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horizontal wood: check

"eco" green-yellow accents: check

needlessly randomized facade: check

airy rendering with screened entourage and roof top solar array which will never get built because of cost overruns: check, check, check

maybe i am jaded, but i guess i am tired of these little flamboyant designs. everything from a tiny infill project to a quarter-block mid-rise has to be shouting "i am green look at my bamboo grove and wood siding". it's so predictable. though this omits the bamboo. i think we will look back at this time and really wish we had shown more stylistic restraint. how about a return to permanence and timelessness versus the seductive 3-D image. Note the complete anonymity of the project, it could just as well be mixed use, or a apartment building, or a condo. moreover, it easily could be plopped anywhere west of the Rockies. That said, i am reacting to the building as visual. as concept, it is wonderful that we are caring for those less fortunate than us, and anything is better than the empty lot which is there now.


I think it's Ikea aesthetics will be appreciated by all the out of work architects that'll soon be living there.


I could not agree more with the above poster on the design aspect of it.

With regard to the cost of this project, it sounds like Dave Otte of Holst is living in an altered state of reality. Given its 106,000 SF size, this project will cost almost $440/SF to build. At those prices, why not just start buying condos from Gerding's lenders? The city would save money and we could start housing people sooner rather than later...


The mass with punched windows gives the image a sense of solidity, and a sense of protection like a fortress. Is it protecting us on the street of what is inside or is it protecting what is inside from what is outside? It conjours up a pretty bad metaphor and not a good building type to apply it to. Doubt that is intentional. As well the vibration of window pattern is going to date our the architecture - trite. Too bad too much. Also at $400 - why not do a Living Building and save everyone some money, resources and make a BOLD statement????

Dave Otte

The construction cost is $28,750,000. That equates to $272/sf for a concrete building built with prevailing wages and many bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry facilities on very small floor plates. Each unit has a full kitchen and bath and is only 325 square feet.

There is no exterior wood on this project. The base is integrally colored, board formed, cast-in-place concrete.


Dave Otte
Holst Architecture


I think this looks like a handsome building - just what we've come to expect from holst...nice massing and proportions, a rich material palette with subtle hits of color, and an open inviting street frontage.


I am on the fence with this one...the renderings make it look like it could go either way. Either it will turn out surprisingly good and add some new life to that part of the city or it will stand out like some weird sore thumb.

Renderings can lie and looking at the rendering, this could easily turn into two giant concrete boxes that look even less inviting. If we are lucky, it will turn out as good as the Modero redesign...minus the Denise Corso interior design work of course.


Take a look at most of the lower income apartment buildings built in the downtown area over the past 10 years or so. Just about all of them look run down. They are built on the cheap with inexpensive materials that do not stand the test of time. This one will look great on day one, win a bunch of kudos, and then just look like crap a few years later.

How will this building be different?


I'm tired of hearing people use the term "timeless" with regard to architecture. There is no such thing in architecture or anything else.


Thanks for completely walling off one of the most prominent civic buildings in Portland which will now be hidden behind this block long slab. If there is one place for low height limits or preserved view corridors in Portland, its the views in the blocks immediately surrounding the Union Station clocktower.

Why couldn't this have been a full block low rise instead of a tower next to a vacant lot on the other half of the block?


Agreed, William. I would simply write this off as another bland new building if it weren't for the fact that it totally blocks one of Portland's most distinctive and beautiful pieces of architecture...a thumbs-down, I'm afraid.


The jiggled window pattern looks like the blurred view of someone who has one too many. Not the sort of imagery to associate with a homeless shelter. Has anyone else noticed that potential reference, or is it just me? It's a little dizzying just looking at the renderings.

And the huge, unarticulated block-long slab is reminiscent of Corbu's Marseille block, or 1960's HUD housing projects in Chicago, New york or many other cities, or the storage warehouses elsewhere in this district. Unarticulated slabs of this proportion tend to overpower the person on the street regardless of nice materials, landscaping and glass at the ground floor. A building with similar proportions to a warehouse doesn't present a dignified image for our homeless.

