to be more. We congratulate ourselves on remaking our waterfront in the 1970s, but it's essentially a large jogging path and temporary space for chintzy carnivals. Amenities like these lure people to the waterfront to interact with the river.


Could we stop calling this thingee
'Green' and 'Sustainable' please.
It is a showboat sign of reckless excess. Trees are 'Green' , maybe plant some more , the City could use a lot more to lower the heat-island effect! Oh , and if you need a view try 'ol big pink' , using what is already built is Sustainable.


Personally I think it's ugly and out of place in this city. KATU.com says they are gonna charge 10 bucks to ride the elevator up.


@peteetchou: This idea isn't even off the drawing board yet, so I don't know how they could determine a $10 admission fee. However, for comparison, the Seattle space needle is currently $16.

@billb: Why not call it green? Maybe it will have vertical farming along with power generation. I don't buy into the "if it ain't a tree, then it ain't green" mantra.


Are the wind turbines gonna chop up birds? I bet Portlanders will love that.


Here's the story Chris...

He said he would charge guests $10 a piece to ride to the top, and a coating of photovoltaic cells would power the structure. It would also only be 90 feet wide - meaning it would not block views like an office building.


Seattlites have often referred to Portland as Seattle's 'poor cousin', now with all the talk of "our own Space Needle", this appears to have some truth.

Does Portland need a strong visual icon? Maybe or maybe not. But don't lose sight of the fact that the Space Needle is a remnant of the 1962 World's Fair, and while arbitrary in its purpose, it carries its own environmental cachet as kind of adaptive reuse now.

On the other hand, building a tower for the sake of a tower seems less environmental, regardless of the energy producing measures involved, unless it can be shown it will produce more than it uses. How will it contribute the wind (and PV, I understand) energy back to the community? A second more troubling issue is the idea of being imitators. While, yes, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, it seems that something beyond the "viewing platform with rotating restaurant" should be proposed.

If one believes that Portland has come into its own then shouldn't an iconic structure for the city likewise have a more unique identity? Maybe a Gateway Arch?


Seattlites have often referred to Portland as Seattle's 'poor cousin', now with all the talk of "our own Space Needle", this appears to have some truth.

Does Portland need a strong visual icon? Maybe or maybe not. But don't lose sight of the fact that the Space Needle is a remnant of the 1962 World's Fair, and while arbitrary in its purpose, it carries its own environmental cachet as kind of adaptive reuse now.

On the other hand, building a tower for the sake of a tower seems less environmental, regardless of the energy producing measures involved, unless it can be shown it will produce more than it uses. How will it contribute the wind (and PV, I understand) energy back to the community? A second more troubling issue is the idea of being imitators. While, yes, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, it seems that something beyond the "viewing platform with rotating restaurant" should be proposed.

If one believes that Portland has come into its own then shouldn't an iconic structure for the city likewise have a more unique identity? Maybe a Gateway Arch?


@peteetchou: I wasn't disputing your quote. I found the reference myself. I just doubt anyone, even the developer, could determine what the fee would be this early in the process.


"The problem with the waterfront park is that it has no amenities." Mike Thelin

No 'amenities'? Here's what 'amenities' is: "Things that make you comfortable and at ease" WordWeb

Mike, maybe you're thinking that the waterfront has no 'attractions'. An attraction would be something like Jantzen Beach Amusement Park with its huge wooden coaster(long gone), or Coney Island stuff. For example, London has a huge Ferris Wheel. I imagine the backers for this thing, the Slug with Bustier, as it presents itself to my eye, would hope it would be a big money making attraction.

I think the waterfront has plenty of attractions now; it's a great place to walk, bike, sit (when the crummy Rose Fest carny and the other money making, barred to the non-paying public events aren't taking up 90 percent of the square footage right out of the center of it).

It also, already has lots of amenities; places to walk, bike, sit, places to eat and drink, dinner cruise boats to go on. I think encouraging people to interact with the river is a good idea, but taking them 600'-900' up, away from the river doesn't seem like an activity that's geared to help people do this.

If getting people to interact with the river is a good idea, it might be nice if a larger concession offering guided tours using paddle them yourself watercraft, were available. Now that the city has the gift of part of Ross Island from Mr. Pamplin.

