« Two tales of bridges | Main | A man struggling: Guy Battle comes to Portland »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Get your own 1 bedroom for just 400,000!

Give me a break!

Brian Libby

S, your comments are welcome, but this is a post about the architecture of 937, not the real estate.


I had my doubts about this project, but the final product has really surprised me. Good job by all.

Also, I seem to remember that the penthouse unit that takes up the entire top floor of the Benson Condos has a built-in hot tub on one of its enormous decks (or at least has plumbing for one).


Name here

The window placement is an exercise in graphic design, not architecture. The units don’t really change from floor to floor. Why is the facade the same facing south as it is facing north? This isn’t unlike the Cyan condos, where the appearance has no relation to the living spaces behind. Although it does look good.


A fractal is a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole, a property called self-similarity - I took that from wikipedia. 937, while a nice looking building in my opinion, is not truly based on fractals; it merely pays lip service to an interesting mathematical concept which in this case is loosely (at best) used to justify its random window pattern. I'm just saying I imagine the facade was more a compositional exercise whose main constraint was most the brick module and not some grand experiment based on fractals...but that does sound more interesting even if it is BS.


I too, have never bought into the design intent of fractals. They are equations which, when graphically represented, are (seemingly) reproductions of natural progressions. Therefore, it wouldn't matter if you looked close in or from far away, you would see the same pattern which appears in nature. The facade itself does not apply theory correctly, and therefore it does not meet the intent of why one would want to use fractals, in my opinion.

IF however, the designer(s) had suggested that they were basing their elevations on Stephen Wolfram's Mathematica, I would be more inclined to believe the designers. See this diagram to show what Mathematica can do: http://images.macworld.com/images/legacy/reviews/mathematica.jpg

In fact, I would have treated this design much more seriously IF they had in fact USED Mathematica to derive variations of the elevation, and then executed the design into construction.

The building itself, however, is a nice enough design as a modern structure, in comparison to some of the other lacking buildings (firm names will not be called out). Of course, I'm not exactly sold on the idea of a condo that does not have a balcony. Having lived in urban cores all my life, I have never enjoyed living in apartments and condos where there wasn't a balcony.


Holsts design concept impresses me, but I don't know that Ankrom or the Contractor pulled it off well. The craftsmanship of the brick is not good, which is further exagerated by the vertical alignment(or attempt at it)of the mortar joints.

Also, if they changed the floor plans to fit the window arrangement that the exterior dictates, why do we see walls ending in the middle of windows? For example, your second to last shot.

I have really noticed these problems when I get within a block.


Holsts design concept impresses me, but I don't know that Ankrom or the Contractor pulled it off well. The craftsmanship of the brick is not good, which is further exagerated by the vertical alignment(or attempt at it)of the mortar joints.

Also, if they changed the floor plans to fit the window arrangement that the exterior dictates, why do we see walls ending in the middle of windows? For example, your second to last shot.

I have really noticed these problems when I get within a block.

Laurence Qamar

This building has been turning my head since I first saw it. The seemingly random pattern of these windows is almost organic, sort of a rich ornamentation on the otherwise simple geometric rectangular solid. Each of the vertically proportioned 'punched' windows of varying widths suggest human proportions in a way that a horizontally proportioned curtain wall rarely does. It's like an Islamic Mashrabiya screen. As I gaze at it, I see new patterns emerge of the solids and voids. Those ruby red balconies add punctuation to the composition.

Visual allure aside, I think it also functions urbanisticly in its interface with the street. The horizontal base relates well to the scale of the pedestrian on the sidewalk, even though it is a fairly tall building slab placed up to the street. A similar massing to SOM's (Bundshaft) Lever House in NYC.

A memorable addition to Portland.


I am with you guys on the 'fractal' thing.
Brian I would add to your post by saying that the storefront is gorgeous! Love the Concrete , and it is a True Expression of the material , not like the brick that is just glued on.


