From offices to libraries to the arts, the best architectural works of 2021 help us get on with our lives
You know, it’s a strange year when the best and most ambitious architecture goes largely unoccupied. But in 2021, when we expected life to return to normal and only partially got there – the kids are back to school, but many parents are still working remotely – works As impressive as the Meyer Memorial Trust headquarters and Adidas offices in North America remained ships awaiting passengers.
The two projects, one for a local non-profit organization and the other for the German sportswear giant, were designed by Lever Architecture, which now rivals Allied Works as the city’s first company. Both projects feature abundant use of solid wood and are bathed in natural light. And both await the return of office workers.
Even so, these are inspiring spaces that can inspire team members to come together again in person when the time is right. During the pandemic, polls showed that most office workers did not want to return to their physical workplace five days a week; but they also did not want to continue working entirely from home. The future of the American office awaits to be remade as a collaborative and dynamic space, which these two projects illustrate.
Even so, one of my favorite offices seen this year was the most humble – the headquarters of architectural firm Beebe Skidmore, transforming a small one-room concrete industrial building in St. Johns into a small fortress of seclusion, framing views of the bridge district of the same name.
Allied Works sang a kind of duet. The building 500 NW 23rd Ave. building was completed this year on the site of the historic Alfred Burkhardt House, which was destroyed by a gas explosion in 2016. The ceramic-tiled facade of the new structure is a nod to Ann Sacks , whose eponymous tile company had its first showroom in Burkhardt, and who lives next door in another building designed by Allied Works, the 2281 Glisan (completed in 2000 and one of the company’s earliest gems), which has him – even had to be rebuilt after the same explosion.
Some of the best designs this year didn’t come from Portland, but from cities in the south. Corvallis is home to the Benton County Museum by Allied Works (which won top honors at this year’s AIA Oregon Architecture Awards), as well as the Oregon Forest Science Complex at Oregon State University, a solid timber structure designed by Michael Green Architecture of Vancouver, British Columbia. .
At Eugene at the University of Oregon, a footwear company profit helped fund the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact by Ennead Architects in New York City as well as a shiny new Hayward Field by Portland’s SRG Partnership, the latter having hosted the Olympic trials last year and will host the World Athletics Championships next year.
As Portland’s theaters and arenas continue to struggle, Beaverton is poised to have its own art venue: the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, designed by Opsis Architecture. Its official opening is yet to come in the spring of 2022, but when I visited earlier this year, as construction wrapped up, it was already clear that the theater and exhibition space would transform this suburb more and more. diverse and high density.
The Reser Center is also committed to creating smart places by expanding what had been a forgotten pond-shaped opening in the largely buried Beaverton Creek – a perfect natural setting for this glass-walled art center. to neglect. Just wonder why city leaders don’t consider burying this cove further and using nature to foster a greater sense of place than malls.
Speaking of Beaverton, one of the most impressive buildings of the year in the Portland metro area appears to be the LeBron James Innovation Center at Nike World Campus. But I can’t say for sure. Designed by Seattle-based company Olson Kundig, with an inclined running track that climbs up one side of the building and jagged skylights punctuating its rectilinear shape of black metal and glass, the building is stunning from the outside. Still, the company has restricted visits from almost all media.
Another suburb, Milwaukie, has a lovely new downtown public library. Designed by Hacker, the firm behind most of the area’s best libraries over the past 20 years, the Ledding Library, like the Reser Center, makes the most of its creek-side location, offering visitors an idyllic place to meet (health protocols allow it). The design begins with its exposed beams on the ceiling and widely open volumes, but Hacker also gets the good interior details, like the LED lighting built into the shelves.
During the pandemic, we’ve all doubled our domestic lives, and it’s no surprise that at this fall’s AIA Oregon Architecture Awards one of the winners was the Heartwood Residence by William Kaven Architecture. The indoor-outdoor living created by this home’s central courtyard and surrounding glass walls truly make it one of the best in the business.
Yet for all of these new buildings, one of my favorite architectural experiences this year was visiting the downtown JK Gill building, after a renovation by SERA Architects. Maybe it takes more creativity to design a new building, but standing in JK Gill’s huge renovated lobby, a double-height space with columns as tall as sequoias and where the JK Gill store once attracted visitors. thousands of people every day, I remembered the architectural soul that has lasted for generations. It was another tough year for downtown, but I can’t wait to go back.
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