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It will be fascinating to find out what the Historic Landmarks Commission thinks of this. Given that it's a) tall and b) unashamedly contemporary, it's hard to see them approving it.


Great concept for a hotel but that designs is completely out of place in Old Town/Chinatown.


Concept of base stories relating to built "historic" environment, roof plan consisting of court with "L shaped" tower building and plinth base / glass tower are all stellar modernist ideas. The best idea is that "party space" in the courtyard!

Fred Leeson

Typical Kaven project: ignore context and cram ego down everybody's throat. And we're supposed to be thrilled.

John McIsaac

Fabulous. This is exactly what Old Town needs. What it DOESN'T need is revisionist architecture.


I love this. I doubt it can pass muster with the fetishists of historicism, but what a handsome project this would be.

Douglas K.

Not a fan of contemporary architecture in a historic district. There should at least be an effort to blend in to the surrounding neighborhood.

Douglas K.

Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful design. But it should be in the Pearl or the West End or the Lloyd District or the Downtown Core. Not Old Town.

Doug Klotz

All zoning changes approved through the Comprehensive Plan (West Quadrant is part of that), will probably take effect in 2017. They have to go through the complete Comp Plan process, and then be approved by the State. Then there's those design guidelines he talks about.

David Dysert

Requiring all projects in Old Town "blend in" is a great way to dumb down design opportunities in this high opportunity area. Preserve and enhance what's good but allow invention to happen. My concern is not with the design guidelines but with the proposed use. I think we need to focus on the unique opportunity of Old Town to be "student quarter" of sorts. For this to happen we must be careful to curate uses which align with lower costs and diversity. Luxury projects might work against this.

Kate Powell

The idea for the project is wonderful -- revitalizing a virtually dead area.

However, being that William Kaven did the rendering, I assume that this is the way they want the building to look. How disappointing and boring. It ignores the context of the area it might inhabit in EVERY way, not even giving a nod to the history of the area. And it looks like yet another boring monolithic structure in NW. We've had many go up near 23d in the last two years, incredibly ugly buildings.

I see few buildings in Portland that I find interesting or beautiful. It looks like a developers box. IF Kaven wants architects to begin to shape the city, how about creating beauty? This one is a box with amenities.

Jim Heuer

I don't envy the Historic Landmarks Commission's job in reviewing this project. You see, there are actually two very different historic districts in this area: Chinatown and Old Town. The Chinatown district derives its historic importance not from its architecture, which is mostly late 19th and early 20th Century utilitarian commercial in nature, but from its having been the heart of one of the largest Chinese communities on the West Coast. In other words this is a cultural historic designation, not an architectural one.

In contrast, the adjoining Old Town district was specifically designated because of its late 19th Century cast iron buildings -- it is an architectural treasure trove and was designed to preserve the largest surviving collection of cast iron buildings outside of New York City.

It is true that new infill construction in historic districts must "fit" in. That's the law in general, and likely that is detailed out in the new guidelines. But how do you make a posh new hotel "fit" in with a district replete with historic echoes of early Chinese culture in Portland? Especially considering that much of that early culture was shaped by poverty and discrimination -- nothing at all comparable to this "urban resort" concept targeted at affluent globe-trotters.

Alas, I have no suggestions for the good folks on the Landmarks Commission on this one. I have a feeling that the very program of the building is antithetical to the cultural history of the district, and does nothing to reinforce the ethnic culture and history of Portland's Chinatown, much of which is still owned by the descendants of the early pioneers who came to this country from China to dig our mines and build our railroads.

Certainly, the sharp-edged modernism of the proposed design, towering over the surrounding historic structures, is going to stand out in stark, ill-conceived contrast to the modest structures constituting most of the district. How it can ever be made to "fit" in practice, regardless of the wording of the long-delayed guidelines, is anybody's guess.


Typical Kaven:

1. All hat; no cattle. "Some of the first questions that I had Kaven can't yet answer, like who his partners are and when it will be built." Um, I call BS. However, I admire his bold attempt to get press by dangling a project with no owner, no funding, no start date and no actual plans in front of your writer. Chutzpa!

2. Height restrictions: As always, Kaven can't design within the confines of existing height restrictions. See: http://nwexaminer.com/demolition-wave-rising. A good-to-middling architect can work within parameters set by City Council.

3. Arrogance beyond measure: Not just ignoring the culture and style of the neighborhood, but blatantly giving it the architectural version of a middle finger. This is no "urban resort." This is an ego display of massive proportions. A good architect will look around the area and make design decisions that, while still bold, do not stick out like Donald Trump at a Serious Thinkers convention.

4. Funny, no mention of the raging problems in this neighborhood that would make an "urban resort" (snort) go broke within a year, assuming it actually was built. Sure, I'll pay $250/night to step in piss and vomit when I walk to dinner! Old Town is hardly "the living room" of Portland. Developers have tried and failed for decades to eradicate the problems in that neighborhood but for dozens of reasons Kaven is too lazy to investigate, gentrification that would allow for a hotel like this is many years away. And by "many" I mean about 90.

As for Kaven becoming a developer, best of luck with that. You do know that takes money and influence, right?

bryan deaner

For the record, my name is Bryan Deaner. I am not an architect, a bureaucrat or one of these feckless Internet gadflies who negatively and namelessly bray on about code, hats and cattle. Instead I am a passionate lover of architecture, bold design, new narratives and the power of buildings to transform a space. I believe in the architecture of change. I have traveled the world on countless occasions specifically to look at modern and iconic buildings in dozens and dozens of cities. Architecture inspires me. A well-built structure breathes life into a formerly unimagined site. A well-built building creates a container for living, working, worshipping and can overlay a structural mythology for the human experience.

I can’t objectively comment on this new hotel project. Why? Because I have the good fortune to live in one of those “winning home designs” built by William Kaven Architecture in their early days as a firm. It has been a true privilege and a joy to live in one of their creative and elegant designs. My home doesn’t exactly “fit into the surrounding neighborhood” of North Portland either. But I have encouraged community engagement by opening it up to literally thousands of friends/neighbors/new acquaintances to enjoy the spirit of good design, community interaction and fundraising for various Portland cultural institutions. My home has lit a positive spark in this neighborhood and has created new dialogue and value where once an overgrown briar patch stood.

Will this new hotel in this spot in Old Town do the same? Hard for me to say. It’s easy after-the-fact to praise the so-called “Bilbao Effect” of buildings like Gehry’s Guggenheim, the new Tate Modern, Corbusier’s church in Ronchamp or Tadao Ando’s concrete masterpieces throughout Western Honshu. Bold new buildings often create an architectural zeitgeist, a cultural ROI and can help drive a new economy in formerly decrepit environs. This often in spite of the initial reluctance of city councils, prefectures, those formerly mentioned gadflies and the vox populi.

What I do know is this building will be handsome, thoughtful, exciting and filled with new energy. It will invigorate and brighten the neighborhood. To wit, “The creation of space in architecture is simply the condensation and purification of the power of light” - Tadao Ando. William Kaven Architecture is a bright light in this city. We are lucky to have them for a short while before their star shines so brightly they will be thrust onto the international stage and leave Portland behind to make its more typical, conforming and safe architecture choices once again.

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