Although I love the slender shape of this building and the window patterns, I'm disappointed by the use of brick and the very cheap looking red glass or plastic on the balconies. Holst has shown real adeptness with their use of materials, but it doesn't really come through here.


If I could afford it I'd buy one of these condos. This is my favorite building in the pearl. I like the red panels against the yellow brick, it's unexpected and has a real edge. And I love the shape of the concrete retail spaces at the ground floor, looking forward to who moves into them.


This is my favorite building in the area as well, and I also love the red balconies. Kind of reminds me of a photo I took of the multi-colored balconies on this building on the outskirts of Prague. There are some ruby red translucent panels on some of the units:



Just some clarifying comments - The red glass was custom laminated glass, and there is no plastic on the balconies, it's all glass and custom powder coated aluminum. There are also no walls that end in the middle of a window. The windows were extensively detailed so that a larger mullion was created to capture the wall. And the randomness of the brick was to be reflected in the mortar joints. The craftsmanship of the brick was excellent, especially given the constraints of the fractal pattern.


The wider mullions look awkward in the middle of the brick opening. See the bottom left window in the second to last picture.

Andy B

Judging from pictures, I actually like both the odd wide mullion and the vertical alignment of the bricks. Since contemporary bricks are most often not load-bearing, I think this particular coursing communicates what it is in most every modern building that uses it - ornament. ...Hopefully age doesn't start splitting the long vertical lines of mortar.

Brian Libby

If there's one consistent criticism I've heard during 937's construction, it's the small details having to do with the brick work, both its assemblage and its color. That's definitely something I could have touched on in the post, and probably should have since I was so effusive in praising the building overall. It's not perfect, but I still think it's a superb building overall.

henry g

i think 937 is the most hideous building in portland. why does every architect in portland worship holst?

its best to have the architect for the exterior be the same one for the interior, as was not the case for 937 with the column grid designed seperately from the skin. so now you have columns 4 feet out from the windows right in the middle of your living room. and nevermind the bedrooms without windows, is that even legal?

this building is all hype, maybe thats why hardly any have sold. just look at the building in the evening theres only a handful of lights on, plus during the open house a few months ago an entire floor was open to tour.

Brian Libby

Henry G,

It's completely fine if you don't like the building, but I don't think your arguments here hold water.

You seem to have an aesthetic argument against the building, which you call "hideous". What is it about the look you don't like? Do you think it should have more ornamentation, or it should not have the random window pattern? Is it the modernity that bothers you?

Also, an over-abundance of hype is not a legitimate explanation of why 937 has not sold well. Hello, worst economic conditions since the Great Depression! Might have an affect that you didn't mention.

The columns are a legitimate beef, but any concrete building is going to have columns. I don't think that having two architecture firms working on this is the proper reasoning for why this supposed deficiency might exist.

Again, you're completely welcome to not like 937, but I'd rather here some articulation of that rather than bluster.

Name here

The random window pattern is this buildings ornamentation.


"i think 937 is the most hideous building in portland. why does every architect in portland worship holst?"

Because different people have different tastes? Just a guess.


I love the building, and was seriously considering purchasing a unit. Looking at the price / ft, amenities, and finishes it's a pretty good value, even in these times.

The selection of brick color makes the building look pedestrian close up. They really should have picked a lighter color, or a brick with a more glossy finish. I was hoping they might have used a similar stone to what's on the metropolitan.

The fit and finish of the interiors is impeccable. Fixtures, finishes, and appliances are all of the highest quality. The quality of light coming in even the one-bedroom units is amazing. On the downside, there's very little architectural detail on the interior, making almost seem big-box-apartment. This does give you a clean slate, and probably makes them more sell-able, but I wish they'd carried something from the exterior inside - fractal layout of tiles, some red glass etc.

Overall, I still think it's one of the best condos in the Pearl yet.


Btw, I've been meaning to ask architecture fans in Portland what their favorite pieces in Portland are. 937 is far and away above my favorite larger building in the city. Most large buildings in Portland are, well, I don't know what they are. They just seem to be lacking thought and design. If 937 is the most hideous to some, which would be their favorites?

henry g

As for aesthetics and taste, this is definitely a love-it or hate-it building.

