early rendering of new WestEnd multi-purpose tower
Development - The 30-story structure in Portland would hold a hotel, apartments, offices and retail space
Friday, December 16, 2005
Developers unveiled on Thursday a slender, glassy design for a 30-story tower that they said would light up downtown's western skyline and extend the Pearl District south.
The unnamed high-rise would place a hotel, apartments, offices and retail under one roof, covered in a quilt of transparent, translucent and patterned glass. The half-block tower would rise 325 feet from the sidewalk behind Jake's Famous Crawfish restaurant.
"We want it to be a glass building, but not a glass-enclosed building," said Eugene Sandoval, a designer with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, known as ZGF.
If it were built today, the tower would be the eighth-tallest building in Portland.
Thursday marked the first public presentation of the new headquarters for the ZGF architecture firm. The architects took center stage before the Portland Design Commission at a design advice request -- an informal hearing intended to prompt early discussion of major new developments in the central city.
The development team members said they are happy about having four uses under one roof, though the mix forced a few engineering and design compromises that contravene city codes. While acknowledging the difficulties and seeking more details about the building's relationship with its neighbors, the design panel applauded the use of glass and a design that could enliven a rough area.
"It's going to be an engaging building on the street and on the skyline if it continues to be developed this way," Commissioner Tim Eddy said.
The half-block development would erase a surface parking lot and require removal of a small green building housing Kesone Thai Cuisine at the southwest corner of the block, bounded by Southwest 12th and 13th avenues, and Stark and Washington streets. It also would require removing a 30-foot-wide building between Jake's and American Apparel store, making an open corridor leading to the hotel's entrance off Southwest Stark.
The apartment entrance would be on Southwest 13th, giving the entrance a location with a view of the Whole Foods Market and other Pearl District residential amenities, Sandoval said.
Southwest 13th veers to the southwest at the site, so the entrance also marks an important terminus of the view from Northwest 13th Avenue in the Pearl District south to the site, commissioners said.
"I don't think anything will be in front of that view, ever," said Commissioner Lloyd Lindley, an urban designer and landscape architect.
Michael McCulloch, design commission chairman, asked the architects for more depictions of how the building would relate to Jake's and buildings several blocks in each direction, many of which are shorter and historic.
"You want to look at this as an overall composition," McCulloch said.
The ZGF firm said it is hoping to show off its talents and values in the new building.
The design experiments with glass, which presents another pressure. On one hand, designers want a building that uses at least 30 percent less energy than the state building code requires -- which ordinarily would call for using less glass and more masonry or concrete.
They also want to maximize the glass to allow passers-by to see the desks in offices, decorations in apartments and shades in hotel space -- making it a more engaging space.
"You don't want to create an opaque vessel" like the 200 Market Building downtown, a black box, said Larry Bruton, a ZGF partner. "It's a totally dead building because you don't see what's going on inside it."
A representative of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects said the group wanted to see how plans for terra cotta on the north side of the building, rising to the 12th floor of the hotel, would relate to the rest of the building.
Commissioners said they hoped the team would have more details on color and the potential transparency of the glass in meetings in the next few months.
Andrew Jansky, an engineer on the commission, called for a greater break from the tradition of a mostly boxy form.
"I'm still looking for some projects that can bend the laws of physics," Jansky said. "Maybe there are some things back on the drawing board that can be even more compelling than this."
Dylan Rivera: 503-221-8532; email@example.com