If a designer ever does conceive of some truly beautiful, monumental architectural structure for downtown Portland, it might be worth considering. This isn't one of them. It's no St. Louis Arch. It's no Seattle Space Needle. It's not a London Big Eye, or even a great old roller coaster. Not by a long shot.


this is a few years too late, in 2004 or 2005 lenders took risks with outside the box ideas like this but now it is September 2008 and the market is dropping faster than the birds that will hit these wind turbines. this seems like the oddest thing to propose in an economy like this one.


A desperate move to be a big boy city. We don't need this.

Charlie Brown

I love the idea of a Tower in Portland. I remember I drew up a design for a 900' spire in one of my architectural design studios in the early 80s and my instructor nearly took a swipe at me! The top of my tower had the form of a raindrop.

It seems to me, if you're going to build a tower in Portland the views one grasps from it are critical to its success. I think Mr. Hanna should fly around in a helicopter at various heights around the city and get a real feel for that perfect view and height for his tower.

Regarding the form of this tower. . . I'm not a fan. . . looks to Vegas... where's the roller coaster at the top? It could also use some bristles. An ode to dental hygiene, rather than green. Ok, I'm being a little hard on it. I remember my design instructor saying that you could look at just about any building and say it looks like something other than what it is intended to be. It feels unfair but true.

I would seriously consider putting this near the Rose Quarter, and somehow connecting it with an attraction in the Memorial Coliseum. This could liven it up during the day. And with a developing skyline, this spire could be the preeminent spot to view the city.


I think the tower should be built next to the oregon zoo. With the elevation of the zoo and the height of the tower you would be able to look over the west hills to the south and west, and also see all the volcanic peaks of the cascades.
Also the max could drop people off there easily.


I don't like it and do not think it's necessary. Way out of scale. Not to mention, building an attraction of this sort is innately unsustainable due to people's travel to come see it.


Maybe we could change the name from Waterfront Park to Waterfront Parking!


Developers, BACK AWAY from the Open Space!

Portland citizens did not site public parks (and schools BTW) for YOUR private development.

Stick the wind turbines on that UGLY pink building.


Why is the "Big Pink" called pink, it is more copper to my eyes...


"...an attraction of this sort is innately unsustainable due to people's travel to come see it."

Sort of like Mt. Hood, Multnomah Falls, Sauvie Island, etc?

Great that this topic has sparked so much discussion. If proposals for a viewing tower is our biggest worry, we must be doing alright.


This tower is not Portland biggest worry. Here is a short list of Portland’s bigger worries, from my perspective:

•Land and ocean environments in crisis through pollution, global warming and invasive species
•Lack of affordable housing, partly due to unfulfilled “urban renewal” promises
•Lack of manufacturing and other living wage jobs
•Liquefaction and ground movement magnification hazards with a weak infrastructure
•Lack of equitable curriculum offerings and facilities in PPS schools, and the push to rebuild well-off schools before struggling schools
•Over-reliance on business relations with China and other human rights challenged counties
•Grossly varying property tax rates between neighborhoods
•Tax money being diverted from public safety and schools by “tax increment financing” schemes
•Undue political influence of real estate developers

Eric Cantona

thanks earl! that’s delightful. but you’ve missed a few:

•the global war on terror
•porn, porn, and more porn!!!
•undue political influence of people with more money than earl
•roman abromovich
•offshore drilling
•lack of focus on portland architecture's comment stream


You are such a buzz killer Earl, the tower is an design fantasy and a blog is where these fantasies play out (the equivalent of architectural porn, to reference Eric, above)


The tower is more a greenwashed capitalistic fantasy than a playful design fantasy.

Was the affordable housing in South Waterfront Park also a fantasy?

How about the “Nanotech Institute?”

eric cantona

thank you, comrade earl!


I agree with all that think it should go on the waterfront in the Central City. While Portland's skyline is growing, it still has the appearance of a big smile when viewed from the east or west. The Wells Fargo tower in the south and Big Pink on the north form the smile. Some height in the middle would add to an overall impressive look for the Rose City. Taller buildings will come in the future, it is only a matter of time and if planned properly can add immensely to the look of the City and not detract from the views from the West Hills. It is time for a project like this and should be embraced as a symbol of Portland moving forward.


this is not a sign of portland moving forward unless by that you mean "being like everyone else". portland has never been a town of frivolity or ostentation. this proposed tower is the most un-portland thing i have witnessed since maybe the tram. who cares if it has wind turbines and is therefore labeled green or a monument to sustainability? that's just salesmanship.

