After several months of design advice, discussed here and here, Security Properties and Mithun Architects have now applied for final design review for their Block 136 project in the Pearl District of Portland. The project has now solidified into two buildings above a two story underground parking garage; one with 208 residential units including townhouse style ground floor units, and the other being a 60,000 sq. ft. office building with 15,000 sq. ft. of ground floor retail at the 13th Avenue raised sidewalk ‘dock’ level. The lowrise office building will have 5 floors and will be 75′ tall, and the taller tower will be 15 stories and 150 feet.
The design team’s original metaphor, two separate buildings as ‘heartwood and seedling,’ is seen loosely in the highly contrasting forms the two structures make. The darker, heavier lowrise was purposely placed on 13th Avenue in order to maintain the retail heavy corridor’s urban edge, and the residential block rises up with lighter, more vertical exterior language that plays off of the lower building’s horizontality. In this newest proposal, more detail has come to the ground floor experience. The street edge around the residential building is now broken into layers and groupings of windows, board-formed concrete, metal panels, and trellises of metal mesh. The two story ground level will contain a double height lobby and sales office at the northern edge, decorative loading and parking garage doors to the northeast, and eight townhouses wrapping around the southeast corner. The courtyard side will house a shared kitchen and lounge area that protrudes into the courtyard as a semi-private patio area.
The courtyard’s plan follows the ongoing wood metaphor with a series of large timber benches that are placed in a manner reminiscent of harvested logs floating in the river. The office building’s high dock continues through the building into the courtyard to make another semi-private space for the ground floor retail tenants. Light levels in the publicly open courtyard were very important to the city and the design team, and after some precedent study with the pedestrianized Kearney Street nearby, the designers decided on a mix of open sky portals within a canopy of honey locusts.
The project will continue the existing languages found within the eclectic Pearl District’s urban character, with both old and contemporary materials and massings. The newest details give me a sense that this project will be of decent quality and will bring additional life to the neighborhood. After walking down 13th the other day, I realized how a few projects in the area really deaden the landscape and break the urban composition, e.g. the ill-proportioned and cheaply detailed Lovejoy, and how these few developments really destroyed the Pearl’s character toward the north. I do not fear that same effect will be caused by Block 136, as the general forms of both buildings, the attention to the street presence, and the selection of materiality all appear to be successful in weaving itself into the urban fabric.