Eastside Exchange

Portland / United States / 2013

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2 Love 733 Visits Published

The adaptation of the 90,000sf Eastside Exchange explores the process of reduction as a conceptual model. The building currently sits as a singular structure within a mega block site at the geographic and industrial center of Portland, Oregon. Unoccupied, the structure has passed through multiple re-tasking efforts over its 90 year life span. In 2009, the building had been slated and prepped for demolition by the City of Portland’s Development Commission and presumed dead. As one of the silver linings of the recession, a private developer with a knack at seeing potential where most see a hardship, convinced the City to give him a shot at an adaptation instead. The building is now a bustling hub and is programmed for small format incubator industrial and creative work spaces.


Built in 1927, the original building was constructed as a furniture warehouse. Open heavy timber frames and a concrete shell create an “Industrial Deco” framework, a glimpse of formal attire within an industrial district’s pragmatic wardrobe. Formal ornamentation gives way to a simple mass and a beacon – a frame and a tower. The exterior envelope treatment becomes one of whitewashing the shell as a means of calling attention to the subtle relief and projections the deco aesthetic had applied.


The windows are required to mimic the historic originals by the National Park Service. The steep grade change between 3rd Ave. and the lower level of 2nd Ave., an entire 33 foot change, is dealt with as a collection of gentle ramps and grassy mounds for gathering.


Adaptive reuse of historical buildings calls into question the temporal quality of the present within the context and weight of the past. Employing an objective process of reducing the building’s expression to its simplest form allows the building’s anatomy to act as a fulcrum between the historic and modern state.


Adaptation of the architectural anatomy is first a conceptual model, which becomes a formal framework for repurposing a historic warehouse structure. The original design of the purpose-built warehouse during height of the Art Deco movement of the late 1920s reveals
itself in the treatment and detailing of the very practical structure. The applied relief and scrolls in the exterior concrete present a subtle representation of the present favor. The historic tower organizes the building formally on the urban scale as though it is playing the part of an important member in high society, acting as a beacon. Once in its simplified form, the tower’s basic relationship is catalyzed to provide a method of internal spatial organization: architectural genetic multiplication.



Along those lines, we have created those new organizations volumes in our current time, applying a highly modern interior treatment within the pragmatic frame of the warehouse structure.


The tower expression is adapted using sedimentary forces. The orientation is adapted [rotated] to fit within the volume of the frame. Orientation is created through a repetitive oblique path versus the implied symmetrical historical organization. The form of the tower is encountered throughout the building. Each horizontal volume has a unique spatial relationship to another and a distinct visual relationship to the historic vertical tower. The historic tower, an urban reference, now becomes also an internal reference.


The result is a symbiotic iconography for the building: a historic formal/static composition that relates to the urban context in a highly regularized way; an internal spatial structure that provides a hierarchical ordering of interior space; a social richness to the community.


The building being on the National Historic Registry created some limitations on how we could go about the adaptation. We wanted to gain access to the roof to rise and meet the downtown skyline but the National Park Service wouldn’t allow any projections beyond the existing roof level. So in order to gain access, we inverted a stair as an interior vitrine. This stair pulls the outdoor atmosphere down onto the 4th floor of the building and builds a connection for users to engage the roof.

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    The adaptation of the 90,000sf Eastside Exchange explores the process of reduction as a conceptual model. The building currently sits as a singular structure within a mega block site at the geographic and industrial center of Portland, Oregon. Unoccupied, the structure has passed through multiple re-tasking efforts over its 90 year life span. In 2009, the building had been slated and prepped for demolition by the City of Portland’s Development Commission and presumed...

    Project details
    • Year 2013
    • Work finished in 2013
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Office Buildings / Building Recovery and Renewal
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