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"It would be unfair to judge a building so innovative and so green on its exterior aesthetics."

Really? Why? I think it's hideous.


I'm not a fan of the 'colliding curves' aesthetic to begin with, but the building looks pretty bad...

Maybe the curving walls look better in plan..?


very 90s office building... not a very inspiring effort to say the least. shouldnt the buildings exterior reflect being "innovative and green" as well? excluding of course the well thought out trees on the roofs in the rendering... now i dont want to just be a hater, knowing how much thought and effort has gone into getting to this point but i think an opportunity is being lost.


"It would be unfair to judge a building so innovative and so green on its exterior aesthetics."

So its okay for a building to look like shit as long as it is green? I'm sorry but that mentality is a major cop out. Building design and sustainability should not be mutually exclusive.

In my opinion a building that is putting itself forward as a world-class center of excellence in sustainable design should be held to an even higher standard of aesthetics, not given a free pass.

That being said, the rendering does not give me the warm fuzzies about this project.


My initial thought of this design is the trees on the 3-tiered podiums are OK, however the trees at the very top should be eliminated - they look out of place that high up on the building facade.

The sculptural form and massing of the building structure certainly is unique - but the roof component appears to be too large, a heavy-looking element with respect to the main building below.


Without an understanding of the program which has driven the aesthetics of this building, it seems unfair to judge. Elements such as the large roof plane support an array of PVC panels which help power this building. Remember this is one of the first of its kind in the US to be net-Zero or better yet, to be adding energy back into the grid. This calls for every element to be functional as well as being part of a larger aesthetic. The fragmentation of this building is obviously the product of it being a 'machine for creating/conserving energy' and to this end it reads that way. Also beware that this may be nothing more than marketing fluff which does not precisely reflect the final project design.


Well the curve of the building is to help reduce the effect wind has on the building, which makes sense...overall, I like the direction that this is going.

I will have to agree that the PVC roof plane looks like it is more of an add-on...I think they should take more consideration in making that look as if it is apart of the design of the building in section and not plan.

As for the tree high up looking out of place? that really doesnt bother me...trees that look out of place are the ones that are 2/3rds the way up the PacWest tower...now those couple trees look odd.


Dennis...what difference does the wind make on the building?

The whole thing looks looks very corporate and uninspired.


I agree that it is a major cop out to not judge the appearance of a building because supposedly it is "so green." As many commenters her have observed in previous posts, a really green solution to this programmatic need would be to reuse an existing structure or at least add onto it. This particular rendering is a pastiche of conventional corporate forms and watered down "contemporary" trends and hopefully will never see the light of day. We need an example of a desirable future, not a better mousetrap.


Aneeda, think about it, wind is a force. If this building was a typical building, it would be more rectangle shaped...thus would mean the wind would be putting force on a flat surface...rounding a building makes it easier for wind to go around the building and applies less force on it, thus reducing the amount of materials that would be needed in construction...thus reducing the building's carbon footprint.


worst building ever.


I really wanted our local team to pull this off, but this is shockingly bad and very disappointing.


wow - i was expecting something great, and a more regular understated building that filled the site. the curved shape might capture more solar and push wind around the form, but i am beginning to think a more a more contextual building would have been way better and less bizzare. it sounds like with all the constraints, financial and environmental, that there still must be a huge amount of work ahead. one hopes.


I am tired of seeing trees being stuck on buildings, ok we get it, it is "green" and it's good for you, see, it has trees on it.
I am sure there are other technical innovations inside, but it is beginning to look like a cliche (and a condescending one at that)
Is there a lack of trees in the Pacific Northwest?


I love how architects always draw trees 20' high or so. Go outside and look at how big trees really are. If the trees at the sidewalk we drawnm at their proper height, there would be no need to add all the additional trees at the different levels. But drawing the trees accurately would obscure the architecture wouldn't it?


what a disaster.


Ahhh wwwhats wwwwrong architects not boxy enough for you? No 70's Holst wood panels, or useless boxy punch outs? It must be scary not dominating nature with a box.

