Portland State University – Vanport Building

  • area / size 175,000 sqft
  • Completed 2020
  • SRG Partnership completed the Vanport Building as a vital part of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

    With a collective commitment to enhance the city of Portland through sustainable and responsible development, four significant Portland institutions join together at the Vanport Building to share workplace resources. Complementing each other’s programs and collaborating to expand community impact under one roof allows each tenant to become greater than the sum of their parts.

    To house this diverse group of building occupants—the PSU Graduate School of Education, the OHSU|PSU School of Public Health, the PCC Dental Programs, and the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability—the Vanport Building is a seven-story, 175,000 GSF structure on a dense urban site in downtown Portland. Located at 4th Avenue and Montgomery Street and bound by public transit on all four sides, the project strategically presents outdoor spaces, landscape, and building form and expression to anticipate future potential development.

    With multiple stakeholders involved, the project embraced a deeply integrative process that encouraged efficient decision-making. Working with key stakeholders, we developed a set of common values, or Guiding Principles, that formed the basis for all project decisions. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) tools and processes enhanced teamwork, delivered value, and inspired innovation.

    The Vanport Building’s site is unique to the City of Portland, with the curved streetcar path clipping its northeast corner. In response, the building massing curves with the streetcar line, expressing the movement of the site and recessing the first floor to create a wide and protected pedestrian-friendly path. All sidewalks and access to the high-traffic building are generous and open, fostering public walkways on all transit frontages that are safe for those on foot.

    In response to the adjacent historic apartment structure to the south, the building steps in scale at the fourth floor to thoughtfully transition to the nature and scale of these surroundings. Setting it back from the north side of the apartments creates an open and inviting courtyard between the two buildings that serves as a public amenity. To accommodate the significant grade change, a series of landscape walks, stairs, walls, benches, and planters flank the courtyard space to define its boundaries, provide scale as a wayfinding reference, and offer multiple means of access.

    The ground floor is served with retail spaces and a lobby, where a welcoming central stair ushers the public up to the second floor to arrive at classrooms and shared resources for the three educational institutions. The PSU Graduate School of Education houses several classrooms and student programs on the second floor, with the Dean and faculty located on the fourth floor. PCC’s dental programs, which includes clinical hygiene services for the underserved public, occupies the third floor. The OHSU|PSU School of Public Health is located on the fifth and sixth floors, with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on the top floor. All programs have a mission to serve the public and by being co-located, the new building provides opportunities for collaborative outreach.

    Named in the memory of the historic city of Vanport, the building houses a mural and exhibition in the lobby called “The Spirit of Vanport”—painted by Portland artist Alex Chiu with exhibit components by Bryan Potter Design and Vanport Mosaic. This mural is commemorative of the historic city of Vanport, which was wiped out by a devastating flood in 1948 that took the lives of 15 people and displaced thousands more. At the time of the flood, Vanport was the second largest city in Oregon and the most racially diverse, with Black Americans comprising a third of the Vanport population as a result of discriminatory redlining laws in Portland. This touching tribute honors the victims and survivors of the tragedy and serves as an important reminder to commit to racial justice and equity.

    Design: SRG Partnership
    Project Team: Laurie Canup, Steve Simpson, Scott Mooney, David Webb, Susan Gust, Emily Wright, Kevin Chavez, Bjorn Clouten, Sam Stadler, Chris Kline, Jessica Mistretta, Laurel Danielson, Eric Wilson, David McCarthy, Keasa Jones, Trevor Lavoie, Jon Mehlschau, Dan Davis, Jim Wilson, Zoe Sadorf, Kirill Ryadchenko
    Contractor: Andersen Construction
    Photography: Lincoln Barbour, Sally Painter, Dan Cronin