The Portland Building

  • Client

    • City of Portland, Oregon
  • Project Type

  • Area

    • 345,000 ft²

Design Achievement – The Portland Building, designed by Michael Graves and built 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. The city hired DLR Group and Howard S. Wright as the progressive design build team tasked with reconstructing the Portland Building, protecting and preserving this major public investment by the end of 2020. The project creates an adaptable building that will last 50-100 years, providing a productive work environment for employees and a welcoming space for community members. 

Scope Summary – The Portland Building is a 15-story high-rise building occupied by approximately 1400 workers primarily with city bureaus and Multnomah County offices. The building is approximately 360,000 SF plus basement. Design services began in July 2016, running through July 2018, with GMP set by mid-2018. DLR Group provided architectural services, change management, environmental graphics, exterior skin replacement, interior workplace, and shear wall relocation.

First Floor
Approaching the front entrance, visitors are immediately drawn into the customer service desk where they can see the city at work. 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 that was intended by Michael Graves.

To the right, visitors can quickly find the customer service zone where the public can access any frequently needed service without having to make their way throughout the building. To the left, new event space has a dedicated bathroom and catering pantry, as well as an entrance from the exterior, which makes it a great place to have after-hours open houses; show public displays; or host any other city related event.

Towards the elevator lobby, a grand new staircase leads the public directly to the conference center on the second floor. 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.

Second Floor
The publicly accessible second floor will feature a conference center and gallery featuring historical building ephemera and a rotating local art exhibition. The design goals include visually connecting interior public areas to the exterior by increasing views to the outdoors, and increasing public meeting areas. A two-story window opening on the 4th Avenue elevation allows dramatic views of Chapman Park from both the first and second floors. And the removal of raised floor platforms make the surrounding floor space increases floor-to-ceiling heights while remaining accessible to everyone.

Ninth Floor
The ninth floor represents the general layout of a typical employee floor. Immediately off the elevator, unique branding sets the color scheme for each floor. The reconfigured floor plan aims to increase 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 the floor. A gathering area with comfortable living and dining spaces will have two sinks, two refrigerators, and a dishwasher for employee use on every floor.

Rooms at the building core vary by bureau and have been dedicated as either a huddle room, a private office, or bureau storage. Huddle rooms can be configured as a living room environment or may take a more traditional approach as a conference room. The open office is immediately adjacent to the windows and takes 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. There are 156 lockers on each floor, which aligns with the number of workspaces on the floor.

15th Floor
On the sky floor, employees can enjoy the city skyline. Collaboration space includes booth seating, as well as tables and chairs for collaborative meetings. Areas for private working create a buffer between the collaboration area and the hoteling stations at the south end of the building. Six sit-stand hoteling stations suit employees that need a fly-in space to work for the day. There are additional focus rooms for more focused private work. For a relaxed work or meeting environment, employees can utilize lounge space with soft seating and an electric fireplace.

In the cafe space, there are a variety of seating options – from bar heights along the windows to two- and four-person seating to family-style tables. A new micro market will offer hot and cold food options daily.

An Accessible Design Process
The Portland Building project used VR holistically to interface with the city as they envisioned the renovation of their iconic city building.

“Stepping into virtual reality and putting on the goggles was a completely different experience,” said Lead Project Manager Kristin Wells with the City of Portland. “Many of our stakeholders are not people who live in the design world, and it’s hard to imagine a three-dimensional space based on two-dimensional drawings. This put us in a place to really be able to understand it better.”

The Portland Building

City of Portland, Oregon