Its not perfect, but at least its trying to work within a shape more in line with nature. One side benefit we won't have to listen to the tired "its a jewel box with simple clean lines" on this one. I'd like to see the function of the building lead form a little better, but this is a start.


Hmm, I don't find anything offensive in the form itself, but the cladding literally looks like someone took the Best Buy HQ walls (here in MN, google it) and wrapped it around a cylindroid. Super corporate. It would be nice to see some depth in it, something that expresses some sort of passive mitigation of the elements or something. Maybe a R.Piano-like facade study is in order?

Also, trees in renderings are green-wash. Aren't low-lying plantings lighter, cheaper to maintain, and just as effective at runoff control?


I trust that the programming and systems are sound, however this render portray's a building that appears to be far behind the global competition in regards to architecture. Where is the solar shading? Why is a conventional curtain wall being used? This appears to be an conventional office building with "sustainable" components tacked on. I was at the Cal Trans bulding in Los Angeles yesterday, Morphosis's approach to sustainable building design in comparison is far more advanced.

I can't help but think of the Portland Building when i look at this render. This direction will stand as a permanent global icon of the misuse of sustainability by developer driven teams. Not too different than the token wind turbines that will grace the crown of the 12w building soon.

My only hope is that the feasability phase becomes the program for a design competition. This is the only hope for us to achieve a a truly progressive building, or at least one that will not tarnish our reputation.


seems like the same people with the same bunch of old and tired negative sentiments pushing their own agenda. my opinion is the rendering is probably showing the glass more reflective than it really it is giving it that "corporate" calling. relaxxxx a little naysayers. there are other renderings out there that look a bit different. i was at the presentation, and it is difficult to give much merit to such heavy criticism without much context. i left inspired by the aspiration and the design at this early stage - much more to go, as well as options for sure. if you were there you would have heard about the cost alone, so to say this is off the shelf and uses all the ordinary and predictable components then you are uninformed. likely we will end up with a box, as that usually prices out...and then we can rally against the decorated box. maybe there will be a zing here and zang there. for instance the PV that covers this building is 60,000 sf and the most productive is the roof at 18K, so to make net-zero you should brace yourselves for a huge PV array and roof. This might make us a little uncomfortable, but we have to change the way we look at form. That was described by the team, and though you can tweak the variables, they are the exact metric and "consequence". each of us can be subjective and articulate about our feelings, but it helps to know a little more about what you are actually looking at, so question rather than armchair criticize.


And is something wrong with the scale figures?.... The people at the corner of the building seem huge in relation to the other people and the max train... Not a big deal, just an observation...


albert, trust us that we know as much as you do about the project - and it's as bad as we are saying.

wake up call - you guys hired the wrong team.

and since it was so obviously an inside job from the get go, good luck getting real talent to go after the job during the next phase. might as well hand it over to edlin and put the thing up.

but please at least change the roof so we don't have to suffer TWO rose garden arenas...one is bad enough.


Ben, I am as shocked as you at the roof - it is HUGE! What were they thinking? But I understand it does have to be a certain size, but maybe wind power would be a more appropriate scale? Too bad the Rose Garden arena does not have PV on it, nor faces south like this building. The Rose Garden arena is a floppy pancake. I don't see the obvious similarities that you see, but oh well. And really could the other teams especially from out of town given the same attention to the project or solved the ridule any easier. I am not convinced.


quite embarrassing really. while the team may have the "green" credentials (laudable yes), it is sorely lacking on the design side (though i do think gbd did well with the ohsu sowa building).

portland really perplexes me sometimes, progressive (sustainability) but very provincial and conservative (architecture) at the same time...


i understand what everyone's saying about green buildings needing to be well designed, but in its defense, show me one 13 story building that looks beautiful and doesn't look like corporate architecture, in portland or not. aside from perhaps a handful of projects worldwide, towers as a building type are always corporate in nature.


Please let it NOT look like the Cal Trans building...that thing looks like a reject from Total Recall...we don't need something that looks like a prison downtown


Ugh. What a turd. They chose the usual suspects of GBD and Gerding Edlen over Behnisch? Unbelievable.