There is nothing random or natural about the design of this building. It has an identical column grid on each floor and only a few floor plans, most of which are identical to the floors above and below. This randomness would be more logical if at least every floor plan was different so that the skin was responding to the differences on each interior floor. Instead, the designers knew right from the start they wanted the building to have this particular appearance and then shoehorned the design of the 937 to fit this preconceived concept. The supposedly “random” window placements are all highly thought out by the design team merely to have this phony “random” themed look.

This engineered random look is highly trendy now and is hardly original. Always it is justified by pseudo-intellectual sounding talk, in this case about fractals, to impress people into thinking the concept is deep and profound. And as has already been said, 937 is hardly what a fractal really is. Even Holst’s renderings for the RAC a few blocks away look just like this building.

The single building mass and all the “random” windows just make the building appear even more massive and oppressive. I’m not the only one who thinks this, look in the Portland Architecture Guidebook for 937 (as for what it says in the book, this building is over half a block in length).

Most buildings with concrete columns locate them in logical places like against (or very close to) the exterior walls or interior walls. In the situation of 937 they are the perfect distance so as to obstruct the rooms and create awkward dead space.

It doesn’t help now that the building appeals to a single aesthetic taste, namely those who love minimalism. At least most of the other buildings in the neighborhood can appeal to range of tastes and décor including but not exclusively minimalism which certainly makes them more marketable. 937 does have a prime location to its benefit.

Sure I could say this kind of stuff about any building, its just that literally every architect and architecture critic in town goes crazy over this building, and Holst in general, showering praise and that is why I think it is over hyped.


I would love to "hype" some of your work. Please let us know where we can critique some of your projects.


After reading Henry's post, I took a look at the floor plans on their web site. While I did not see any windowless bedrooms, the floor plans are pretty much the same from floor to floor and the corner units do have a lot of awkward spaces created by the columns. The middle units were not as bad though.

I still really like the concept for the exterior design, the random appearance of the windows(fractal or not) and the simple minimalist podium. I just wish it was followed through better in plan, detail, and craftsmanship.

Holst has still lived upto their reputation in my opinion. They are the reason this project stands out dispite the aforementioned problems.


be sure to check out the interior lobby wall and mailroom artwork, which is a textural study of cracked earth, designed by osmose.

glass installation by esque


I have mixed feeling about the building overall (brick color, meh...red balconies, ugh) but LOVE that lobby wall...so striking! Sadly, as lovely as some of Esque's stuff is, it is straddling the border of pretentious and overpriced (ok, at $1,100 for an ashtray, maybe more than straddling) :-)


I don't know how I missed the windowless bedrooms; they were easy to find on a second look at the plans.

Some are called "bonus room", but if they are labeled "bedroom" they must have access to natural light through partial height walls or openings through walls that are not clear from the floor plans on their web site.

Again, I think the floor plan is lacking the appeal of the exterior concept.


Why does architecture have to be so black and white for everyone? I personally love minimalist architecture but I really don't care too much for 937. I love other Holst work. In a lot of ways, it seems architecture is diminished the taller it goes in todays times of cheap construction. (Since when have we been able to utilize terra cotta tiles like in the Flat Iron Building in New York?) The taller it is, the blander the architecture has to be for cost savings. I respect what Holst was trying to attempt. Mainly I don't like how the facade is just that, a facade study without too much thought on the hierachy of the rooms inside. I also feel the red glass is a little bit of an overkill. Why couldn't it have been red slots with clear glazing for the balcony? I think the red glass creates a boundary to the balcony while clear glazing opens the city to you - obviously from the residents perspective. (Plus, I'd rather not have to plan my living room color scheme based on an architects whim to use red glazing). That being said, I find a lot of buildings in the Pearl to be much more offensive with their decoration than I'm guessing a lot of people feel. I could complain on and on about it, instead I realize that's part of the city. Anyway, I enjoy finding a gem of architecture amongst the weeds. It makes it that much more beautiful.

no windows in second bedroom

isn't this a windowless bedroom?



