Pioneer Square West

Pioneer Square West

Portland, Oregon, USA

Fall 2015

Our team developed a detailed proposal as a conceptual study for Pioneer Square West in Downtown Portland Oregon. The 3-block region is planned as the heart of a new high-rise, mixed-use development on the site of a former Nordstroms Department Store, vacant lot, and parking garage.  In addition to galvanizing the new district, the project will also help connect the area to existing infrastructure and greenspace networks throughout the city.

The proposal is composed of a high rise residential tower, a cantilevered office building, a retail base as well as a theater center facing pioneer square.

My role varied over the course of the project but primary tasks included Project Management, Presentation Organization, Document Organization, Team Schedule Organization, Setting Deadlines and Deliverable Lists, Concept Design, Tower Core Development, Ground Plan Development, Programming,  Massing Development, Skin Development Oversight, Area Maintenance, Diagram Production, Two-Dimensional Drawing Creation, Rendering Oversight and Direction, Model Assembly, and Presenting. 


Scope and Intent

Site Analysis, Concept Design, Market Feasibility, Schematic Design, Team Coordination, RFP Production, Firm Creation, Business Development

Project Team

Bailey Morgan , Blake Mitchell, Sarah Thomas, Jeoung Jung, Minwoo Hahm, Hisham Al Qanaie


Nathan Richardson and Jeff Williams


6 Weeks

Program Use

Revit, Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, Excel, Rhino


Fifth Year Design Studio Book Award Spring 2016

Since the market crash is 2008 Portland, Oregon has seen growth as millennials flock to the city for its relationship to landscape, walkable urbanism, and cutting edge entrepreneurship. Housing prices have skyrocketed and the more traditionally derelict districts have seen a resurgence of art centric hipster hovels. As other districts grow, downtown seems to have lagged behind. Resilient Portland responds to these conditions and works to create a mixed-use 2.5 block development as a contributor to growth within the city’s progressive urban fabric. Within the 1.1 million sf of development 25% is devoted to residences (15% of which are for low income families), 15% to retail/cultural, 35% to office and 15% to theater space, and 10% to underground parking. The project includes uses such as flexible retail spaces, bicycle storage, cyclist locker rooms, a small university department or college, a large lecture hall, and a public health center. It is additionally home to extensive public green roofs and a vast array of bars, restaurants, and local food carts.

Design and Innovation

Resilient Portland addresses the current needs of the city while respecting the past and propelling Portland into the future with a solution that is subtle and assertive. The urban grid of Downtown tilts 22 degrees from true north and provides interesting opportunities for complex sculpting of each building mass in relation to climate and solar patterns. Low carbon communities result from the one hundred percent walkable nature of the site. This walkable urbanism allows for more pedestrian and cyclist focused development and less dependence on vehicles. Mixed-use programming promotes non-peak energy use and provides safety to all users. Providing an activated and populated public environment keeps pedestrians safe and happy. The utmost care was taken to develop human scale experiences activated by a variety of uses and homogeneous materials relating the user experience to the greater whole of Portland. Beginning with the pedestrian we developed experiences that vary throughout the city. The project remains within the zoning height and FAR requirements of the city keeping in scale with surrounding context and allowing the project to become part of the whole rather than a singular icon; moreover, the development consists of palatable voids and masses that compliment the current city massing.

Regional and Community Design

At the heart of downtown, Pioneer Courthouse Square is affectionately known as the “living room of Portland”. Located in the retail district the square is the symbolic and physical center bringing together the various surrounding federal, collegiate, theater, and business districts. Resilient Portland works to connect this heart to another important feature of the urban landscape, the South Park blocks. By extending, terminating and connecting the South Park blocks to Pioneer Square, the ground plane provides a new type of public space in the current urban patterns, the civic plaza. With a walkscore of 100 and a transit score of 95 well-designed public space is of the utmost importance. The ground floor active use strategy places eyes on the street at all times and promotes a high frequency of users in public spaces increasing pedestrian comfort and safety. Bike parking is provided and cyclists locker rooms are easily accessed. The signature streets of Yamhill and Morrison are recognized in a permeable brick paving. Careful attention is paid in respecting the natural character of the district. Articulations of brick are used extensively at the street level in correlation with surrounding structures while more contemporary materials are kept above the pedestrian plane.

Land Use and Site Ecology

Prior to this intervention the two and a half sites were devoid of living things. In an effort to increase biodiverse ecologies, Resilient Portland introduces various vertically organized native ecologies into
the urban fabric. These ecologies are directly related to the climate of the region and contain only native species. Various flora act as host species for varieties of native and urban wildlife. These ecosystems promote harmonious interactions with living organisms and with natural resources such as water and air. These vivacious ecosystems are highly integrated in the human experience passively and actively. All businessmen, residents, shoppers, tourists, and theater goers are encouraged to engage the ecology and creating a uniquely Portland experience. The streets, amphitheater, and civic plaza pro-actively encourage low impact design through passive storm water catchment systems, rain gardens, bioswales, and permeable paving. Native species are strategically placed throughout the site inviting the public to engage personally with both flora and fauna.