Architectural experiments are better suited to the affluent. For the less fortunate, perhaps a more modest, and less iconic expression would be better suited. Referring to the urban fabric of smaller scaled mixed use, and residential building types that once comprised China Town also might be more appropriate for the occupants as well as the rebuilding of the neighborhood.


great comment jonathan. all you can do honestly with architecture is be true to the moment and plan for the future. timelessness creates homogeneous sterility.

also, i'm glad that this project doesn't scream 'look! i'm a center for homeless people!' i'm glad it could be confused with an apartment or condo building. that's really all it is. i don't have first hand experience, but i'd guess that homeless people just want to fit in and have a place to stay until they get back on their feet.

Brian Libby

I disagree, Justin and Jonathan. If I or other people are over-using the word "timeless" and making it a cliche, that's indeed unfortunate. However, the concept of timelessness is a valid one. It means that a building has simple forms that appear attractive through the generations without its style and visual character seeming passe.

For example, Pietro Belluschi's Equitable building: timeless. No possible doubt about it. Michael Graves' Portland building: not timeless. It looks like a postmodern building from the 80s, and quite corny at that.

With the Resource Access Center, I believe the overall simple form and long, thin form to its facade may be timeless. The randomness of the window pattern? Too early to say. May not be timeless, but it's impossible to know.

I did pause, however, when reading William's comment about the RAC blocking views of Union Station. That would certainly be too bad.


At least visually, I like this building well enough. It shows how, when limited to a simple form, by slightly altering the conventional manner of using basic visual shapes such as the square and rectangle, energy can be allowed to liven a buildings appearance.

This is just a basic box shaped building with the usual column and row arrangement of its windows in the overall rectangular field of the buildings sides. The right angled insets in two sides of each window frees them slightly from the strict confines of the standard column and row arrangement, allowing them to dance cheerily across the building's face. The Marriot Courtyard hotel (recently written about on this blog)also used a variation of this technique in its exterior design.

Artists, graphic designers and illustrators use this technique in their work routinely, and people seem to love it. I think that in printing, this might be like putting an image slightly off register with successive passes to give that type work greater dimension and visual impact.

babcock expresses concerns about buildings that look bad soon due to poor use of cheap materials. I'd agree that it's important to watch that. Portland has examples of how concrete hasn't been used so wisely.

re; blocking views of the Union Station clock tower from surrounding blocks? This is only a seven story building...hardly a tower(The Ladd up in the South Park Blocks....twenty-two some stories....that's a tower.). Union Station's clock tower will still be visible from other angles.

re; Union station: I wish someone could be allowed to open up a decent coffee shop and a book shop in there.


wow , great thoughts all , this is when pdxarch is rewarding.
thanks , brian
1 [why not just buy the encore and you can move our distressed folks in this week]
2 [+we can bag the yuppy/puppy poop park idea and put in a huge-asz veggie garden]


I disagree. There is no building that is timeless. Just because you like a building and find it simple and elegant doesn't mean that it exists outside of time. I happen to like Belluschi's building, but it is no less a part of its age in materials and form than any other building.

what you are suggesting is that there are universal truths surrounding beauty. Architecture is not religion. I prefer my buildings to feel dated.


Not sure how one can say Holst's work is timeless, all their work looks dated to the 1960s. I agree completely Laurence you put your finger on it... it does look just like a long monolithic HUD housing project with an oppressive looking exterior used to warehouse people. And it even has the atomic era color accents of lime green and turquoise. Will there be a nuclear fallout shelter in it too to keep with the Cold War era theme?


I think it looks great. Having lived in a former Eastern Bloc country - this is much nicer than the Soviet buildings build during the cold war :)

#1: I really don't see how this building screams look at me, but if it did, all the better. I mean "look at me" was the main theme of many architecture periods in the past - Gothic, Baroque, Victorian - all filled to the brim with ornaments. I don't think we have nearly enough "look at me" buildings.


I think Holst's recent work is beginning to expand the architectural vocabulary of Portland and that is a very good thing.


With all respect to everyone, I really don't see how this building is anything more than a punched slab - it has the scale and pattern of jail or nuthouse. I am not sure how the glass at the base improves this. maybe it adds some tension to the levatating mass above it, but I would not say this improves the building. Timeless and expanding architectural vocabulary of Portland - for real? I think the work has become stale, and the language used in this latest design seems out of touch with people it is serving - nevermind the city and that it becomes a permanent piece of the fabric of our city - that is disappointing.