Here's a non-corporate looking 13 story building by the team that we didn't choose

jeff d

Denco - with all respect - is that beautiful to you? I do not see it, and would suggest this further demonstrates that beauty is highly subjective - thank you for sharing. It is a bohemith - maybe it is 13 floors high, but it is also huge. Also it is worth mentioning for all the techno-wizzards that love the Cal-Trans building, looking like a robot landed in the city aside, the people that work there hate it! Object for ego, or object for people - you judge.

Fred R

Denco, Boxy transformer building. What a surprise.

I think many in the architectural community get nervous when you break out of the box form. Curves and circles are scary to western thinking. The box must dominate, right now the "fashionable" thing is to make the domination as clean and strait as possible. The natural curve works with nature instead of dominating and controlling. I bet the loss of control to an ego driven industry must drive many batty. I think as we work toward a more sustainable future architectural form will begin to follow by leaving the dominate box form behind for a more flowing form that actually works with nature rather then boxing it in.


I'm with Jeff on this one- I left the presentation inspired by this initiative! And further more, I would love to see a show of hands of the people who really believe that they have a comprehensive enough understanding of what this project entails that would entitle them to such extreamist opinions. I think many of your assertation are overly simplistic and poorly defined. More than anything, I guess I don't really see how all of this hating is a step in the right direction... Why not some suggestions from the peanut gallery? Cascadia sponsored the Living Building Challenge, whihc was open to ALL ARCHITECTS- Did any of you submit? Your comments are as useless if not intended for progress. Don't watch, get dirty.


I'm usually pretty tough on the downtown office architecture, but for what it's worth, I actually like the rendering. Just compare it to the awful buildings surrounding it. It will help to mitigate the all the 60's concrete towers. Plus, I'm a big fan of buildings integrating vegetation into the design. I think it's a trend, and a good one. It's a great aesthetic, adds to the quality of life in the building, and creates a more verdant skyline. If nothing else, it's the trees downtown that make Portland beautiful.

eric cantona

i question the placement of trees on the upper floors. from a sustainable viewpoint it would seem logical to have plant material at upper terraces, but i would think that there are less soil-intensive ways of accomplishing the same ends (shrub massings or vines come immediately to mind). trees will require quite a bit of soil depth, which will add tremendous weight to the structural calcs (you have to design to saturated weight), which in turn adds material and cost.

i do love that the renderer of the image used people with gigantism in their graphic. that's so PC!


it is amazing how much difference is at stake to change how we build architecture, and we turn to criticize the ghosted figures in the rendering, or the elementary description of saturated soil and the impact on the soil weight. wow - sounds like an expert. one word - duh! How does this contribute to the progress of the merits and ethics of the Living Building Challenge.? Seems pretty small thinking in light of all this represents for the community - architects included - to gain from this study. Maybe we are bored, or sour grapes for not having the jesus of designers come save our small town.


"We should also keep in mind, however, that the rendering above is just that. It's one rendering. This is not the final design, nor is it a complete look at the building."

Unfortunate that this same rationale does not apply to the Tri-Met bridge discussions.


"or the elementary description of saturated soil and the impact on the soil weight. wow - sounds like an expert. one word - duh! How does this contribute to the progress of the merits and ethics of the Living Building Challenge.?"

Higher loads means more structure. More structure means more material. More material means more embodied energy involved. You know, something probably pertinent to the "merits and ethics of the Living Building Challenge."

eric cantona


philippe sauvie

This project could really benefit by having the rendering produced by a professional who can accurately depict,edit and inspire!

Brian Libby

That's an excellent point, Phillippe, my professional renderer friend!



"Being great green architects and being the conjurers of aesthetic beauty do not always go hand in hand."

How can anyone possibly be considered a "great green architect" if they don't produce great architecture?

Isn't that like saying that "aesthetic beauty" is a superficial veneer-or style- applied to a building? The whole idea of "form follow function" is that a building should be conceived as a whole— giving form to mechanical, structural, social, economic, civic and emotional functions. "Aesthetics" is a matter of "fit" as well as "beauty" - like the aesthetics of a beautifully engineered bridge.

