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Why not the promotion of preserving the Custom House or Solomon Courthouse to the fullest extent possible (like many here strongly advocate for the Memorial Coliseum) instead of trying to shoehorn it into something radically different and destroying its design integrity?

Brian Libby


Great question. My thinking on this was that the Custom House and Solomon Courthouse were more or less office buildings, and thus could be renovated in a way that was, while highly sustainable, also would preserve the architectural integrity and history. If I'm wrong about that, and turning either of these into the OSC home would necessitate gutting them, than I'd back off my suggestion. But that's the key question to me on a renovation: would it preserve and celebrate what originally was good about the building? In the case of Memorial Coliseum, it's a little different because the bowl-in-the-box design is so fundamentally a part of the building's architectural character.


what about ZGF? Can you explain to us how ZGF found their way into the list of the elite? You seem to have focused on SERA. For the OSC, that has to be the worse image of the project I have seen, and your personal opinions aside, this project is so much more.

Brian Libby


You're right that I focused on SERA here much more than ZGF. Originally I was going to write specifically about SERA based on having interviewed Clark Brockman about his firm getting on the list, but wanted to include ZGF as well.

Perhaps I shouldn't have have called the OSC in that rendering "ugly". Believe me, I understand that this is a special project that is about much, much more than aesthetics. And I don't mean to take away from the achievement these architects are making in designing an office building that meets Living Building Challenge standards. That is HUGELY impressive!

But the reason I love architecture is that it is always a marriage of the practical and the poetic, of science and art. There's no doubt in my mind that the OSC is hitting an absolute home run when it comes to the science. I just worry that, based on the renderings we've been shown so far, that the project may be lacking when it comes to the artful, poetic side of architecture. Naturally, visual aesthetics aren't strictly quantifiable, so this is all my opinion. I'm not the only one, though.

If there's another rendering that reveals the OSC to be more aesthetically compelling than I've given it credit for, I'm more than happy to change it out. But I got the rendering you see in this post from the front page of the OSC website. If it's an outdated image, it's the one they're making the face of the outreach effort.

Scott Tice



Hey Brian,
Thanks for the response. I am not sure why the OSC group would use that image as their moniker. I personally prefer the helicopter view looking North. Eventually the architects will have to realize the synthesis of the science and the art and I personally can't wait to see that when more time is given. As far as ZGF goes, I am not as familiar with the green work that they have done that would put them in such standing - aside from 12W? As well, this is not an unbiased survey by any means - the design firms that are on this list pursued it. This takes a marketing campaign that many other firms could not afford or chose not to.


Helicopter views are great (for hiding ugly designs).


haha Mo - you are funny! They are also good for showing the level of resolution.


If one wants to be 'sustainable'
one should start with re-purposing
an existing structure. The U of O
showed us how to do it in Old Town.
Building a new structure demands huge amounts of embodied energy , that will take centuries to earn back with efficient toilets....

 Money Is Green Too

They actually are pretty darn ugly- like mechanical engineers designing palaces. I can't understand how heavily subsidized buildings pricing out at $500+/sf are sustainable. As test-beds they have merit, but let's not bruise ourselves just yet with all of the pats on the back. I'll be interested to see how meaningful technology and conceptually rigorous design can synthesize into something a little more compelling.


I love both designs and I am sure the real projects built will bring a huge opportunity for the "designers" and local economy to benefit from. If you are not an architect then you cannot appreciate the challenge both the Edith Green and Oregon Sustainability REALLY represent, so the opinions of "ugly" could be better focused to the crap that is built and lacks the intellegence of a well integrated design approach. Go big and go green, which will bring green to the city. What else in the urban core can you point to that is aspiring to this?


careful getting off that high-horse Kane.
regardless of the "well integrated design approach" the design for the OSC is still f-ugly...or maybe it's because of. Green doesn't make it good.


i am blown away by your enlighted insight. Then again, you should know everything - truth and lies. Seems we are a little full of ourselves. Good thing for the rest of us your truth does not have to be the real truth, but only within your own galaxy. Green does not make it good! You should try better to understand a new language to architecture. This is not form driven architecture of the resurrected post-modern, but rather an environmental response to sustain itself. Small steps in the right direction, and when we chose to make buildings more integrated into their place we will realize new forms to deliver it - I don't see the engineer driven solution, but then again you seem to know the truth.


One should note that the arbitrary metrics for these lists Architect publishes are a little... arbitrary. VJAA as most decorated in the US? Pretty sure Office dA has them beat, but didn't report correctly or something. Olson Kundig or Kieran Timberlake not even ranking? I think it's all in how/when an office decides to participate in these things. But whatever, it serves for heated discussion. It's like when a media magazine published a most essential album list every year.


The "new language" of green doesn't excuse poor proportions, lack of scale, awkward palettes, and forced solutions...but marketing departments are great for covering those things up.


Kane, it's unfortunate if you consider some basic tenets of architecture like scale and proportion simply "form driven architecture of the resurrected post-modern." I want no part of any "new language" that considers those factors unnecessary. Perhaps you are getting lost in your own rhetoric. Intelligence is not required to create nor should it be required to understand or "appreciate" good architecture, as you seem to imply in your earlier post.


I should clarify/edit that last statement a bit...it does take intelligence to create a complete piece of architecture...that is beautiful, functions well etc...but understanding and experiencing that work should not require the same intelligence or any for that matter.


This has been interesting exchange to read. On one hand I don't think this design is world class, and not sure Kane is suggesting so. And truth spouts elementary architecture like a student. ouch - you can't handle the truth! I think the building is fine, especially given what stage it is at. Lighten up truth. I would guess there is plenty of other crap to piss on this wonderous city.


I'm with JJay here - this exchange is interesting to read and at the same time ignores the inherent vagaries and deficiencies in the early phases of any design. For a facility that will answer to so many public interests, to have it actually meet high energy efficiency and aesthetic goals will be a huge achievement. I look forward to seeing what will come of this process; budgets will prevail regardless of the idealism at hand, so the timeline may be extremely protracted.


Inhabitat did a short and more informative story on the OSC project with some different images.


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