Someone please point out the 2007 IBC code section that requires a second bedroom to have a window. Someone, anyone.


OSSC section 1205.2 Natural Light


ORSC R303 Light, Ventilation and Heating



Read the 1205.1 General paragraph just before 1205.2. It states "OR artificial light...". A condo tower such as this would is not subject to ORSC.

The trade-off here is that the "public" areas of the unit get more natural light than they would if both bedrooms had windows. Personally I cannot sleep if there is ANY natural light coming in.


Nice of emulsy to handle Roberts continuing education for him...


I think this building, although staying true to its form language and creating an interesting 2-D composition, is fundamentally built on a set of design values and rules that are flawed, trendy, untruthful and will not stand the test of time. For example, the random window pattern, while creating visual interest, seems to me a very simple facade cop-out. It has no relation to interior or exterior forces or constraints and seems to me to be a trendy little trick that is unfortunately appearing all over the world right now and will surely be left behind in 5 or 10 years. I will say the composition is balanced and effective, but it's not a graphic design project like an earlier comment noted. The off white brick seems a strange and heavy choice of materials (will not age well) that denotes structure and history, yet it wants to float and be lightweight and obviously is trying to speak to an aesthetic of today. The patios are also placed strictly to add interest to the facade, they seem too small to to be pleasant and does every unit have one? The base to the building is well designed and composed, yet has absolutely nothing to do with the body of the building. Also the building does not meet the sky in any meaningful manner. Granted this building is obviously the exact opposite of my preferred aesthetic, (expressive, structural, and honest materiality; think The Elliot) but I believe it is built on a set of rules and a philosophy that are not truthful and honest. It will therefore not stand the test of time, nor does it meet the standards of good design. Just my two cents, as always Brian, thanks for the report and keep up the good work.



You appear to be right. I have to say I am surprised that code allows a room to be called a bedroom without a window though.

I already mailed my CES info in for the year, but I guess my inexperience in condo tower design is on display for all to see.

I imagine the lack of a window would at least make the units a tough sell, except to the few people who do not like natural light in a bedroom.


Boring - I get it already. Some people like it (design students that excelled in school)
and some people don't (slackers that didn't spend anytime in studio).

Brian, please post another topic.


Only the very best architecture goes out of style.


Josiah, how exactly is the eLiot truthful and honest? or any other downtown condo built in the last ten years? it's all decoration over a developer's box - and none of it done as well as the 937. at least you should acknowledge the 937 has the best condo plans of any 200' wide condo in town. point towers like the casey, metropolitan, and benson have ample opportunity for light and corners, but the 937 is pretty inventive for maximizing the amount of windows each unit gets for such a long site. ever been in one of the shotgun shoebox units in the gregory or the elizabeth? i'll take a 937 unit with a windowless bedroom over that any day.


A friend just bought in 937, and he mentioned the sales track record, which is far better than other condo product that has come into the market in the past 16 months.

I went to the open house several months ago, and got to see several different units. The overall feel in the interior is great, due to the simple, refined finishes and the light, though I'd quibble with some layout choices (hard with so little wall space). As a one-person household, I had hoped to see some smaller unit options, which also could be more affordable to single people. Even the 1 bedrooms are quite spacious.

All minor points. It is without question visually distinctive and interesting in a great way. So much better than most market condo towers, aesthetically. Also, a nice eastern nudge toward the Park Blocks and Broadway, which I hope influences the boldness of design for those redevelopment projects to come.


I wonder why no one has mentioned the large inexplicably windowless rooms in these units. They have no windows and are being shown and sold as bedrooms. They seem unserviceable as bedrooms or offices and a waste of footage as a closets or storage rooms. I suppose a windowless space might appeal to someone but I am surprised that new construction planned for a windowless bedroom. Strange.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsors


Portland Architecture on Facebook

More writing from Brian Libby


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics

Awards & Honors