There are beautiful "green" buildings out there - maybe more in Europe than here. But the public has to demand that level of quality, not settle for less.


i agree with you ellen. i am not sure that has really been the issue at hand in the numerous posts. obviously some don't like the current design, but to say that a green architect or architecture has some how a free pass to excuse beauty in their work is conjecture. I personally like the form of the proposed building. I think it was not well presented in this blog. The cut and paste from the executive summary does not do it justice. It requires each of us to seek out the real answers. The solutions to this building are different in many ways, and many of us do not have the capacity to value that beauty without greater understanding of the meaning and consequences to how the form is shaped. again - i was at the presentation it was inspiring - a single rendering to somehow tell such a complex story is a stretch. i know each has their own opinion, some seem rather embeded with emotion, but again how many have actually tried to meet the living building challenge in an urban setting with a high-rise? it seems more like the peanut gallery throwing tomatoes. This is a pursuit all designers should push and shape, then maybe there can be some richer dialog about beauty.

Brian Libby

Albert, I appreciate your comments, even if I don't come out very favorably in them. I admit there was somewhat of a cut-and-paste approach. But as always, I'm trying to start conversations here. I don't want to give you a sob story, but it takes a lot of time to report on all these different issues and also make a living as a freelance journalist. I have to spread myself thin sometimes, and cut-and-paste stories that I'd like to spend lots of time interviewing people for. I felt it would be helpful to show readers a bit of the report, and that would enable a dialogue that otherwise might not happen. Doesn't that count for something?


I think this could largely be a case of a bad graphic. If you look through the report the image on page 10 is a much more striking representation. From the view provided in the article above it looks like the the rose garden was fused to the bastard child of the Capital record building and the fox tower. Based on the diagrams and maquette models of the concept it COULD be the building we all hope it to be. We all know these 2 firms have the talent to design a good building, but every firm is also capable of doing bad work. I'm going to withhold judgement until the design development is a little further along because I see promise in the aerial view, but the street view provided is not the image the designers should want representing the project right now. The images should be sexy and sizzle and provide a strong idea of the overall feel of the building. This is merely an export from sketchup with some trees and figures added in. I can understand peoples aprehensions based on the above image, so please design team, give us the "IT" shot. Let us see the building through your eyes and all the glory that it can be because we can't see the vision as of yet.

jeff d

an aerial can be found here from the presentation


The problem is the architects are using the same old vocabulary - building a better mousetrap. I realize it is setting the bar high to demand something new, a visual language that will express a new sensibility, but isn't that what this project is supposed to be about?



You stated... "We all know these 2 firms have the talent to design a good building, but every firm is also capable of doing bad work."

I question whether these two firms have the talent to design a good building. Especially since the selection committee back in March said something similar. While describing and rating each shortlisted team, under weaknesses the committee wrote "Compared with other finalists, least likely to produce architectural design that is especially powerful, compelling and provocative."

justin cloyd

Regarding ellen's comment about a new sensibility: I agree that we should be setting the bar high, but I'm not sure about this project marking a new sensibility. I've always though of green architecture as a response to the air tight buildings that we've had for the past 60ish years. In many ways, we're just remembering how to do many of the things that were done before, even if we have better tools now.

It's interesting that Portland has Belluschi's Commonwealth Building, the first to be completely sealed and fully air-conditioned, and can potentially have the first high-rise living building. It's taking a while, but the trend is being reversed.

I absolutely loved the earlier comment about form following function with many green buildings. I'm glad I'm not the only one that's started to realize this. Can I coin it Eco-Functionalist right now? It's becoming the synthesis of functionalism and a connection with nature in large buildings.

Here I am coining a new term for the architecture while at the same time saying that it's not new architecture. I guess that means I'm on the fence about the movement. As long as it doesn't become historicized and Michael Graves doesn't win a design competition I'll be happy about whatever the building looks like.


Everyone needs to remember that this is a feasibility study. This effort should not attempt to prescribe a final design. The design as shown is just one proof of the project's feasibility.


I'll admit I'm not familiar with the full history of this project. Does anybody know what the next step is with this? Does GBD/Sera/GE continue on it? Is there a further RFP or something? Or would there be a competition of some sort?