Bioclimatic Design

Resilient Portland works to develop passive systems in which the pedestrian is the active participant. Conserving resources through appropriate siting and sculpting the project utilizes the sun and wind to ventilate, heat and cool the building maximizing overall occupant comfort. Dense rain patterns and high humidity but cool temperatures leave the atmosphere more temperate than tropical. We estimate occupants will be comfortable using passive systems 70% of the year; however, heating will always be necessary in the winter (30%). The building mass is oriented to take full advantage of solar heat while respecting the urban edge at the street level. Longitudinally the structures are oriented East to West. In the Portland climate a large south facing facade increases heat gain in winter. The vast expanses of northern light are well-suited for the task lighting in the mid-rise office building. The northern facade of the residential tower slants to the south tapering the overall appearance of the tower and allowing for additional northern light to enter the lower level units. The prevailing winds occur primarily from the west. The massing allows these winds to move through the site reducing the frequency of wind eddies on the roof of the retail podium.

Light and Air

Daylight, views and fresh air create happier and healthier environments. Within the buildings natural air exchange is possible. Every residential units can manipulate operable windows to allow for passive ventilation throughout the year. The glazing units operate independently from the cladding units allowing for optimal occupant comfort. Due to narrow lease depths, building orientation, and glazed enclosures; 60% of the building can be day-lit during occupied hours. The project consistently reminds occupants of their connectedness to nature. In response to certain solar orientations balconies may support a small vegetable, herb or flower garden. Occupants engage physically and visually with the green roof ecosystems and the green ground plane. Additionally, on average 75% of floor areas have views to the outdoors with most private non-daylit cores and bathrooms located internally. In terms of occupant comfort an average of 61.25% of floor area is within 15 ft of an operable window.

Water Cycle

Due to a rain intensive climate, water is an abundant resource that allows for nearly all water to be collected and redistrubuted.100% of storm water is managed on-site through low impact development, rain water capturing, and effective bioswales. Additionally, 95% of gray water is sand filtered, stored, and reused on the site. The horizontal planes of buildings become extensive green roofs that collect and reuse precipitation and gray-water. Precipitation falling on the rest of the site is gathered through cisterns underneath permeable hardscape. Low-flow toilets allow for stored gray water to be reused efficiently. Due to the strictly urban siting of the development it is financially inappropriate for black water to be stored treated or processed on site. Moreover, using regional plants allow smart use of water appropriate to the climate. Water moves vertically through the cores into cisterns to be utilized once more.

Energy Flows and Energy Future

The development utilizes a low-tech skin system that encourages passive solar heating and cooling. It has been designed to be both resilient and adaptable to future technologies. The floor-to-floor heights are generous and will allow for changes in HVAC as well as improved lighting systems. Each building functions independently from one another as any other series of buildings in an urban system would function. This independent nature allows for gradual and sudden changes to be made to the individual systems or structures. The mixed-use nature of the site reduces peak energy consumption. The site is occupied at all times of the day and throughout the week; thus there is never an explicit concentrated time on one specific building or user. The planted nature of roofs helps to discourage green house gas emissions as do the development of low tech low environmental impact materials such as recycled concrete and recycled brick. A series of vertical geothermal tubes help to heat and cool the building in a sustainable way. The total EUI for the development is 271 kBtu/sf/yr.

Materials and Construction

Materials are chosen for their implicit weather-ability, health, availability, and climate response specificity. Choosing long lasting materials that weather well over time increases the long term feasibility of the project. Using recycled aluminum as cladding materials as well as recycled brick for the ground level development allows a consistent pallet and lower embedded energy. The contoured massing of the project employs slight variations in materials per sun orientation. The density of perforations on the north is much greater than the south. Additionally the east maintains less aggressive veiling than the west facade. The materials hearken to Portland’s industrial sector and relating to the visual and tactile consistency of downtown Portland. The ground plane and storefront developments receive articulated material depths and optimize the pedestrian users’ experience. The materials above the ground plane are less articulated especially on the mid-rise.
9. Long Life, Loose Fit
Resilient Portland correlates to the surrounding structures but also acknowledges that context will change. The project will continue to grow and adapt with the city. It will hold its own as it disappears into a newly developed skyline. Resilient Portland is comprised of parts of a conceptual whole that are visually and conceptually connected but independent variables in a complex urban and economic system. The development is resilient through its ability to adapt. Open floor plans within the structures allows for maximum flexibility; moreover, these spaces can be assets to a quickly changing and growing city.

Collective Wisdom and Feedback Loops

Upon visiting Portland we had preconceived notions of its “weirdness”, but after living within the city we realized the sheer normalcy of everyday people. Portlanders didn’t need something weird they needed a development that was good for people: both economically and socially. This development is a response to a specific culture, climate, and need. In post-occupancy we feel we would be most readily interested in the socio-political responses and the responses of occupant comfort. Accurate readings of energy savings, water reuse and collection, appropriate solar orientation and long term impacts on the city would be key issues to evaluate over time.