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The Portland Building illuminated at dusk following renovation
The Portland Building

A New Standard for Preservation

Project Location

Portland, OR

Client

City of Portland, Oregon

Area

345,000 SF

Award

2021 American Architecture Award

The Portland Building is a 15-story high-rise building accommodating approximately 1,400 workers primarily with city bureaus and Multnomah County offices. The historic building originally designed by Michael Graves is approximately 360,000 SF plus a basement. The city chose as the best delivery model for a collaborative team approach to the reconstruction project, featuring a core team including DLR Group, Balfour Beatty, and the city of Portland.

Design services began in July 2016, running through July 2018. Construction was completed and keys were handed over to the city in December 2019, approximately one year ahead of schedule. DLR Group provided architectural services, change management, environmental graphics, exterior skin replacement, interior workplace, and shear wall relocation.

section diagram of the reconstructed Portland Building

Tour the Building

Our design strategy restores design intent along Fourth and Fifth Avenues; reclaims programmable space on the second floor; and improves working conditions for city employees.

Explore

section diagram of the reconstructed Portland Building

Façade

a design rendering of the 21st century reconstruction for the portland building

A unitized curtain wall recreates the original colors and shapes of Michael Graves' design intent while solving for many of the building's technical performance issues, from moisture to daylight.

Fourth Avenue

a design rendering of the portland building fourth avenue elevation wrapped in glass

The Fourth Avenue loggia was restored with floor to ceiling glass to provide respite from the Pacific Northwest climate and transparency into government.

Fifth Avenue

a design rendering of the fifth avenue elevation for the reconstructed Portland Building

A double-height glass volume unveils views onto Chapman Square from the 5th Avenue elevation that were previously obscured by an entrance to a sub-grade parking garage.

Ninth Floor

a design rendering of the 9th floor for employees of the city of portland in the reconstructed portland building

The reconfigured floor plan increases the amount of daylight that reaches the elevator lobby at the core of the building, with an open office immediately adjacent to the expanded windows.

Façade

a design rendering of the 21st century reconstruction for the portland building

A unitized curtain wall recreates the original colors and shapes of Michael Graves' design intent while solving for many of the building's technical performance issues, from moisture to daylight.

Fourth Avenue

a design rendering of the portland building fourth avenue elevation wrapped in glass

The Fourth Avenue loggia was restored with floor to ceiling glass to provide respite from the Pacific Northwest climate and transparency into government.

Fifth Avenue

a design rendering of the fifth avenue elevation for the reconstructed Portland Building

A double-height glass volume unveils views onto Chapman Square from the 5th Avenue elevation that were previously obscured by an entrance to a sub-grade parking garage.

Ninth Floor

a design rendering of the 9th floor for employees of the city of portland in the reconstructed portland building

The reconfigured floor plan increases the amount of daylight that reaches the elevator lobby at the core of the building, with an open office immediately adjacent to the expanded windows.

PoMo Preservation

The Portland Building, designed by Michael Graves and completed in 1982 as administrative offices for the City of Portland, is an award-winning iconic design of postmodern architecture. The building was later placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a building of “exceptional importance,” but it faced problems with its structure, exterior, and operational systems that repairs alone could not address. After years of study and deliberation, the city chose to protect and preserve this major public investment with a significant reconstruction. The project creates an adaptable building that will last 50-to-100 years, providing a productive work environment for employees and a welcoming space for community members.

01
Urban Design Challenges

Problem Solving with Historic Integrity

The Portland Building, which first opened as city offices in 1982, incorporated several design features that didn’t adapt over the building’s 40-year life span. The reconstruction restored some of the original design vision, while adapting a new vision for the city.

Interior hall with seating area and round hanging lights ending at double height windows

A double-height glass volume looks onto Chapman Square.

Watch Chapter 2 of our docuseries, The Portland Building: Reconstructed.

02
A New Facade

Delivering on Design Vision and Building Performance

After nearly 40 years, the exterior of the Portland Building was in need of comprehensive repairs. But how should modifications be made to one of the most recognizable pieces of architecture in the world? A unitized curtain wall recreates the original colors and shapes of Michael Graves' design intent while solving for many of the building's technical performance issues, from moisture to daylight.

The curtain wall overclads the exterior of the building and preserves the original facade - which also serves as the building's first structural reinforcement.

This chapter of our docuseries chronicles the technical issues of The Portland Building's new facade solution.

03
Public Access

Improved Service for Portland

At the Fifth Avenue entrance, the front doors have been designed to replicate the original doors as part of the historic lobby. All finishes within the lobby have been refreshed to reflect the original design intended by Michael Graves. To the right, visitors can quickly find the customer service zone where the public can access any public service without having to make their way throughout the building. To the left, new event space is accessible for after-hours open houses; show public displays; or host any other city related event. The historic elevator lobby has been refinished to reflect the original colors and finishes. Looking through the elevator lobby, visitors can see new pre-function space, which will service the new large event room and is complete with comfortable seating and large windows looking through, beyond the park.

First floor event space with geometric carpet, a man sits looking at a large colorful mural

Event space has a dedicated restroom and catering pantry, as well as an entrance from the exterior, for after-hours access; public displays; or any other city related event.

Large event space with a series of square windows and circular light fixtures contains movable tables and chairs facing podium

The new large event room is complete with comfortable seating and large windows looking onto Chapman Square.

04
Public Functions

Art and Event Space

The publicly accessible second floor features a conference center and gallery displaying historical building ephemera and a rotating local art exhibition. The design visually connects interior public areas to the exterior by opening views to the outdoors, and increasing public meeting areas. A two-story window opening along the 4th Avenue elevation allows dramatic views of Chapman Park from both the first and second floors. The removal of raised floor platforms increases floor-to-ceiling heights while remaining accessible to everyone.

Relive the installation of the iconic Portlandia with which Raymond Kaskey won the sculpture competition, and our restoration process.

Tall white waffle slab ceiling over a perimeter corridor lined with square windows

Glass-fronted conference rooms line the perimeter of second-floor conference space.

05
Let There Be Light

A Better Employee Experience

The upper floors follow standardized programming and layout to maximize departmental efficiencies. Immediately off the elevator, unique branding sets the color scheme for each floor. The reconfigured floor plan increases the amount of daylight that reaches the elevator lobby at the core of the building. Each floor shares two medium size conference rooms, one large conference room, and six focus rooms intended for heads-down work, phone calls, or one-on-one conversations. These rooms are intended for use by all city employees, not solely for those working with the bureau on that floor. The open office is immediately adjacent to the windows to take full advantage of natural daylight. Workstations are set up in a variety of layouts based on what each bureau has selected from within a kit-of-parts. Each core collaboration space has a large magnetic whiteboard to display materials or brainstorm ideas.

In this chapter of our docuseries explores a structural engineering strategy that gives the design team more flexibility.

Flexible work stations in perimeter office allow employees to sit or stand as they work with natural light from large windows

Work stations along the perimeter of the floor plates give all employees access to natural light.

The Portland Building: Reconstructed

Awards

Honors and Recognitions

A conference room with glass wall into hallway has floor to ceiling windows looking onto the back of the Portlandia sculpture
The Portland Building Photo by James Ewing/JBSA
Renovation/Restoration

2021 American Architecture Awards

December 1, 2021

The Portland Building was recognized by the Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies with a 2021 American Architectural Award. Now celebrating the 27th year, The American Architectural Awards® are the nation’s highest and most prestigious distinguished building awards program that honors new and cutting-edge design in the United States.

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