The feasibility study shows the timeline for the future phases. GE has only been awarded this feasibility study, however, based on the experience of the previous selection, I would highly doubt anyone will waste time submitting for any future RFP's.

David, the problem I see with your thinking is that this feasibility study includes preliminary budgets for the building and everything associated with that...soft costs including architect and consultant fees, research, furniture and fixtures...those numbers are based on the building that is being shown in these renderings. That then becomes very limiting. I don't think we can expect sweeping changes, which is what I think this design would require to be even remotely attractive, and actually sustain a life long enough to outlive it's technologies.


I'm really going to hold off judgement until I see a good graphic of the building. The aerial image from the feasiblity study on page 10 seems to be the beginning of an interesting piece of architecture, but the "IT" shot the designers have provided don't even hint at the potential of what I see in the aerial shot. Even the inital concept models have more going on than this initial image. I think GBD and SERA have the talent to provide a great building if given the chance and freedom to do so. However I am reserving judgement until I see the sexy building shot that this project needs to get the people interested, not this sketchup export with a little photoshop work. It looks like the rose garden was plopped on top of the bastard child of the Capital Records building in LA and the Fox tower and I know that's not the visual you were going for. come on guys I know you can do better than that even on a time crunch. Illustrate the building, please, so we can share in your vision of what this building is.Right now the graphics aren't doing you any favors. (I'd like to apologize to the person who created the above rendering if I've offended you but I've done renderings for a while and I believe we only get better with honest critcism. This is not the level of work I would expect to be published for such an important building; team meetings and initial client presentations yes, but not something the press should have. So I'm asking you to challenge yourself and teammates to step it up a notch to communicate clearly what the design vision really is for the building then we can disuss the merits of it's design in an informed way)


my bad for posting twice... didn't see my original post so "recreated " it. Flame away at my ineptitude please :)

Truth: I disagree with the statment that the firms do not have the talent. I know people who work at both GBD and SERA and there IS a lot of talent there and they do make good buildings. I would say most firms in town have the talent they just aren't always given the chance to show it.


they make good buildings. they don't make great buildings.

this WAS their chance and they blew it.


You cannot please everyone, especially Ben, and he must have too much time on his hands to be such a pisser. As someone said before - the post was not very well set up, and it has just opened the floodgate for people to voice negative comments, rather than constructive comments or for that matter gain something from the exercise. I hope to gain something from their work and improve and include the lessons in my own work, and then I can throw back at all the others that are just talking instead of acting. At least I will be doing something.


We've got to keep in mind this is a feasibility study. Which means is it feasible to move forward on this site, with this set of assumptions? They're still miles away from a schematic design package much less a completed set of design documents. Instead of bashing them let's give them a little time to show their stuff. It's called "the design PROCESS" for a reason.


LewDAChris is correct in that process does have a lot to do with the outcome of a building. Unfortunately many of the firms in town, particularly the larger ones tend to skip a step in the process and go directly from feasibility to CD's. It's a bottom line equation to keep their huge overheads in the black. Skip a couple phases in order to make CD's highly profitable. No, I'm not kiddin'.


Yeah, we'll just sit back, shut-up and let them fuck this project up. That's productive. I'd give them the benefit of the doubt if either firm had a body of work that showcased the potential that LewDAChris is so confident his friends have. Most people in town probably probably know people at both of those firms, doesn't mean I have to trust their design acumen.
I also think the argument that it's just bad renderings is BS. Just because you can make it look pretty graphically, doesn't make a nice building.
You can blame the intern handling the rendering, you can blame the blogger for post, but gosh don't blame the designer. Couldn't be their fault.
I'm also tired of some posters having a problem with criticism, deal with it.


if the feasibility study is hideous, what is the thing going to look like once they actually have to figure out the details??

in my humble opinion, of course.

and jeffd, how do you know i'm all talk and NOT doing something about it in my own work? this is a blog post about a specific project - one that i think is a real lost DESIGN opportunity for this city. the last time i got this upset was about the awful powell's building proposal. when i see something bad that i think is going to hurt us all in the portland design community, i say something - even if i say it behind the cowardly mask of anonymity that is "ben".

want "constructive criticism"? the project partners should take these findings and use them as a framework for a well managed and funded competition by invitation. bring back the other short list teams, pay them a modest stipend, and see what they would propose aesthetically given the surely sound technical work that GBD and SERA did.

if, after this exercise, the GED team still has the best building, then we can all feel good about the project and i'll eat my hat.


