After listening to the city’s design advice on three previous iterations, Trinsic and Myhre Group Architects have proposed a new version of their 419 East Burnside building. Unfortunately, the new design feels like a step backwards, back toward the mundane. The new version is streamlined, uses fewer materials in its facade, and allows for more light into the ground floor, but it also falls back into a more repetitious, low contrast form that fades into its surroundings. With the energetic B-Side-6 across the street, and the fantastic Burnside Bridgehead projects from Works, Skylab, and Guerrilla on the way, it seems like a shame to dull down this site.
Instead of a broken plane, three-part form along Burnside, the design team has reduced it to a repeating two-part on a single plane divided by an inset entrance. The arcade now goes along the entire stretch instead of the previous stepped-back approach, and the metal panels are now three shades of grey (four if you count Portland’s grey sky window reflections) instead of the high-contrasting white and charcoal that appeared previously. The rooftop amenities are no longer expressed at the Southeast corner of the building, as they are now more condensed and set back from the edge.
The bumped out upper floors, the non-standard oriel forms with attached frames, that were previously proposed are now gone, and a new flatter and more repetitive facade graces the three street-facing sides of the building. The “basket weave” pattern of panels has also been replaced by a more rigid, uniform look, which is unfortunate as the lattice pattern could have been better utilized and embraced in changing planes rather than simply cast aside. The windows are now set back into the building instead of being on a single plane, which is a definite improvement, along with the choice of wood soffits.
The ground floor has also improved quite a bit. The windows and openings have more continuity with the rest of the building, and the entrances are more clearly defined. The arcade as proposed is very clean and simple, and the column widths are more consistent with the upper facade treatments. In lieu of the oriel projections, the sidewalks are now protected with awnings, which cast less shadow at the street level.
The city’s design advice sessions had good intent, but I fear that there is a discord between the design team’s responses and the guidance issued. Perhaps it is just my own personal taste (‘less is a bore’ vrs. ‘less is more’), but I preferred the previous iteration’s overall feel. I do like the attention the ground floor is getting, and the most recent facade is far better than the original one. I do hope that this project’s fate, being on such a prominent site, doesn’t lie in just being another ‘fabric building.’