i would love to have a dynamic piece of architecture to supplement, even command, our skyline. i just don't think a tower for the primary purpose of observation is the answer, especially if people think this is the piece of architecture that will announce our arrival (a totally unnecessary notion by the way - announce it to who?). this will not absolve our insecurities. if it was designed to be a power plant which allowed public access to the top, i would be able to stomach it more. in which case, it should be built by a power company rather than by a private developer on public land.

eric cantona

after much reflection on this project my position is becoming more like the goose's. throwing up something like this will take an enormous amount of material and energy that will most likely never be recovered regardless of the greenwash.

it's nice that hanna will light up our park with the energy it produces, but let's not assume that he's doing this out of the goodness of his heart. this will be a very, very big sales tool for his wind mills. not a bad marketing ploy, sure, but is it right for the rest of us?

finally, my view is that portland doesn't need to scream 'look at me'. we've developed this city to be a leader in a lot of sustainable categories, and are becoming a tourist destination in our own right. this has happened pretty organically. if this were a concert hall, or museum, i'm sure i would look at it differently. taken for what it is, i can't support it.

if he wants to do it on a piece of private property then i say do it. but calling it sustainable is a bit of a stretch.


The more I think about this proposal the more I think it stinks. A tower like this will NEVER recover the energy it takes to build it. And why should the public use its public park space as a landing pad for this giant phallis? Go build it on your own property on your own dime...and if it pays off or your don't mind subsidizing it yourself then kudos to you.


I think it's a great idea but don't put it close to South Waterfront & in competition with the tram - put it at the other end of the city where we are still growing and needing something of a draw.... west of the Fremont Bridge on the west side of the river. I love the wind turbine - there's an elegance there, that we are missing in this city. If there's a restaurant at the top it had better have someone like Chris Israel running/owning it. Lets have a REAL destination!


Tonight, I actually looked at the website for the Turby (the name of the wind generator entrepreneur Derek Hanna's tower designer/architects propose to use for the tower). The concept behind the Turby is interesting enough. For anyone not familiar with this type of wind turbine, it doesn't look anything like the big bladed ones most people are familiar with, some of which have been sited in Oregon. It's something on the order of a standing cylinder with a number of helical twist blades providing the aerodynamic power generation. It can be more efficient than the more familiar type of wind turbine. Checking out the website is better than me trying to describe it.

I wonder if the towers' designer/architects have ventured any guess as to how much power their multi-wind turbine tower might produce, what it would look like with all those blades spinning, and how much noise it would make.


It's nice to see some forward thinking architects aiming such a project at our fine little city. With Portland being on the fore front of sustanable energy, I do find the SMART Towers premis palatable, but wonder about the overall effectivness of the concept.

Not being a native to Portland, I do find it interesting that a city with such broad national appeal has not already built a "Landmark" structure for the city to capitalize on. And while many of us do not want even more tourists, this building would attract a crowd I'm sure, and the economic posotives of more tourism do seem suggestable.

I certainly appreciate the bold approach, and it will be interesting to see what transpires from all of this.


This tower does not have the dramatic elegance of a Calatrava design. To me, it looks like a Claes Oldenburg tribute to the arterial stent.

Mt. Hood is Portland’s landmark structure.

I hope Portland’s architecture will be known for supporting livability, instead of how cool it looks on a postcard.


In reponse to a comment above:
If this project were to go forward, I would expect this design to apply for a LEED platinum rating, to go along with its 'green' image.

In my pinion, I'm not thrilled with the idea of a 650' parking garage as a centerpiece for the Portland Waterfront. What happened to the grandeur of the open space Oregonians enjoy? I see several problems with the concept:

1) Where has automated parking worked in the past?

2) Is it really wise to put parking structures below the Willamette river level? I forsee big pumps working overtime...

3) What about the birds roosting, as someone else mentioned, causing health and maintenance problems? Take a look at the maintenance problems on the I-5 bridge with all the bird poo...its eating away the paint.

4) This building would not be entirely privately funded. With alternative/ renewable energy solutions and applications for super-efficient or 'green' construction ratings, I would expect tax deferments or forgiveness, Federal Energy development grants, or other public subsidies. Has anyone seen a green development project in Oregon or the US where the public hasn't had to chip in a few million bucks?

5) Vertical-axis wind turbines (egg-beaters) are only 50% as efficient as the horizontal-axis models (windmills). With "good" wind energy production running at ~30% availability in ideal locations, what does this mean for a less-than-ideal wind site in downtown? Guestimate: 15% availability x 50% efficiency of horizontal-axis x 59.6% of the energy of the wind (Betz limit - look it up)= ~4% of the energy of the wind is captured in one day. What does 4% cost? WAY more than a turbine in the Gorge costs...