"With all respect to everyone, I really don't see how this building is anything more than a punched slab - it has the scale and pattern of jail or nuthouse." ka

The purpose of the building is to help meet the needs of people that find themselves homeless. Doesn't that purpose play a role in determining the criteria for expense set aside for design and materials for such a building? Marble, granite or other expensive stone: scratch. Radical architectural design requiring expensive construction: scratch.

This is a building with a roof that shouldn't leak, walls, and windows. Not too bad if you've been homeless, living in a doorway or under a bridge. "...scale and pattern of jail or nuthouse.". Maybe. Or, what about a college dormitory? Well, living in one of those can be a nutty experience...that's for sure.


Well no one should sit down thinking they are going to design something "timeless" or a "masterpiece." That is what an ego driving bad designer does, and I hope it isnt what Holst does with any of there projects.

Architecture is about experimenting and trying ideas that you have been thinking about and wondering how they could be applied and integrated into the world.

It is only after the building is done that it can earn a name as timeless or masterpiece.


experiment on people who have a choice. the poor souls who end up here will be at the mercy of the state. it is cruel when we choose self aggrandizement over humanity.


umm, anything that involves trying to figure out how to handle homelessness and to improve on the quality of life for the less fortunate is always an experiment...if it wasnt, we would already have the perfect formula to take care of these issues.

Doug Klotz

Sorry I got to this thread late. "Your best work at the pedestrian level". Please. Harshly angled slabs of concrete (which originally blocked all views inside from Broadway and didn't meet the ground floor window standards), broken up by plain unarticulated glass? Like many modern buildings, there are no pedestrian-scaled elements. It's meant to be read while driving by at a speed faster than is allowed on NW Broadway. Where is there any detail that will reward the pedestrian? Will there be details in the window wall supports?

What a contrast to the hierarchy of different scaled forms on the old Federal Building diagonally across the street. On that building, there are forms to be read from 1000 feet away, from 100 feet away, from 10 feet away, and (with the classical sculptures on the ground floor window mullions) from 1 foot away! (although they're a little high up except if you're at the entrance).


I appreciate the intent behind the Linked Hybrid inspired colored window treatments, to give uniqueness to each window and express the individuality of each resident behind. However, I feels like falls short in providing enough visual interest to detract from the brutalist massing.

With regards to the massing, what is the concept behind the two "slabs" other than to just break down the scale of an otherwise massive rectangle extruded 7 stories? How do the two masses differ from each other and shouldn't that inform the window treatments? Maybe views or solar orientation could be considered with respect to this.

There should be some sort of dialogue between (or methodology behind) the relationships of the two masses. Maybe a hierarchy is set up. I can start to see this happening at the ground floor, but the rest of the building leaves much to be desired.


Sadly, Portland has given up the fight. We have lost the once culturally vibrant China Town, the inspired historical context lead by A.E. Doyle and the modern innovation of Pietro Belluschi. With this commission, I fear the PDC has finally given up on the advancement of design altogether. Perhaps we welcome sending a message for more vagabonds to come and stay in our city. FYI Portland - We are known as a homeless destination!

Lazy projects like this paired with our complacency to allow the endless glittering [or rather, just plain littering] of glorified food cart trailer parks in our once refined downtown core is appalling, aka not "cool". Shantytown Chic is not a design aesthetic befitting my vision of Rose City. Just because we are economically challenged, doesn't mean should look it.

Although a certain group of talented design professionals might not favor the Cob & Earthworks projects found on corners across from their offices, at least these contemporaries of said designers don't try to over intellectualize lipsticking a pig. Come on Holst, break out of Revit design, for we know you are capable of better! And maybe consider asking Denise Corso to help you figure out how to better this one, too.


ha ha ha ha...that's awesome.
Those earthworks projects have provided a wonderful gathering spot for the morning prostitutes. Perhaps mie.d.n should visit the work for post occupancy evaluations.
And while referring to the collaborations, you may want to talk to the clients about who played what roles...
can't please 'em all.

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