« Design Calendar: August 16-31 | Main | The Blue Room, biophilia and retrofitting Oregon's prisons »


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

Fred Leeson

Excellent essay, Brian. The corner of 5th and Yamhill is an interesting site in the history of Portland retail. In the late 1920s, it was home to a Piggly-Wiggly store that led to the falling out between Fred Meyer and his brother, Henry; a few years later, it was Fred Meyer's chief downtown store. Fred Meyer used to look down on it from his offices in the Pacific Building. The corner fell into lesser (and run-down) uses after Meyer left Yamhill Street, ultimately becoming part of the Pioneer Place urban renewal experience. And now...Apple.

Ellen Shapley

Great review, Brian. Love it, too….the transparency, the beautiful materials, the floating roof. What a knock out piece of architecture for the downtown. It would have been so out of place on NW 23rd.

Thanks Fred for the additional bit of history. Interesting to know that Fred Meyer had offices in the Pacific Building


While it is attractive, and I love Apple products, they blew it. As you noted Brian,
they tore down a fairly new building to do this. That is NOT the Portland Way.

What a wasteful and self-centered planet-destroying act. A smarter company would have found a way to re-purpose the existing building, and if it was too big, put in some homeless facilities. Show you care for us, and not just our dollars.

Shame on you Apple, I think less of you now, and many Portlanders do too.

David D

If this building is "cookie cutter" I'll take cookie cutter over most "unique" buildings erected of late.
The sheer quality of material and finish is impressive--especially given its program. Even more impressive is what isn't there: a maximization of retail square footage. With its generous set back Apple has made a meaningful contribution to downtown's collection of public spaces. One could easily mistake this building for a museum were it not for the large apple dangling above the entrance. Perhaps it is emblematic of our current state of affairs a purveyor of electronic devices would afford to sell ipods in a building fit for a Picasso.

Jeff Joslin

It's now interesting to reflect on the NW 23rd pinch with Apple. At that time, there were two aspects that Apple felt unable to respond to. One was that they refused to integrate any kind of canopy into the 23rd Street elevation. The other was that they were unwilling to introduce any windows into the side elevations.

The issue was couched in blogs such as this as pitting modernism against preservation and/or design review. The facts were: there were no stylistic issues, just behavioral ones; and Apple had recently had bad experiences in Boston and New York historic districts and was unwilling to engage another discussion that would compromise Steve's notion of brand at that time.

Clearly, this clear and elegant composition (placing aside the ethics of tearing down a serviceable building - or more so replacing a one-story building with another one-story building on one of the most transit-served and highest-density downtown sites) would have met those simple asks and then some. And in a quirky way, we might be able to thank that earlier lost project for this one (it's possible Portland'd not gotten this flagship store were the other in place).


I too was also disappointed that they tore the old Saks store down. I figured they could have just torn off the ugly stone-like cladding and encased it in glass with a glass staircase leading to the 2nd floor. Then there could have been a second tenant on the other side of the building.

Having said that I'm pleasantly surprised by how well this building turned out. What really strikes me is how open the area feels now. You can actually see the other buildings. Some how it feels much more urban down there but in a good way. With it done, this is my new favorite building in Downtown, Portland.

As for the comment about cookie cutter architecture, I wouldn't worry about it. Apple has a ton of designs and is constantly refining it. They built several stores with stone walls on two sides with a glass front and glass roof. Then they moved onto this design. We might see another store or two like this but they will move on to something else. I think this design works perfectly in this location and we should be happy about that.

Jeff Belluschi

As my Barcelona girlfriend stated; " No wonder Apple products are so expensive". My reply, "they have the funds to give back to the cites that created their wealth". One more honorable architectural jewel to showcase Portland's history of well-deployed buildings.

Mark Reber

I have a slightly different perspective in two ways. First, I have endured, along with my colleagues, the extremely disruptive construction project that brought us this new store. During some of the months of construction, we had to flee to the 10th floor to avoid the noise. This is inevitable and not a criticism per se. On to the other perspective and one not mentioned here: the "Green" roof. From our patio on the third floor, we have a very interesting view of the green or eco-roof and the surrounding area. That roof connects visually to the greenery of the Pioneer Courthouse and creates a juxtaposition to that very traditional building. (Brian, contact me separately if you haven't seen that and would like to do so.)

Philippe Sauvie

It is rare that a new building in downtown opens up a fresh vista for its inhabitants. The only other time I felt this way was when Pioneer Place opened in 1990 and I saw the cornice of Meier & Frank in a fresh and delightful way through the atrium's glass roof. Watching the Max trains crossing paths from inside did that for me. I think it's time the Mall spruced up it's act across the street. This Apple Store is truely one of the best structures in Portland if not the NW!

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