PORTLAND – South east of downtown Portland, the SE Division Street is undergoing a true renaissance. Reinvented by local entrepreneurs as the city’s culinary hotspot, the urban planning department upped the ante in 2005 by allowing increased residential and commercial density along this particular stretch of the road. The latest addition is by Works Partnership Architecture and confirms the vitality of this trend.

Typical of WPA’s work, the project combines formal simplicity with a restrained material palette, keen attention to the economic realities and strong sense of purpose. It aligns itself squarely within the existing urban pattern and asserts itself without commanding undue attention. ‘We always envisioned this structure as a background, “good neighbour” type of urban building,’ the architects inform us.

In order to alleviate what would otherwise be a bulky, anonymous mass that often characterises speculative developments, the architects carved out internal courts in the building, providing additional communal space to the neighbouring units, as well as orientation points and visual connections between the internal corridors that connect the apartments. The architects explain, ‘We saw these spaces as a way of creating identity for the residents both inside and outside the building.’

An attractive mix of compact living lofts and commercial spaces on the ground floor meant that the project has been a commercial success. ‘The building leased up faster than any other the developer had previously completed. This as a positive indication, in that buildings that are in demand create committed communities of residents, and will likely do that well into the future,’ the architects conclude.

Photos Joshua Jay Elliot