Should a concept like this be taken to design and constructed? Perhaps, but there are better ways to do it in much more suitable locations (all politics or desires for a green-image aside).

David Jorling

Keep Portland weird...Build it, as long as it can be completely sustained on it's own generated energy supply.


The design isn't world class. Brian's comments in his previous post were apropos:

"Even so, if this tower were really to happen, it'd be essential to have not just a good design, but a great one. I'm not sure if anyone in Portland is capable of that. I'd favor a choice like UN Studio of Rotterdam, or maybe Sir Norman Foster."

Clabber Grrl

One of the virtues of this is that it separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of those who have a clue and those who don't. When this is built, all the whiny, crotchety old hippies and dread-locky people can go down there and wave their canes and walkers in outrage, and complain about it on indymedia.org.

Actually maybe they should commission a statue of such a creature for the entry plaza. That would be extra funny.


"When this is built,..." Clabber Grrl

Just the other day, the O's newest frontline columnist wrote about Hanna's tower, with the closing caveat: If he manages to get some backers, he'll also be coming to look for a public handout to get his tower on. So, Clabber Grrl, get ready to open your purse for the erection of Hanna's big idea.


erection indeed.


This would be awesome. It would supply jobs which portland is low on and would give us energy. Not only that but tourists and its AWESOME!


We have too much bird poo, so a couple chopped birds wouldn't be too bad. Still, that would suck to be chopped up. I think the tower should be on the top of that hill that you go through on 26 to get to downtown.

antony palafox

I think all the people who posted negative comments about the SmartTower should really put their biases and politics aside. I know Portland's weird and unique, but I think a one-of-a-kind structure like this would be great. It would not only add some pizzazz to Portland, but it would put us on the map and generate more tourism and new local jobs, as well as generate more money for the local economy. I am a skyscraper kind of guy. I love the Northwest rivers, trees, and scenery, but I think we should have a skyscraper or two as tall as 700 to 900 feet. Look at Seattle, San Francisco, and LA. We should have at least one building that is 600 feet or higher. As long as it doesn't take away from views of Mt Hood, I'm all for it. We're not Dubai, Chicago, or NY, but at least let's get a few more skyscrapers around 700 feet high to compete with the other West coast cities. I've seen the design and I think it would make Portland look even more beautiful at night. I love Portland and we need this....I just want the other Portlanders and bloggers to have an open mind about this and don't just look at the small picture but the over-all picture. Let's support this and give it a chance. Nature is nice but human structures can be amazing to look at as well.


Antony, putting biases and politics aside in evaluating the desirability of this thing is a good idea. I did, and the thing still sucks.

Portland's beauty is in its landscape. Many cities have flat landscapes that really can benefit from a prominent sky soaring man made structure. Portland's landscape has beautiful forested hills, that, as a side benefit, create a marvelous backdrop for the moderate height towers the city presently has. People can easily go to those hills a variety of different ways and look out over the city.

Anymore, towers seem like something that cities should only build out of need rather than to compete with other tower building cities, or to technologically see if they can be built. Humans already know they can build very tall towers. Now we also know that the tallest of them provide an attractive target for some people with a religious bone to pick. Just what Portland needs.

michael maisonville

it's beutiful and i love it, not only would it be great for the locals with the observation deck and restrount but it would be good for the econamy because it would attract tourists,think the building should stay near or in the skyline/downtown of portland so the observation deck would be fun and you would be able to see the city up close instead of seeing the city from a ditance.

Whats it 2ya

I think Portland does need a new high rise tower..however this building looks kinda weird. i mean we should design a more impressive observation tower. as for the height i think its an OK.maybe a couple hundred feet more. i always wondered if Portland was ever going to grow out of its small downtown..otherwise this building with a better design could be pretty cool. GO PORTLAND!!!:)

Ryan H.

The tower should having a revolving restaurant which would be essential. The tower should push the height to at least 600 feet and preferred 650, it will open a wave of new development, especially if placed by the Rose Garden or OMSI, they both will benefit greatly from a tourist attraction in the district and close transit options. It will allow the view from the tower to see both downtown proper, Mt. Hood and the west hills. Growth is a matter of life and it should be embrace, cities that don't embrace it either go through urban sprawl or economic loss, building up is the best solution.

Joel G.


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