City of Portland, Oregon
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.
Because of the public perception of how dark and dreary this building was inside, there was an understanding that we absolutely had to correct that internal experience. As long as we kept the window frames roughly the same, the change in the color of glass would not be a problem.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Living in Portland with 300 rainy days and dark winters can really weigh down on employees, and so being able to work in an environment where you have a lot of light available to you makes a huge difference."