I think we've all heard what people DON'T like about this rendering, what DO people want to see in this project...specifically?

jeff d

brian - do us a favor and at least post another couple of renderings of the project up here for us to see. The project blog has them, but it probably wouldn't hurt to put them here and make it easier for people to at least understand more about the massing and the energy solution. one person even thought it was not a green building because it did not have sunshades. I believe we are looking at the north elevation. Maybe meanwhile Ben and Truth can get together and talk about how shitty it is to be them and let others give some feedback with better understanding.


Until this is built in one form or another all we have to go on is the renderings of the building and models. So yeah I'm relying on well presented renderings to form my opinion. IF, once I get a better feel for the true nature of the design, and it's not good then I'll say the design needs work. But i don't think you really judge the value of a novel on a couple of pages. I want to see the big picture idea. I have faith in people, and want to see them do the best work they can and will push them if I think they can truly do better. Constructive criticism is much different than saying "they're going to F it up". How would you change it besides hiring someone else? Let's have some examples or direction like Scott says. I respect you're right to voice your opinion but it doesn't help the architecture or Portland just to say it sucks. If you feel that passionately about it then I'm sure you've got wonderful ideas for the design team that could be helpful if they're willing to hear them. Either way I look forward to your criticisms about my faith in my friends and colleagues in the profession and keeping this discussion going.


Turns out that the $35/sf rent required to make the project pencil out is causing several of the "tenants" to reconsider their ability to afford it. So, most sustainable equals most ugly and most expensive?


that is not most expensive when you consider it does not have utility bills and will be stop on any tourbus. and it is not ugly - I think it is stunning, and all the moves we see in current Portland is rather fashionable - at least the design of this building has greater meaning - the top has a function - a real function. The twist is shown in the skin rather than applied. Many are uncomfortable, and that is natural - the building should not look like anything else you have seen.


that's the problem jerome - it looks like everything we saw ten years ago.


Jerome, I pay $17.50/s.f including utilities, and our building is going through the process of getting certified Platinum through the LEED EB program. We do not get tour buses, however.

I agree with Ben, except for the ten year part - I would extend that to 30 years. It has many elements of '70's architecture.


i disagree with you ben - again the parts of the building that you see are truly functional. that big ass top is functional - show me a building in the 70's that had such a bold move and was actually doing something? show me a building in the 70's, 80's or even 90's that garnered it's own energy. Anywhere, and half as big? 17.50/sf is awesome, and you probably are not in what is considered a class A office building either, nor are you downtown? are you?



Our building is in the heart of downtown, probably more central than the OSC site. It is not a class A building, but serves all of the tenants well. I would consider this a case for the thoughtful rehabilitation of older structures as a more "sustainable" option that building new, especially when the value of the embedded energy of construction is concerned.

Regarding banal "solar" architecture of the 1970's as a precedent for the OSC design, one need look no further than the CitiCorp tower in Manhattan - follow the path below to see how a really bland building was justified by the "functional" solar top. It even has many similar aspects to OSC on the ground floor in that it floats above the ground to let the public space flow through. Both the top and the street level design of Citicorp are widely recognized as a failure, so it is disconcerting to see OSC follow in its' footsteps. Have we learned nothing over the past 32 years?



well..that definitely has a sloped top. not even close to net zero, so the top is not really driven by that, but i get your message about the top being overdone and explained by function, but not really the same nor close. this is a big building, and to wholesale discount having an open ground floor is a stretch to compare the two. The OSC certainly has a 1/4 the site area and further constrained, so I don't believe for a second that it will have the same disasterous impact on the pedestrian. I think the design is very complex, and you have to look deeper. The form has to be daring to pull off what it is doing - I get it, and appreciate the honesty of it.

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