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Skylab Architecture designs YARD, a dynamic mixed-use residential tower in Portland, Oregon

Project name:
Architecture firm:
Skylab Architecture
Portland, Oregon, USA
Maria Lamb, Stephen Miller, Brian Walker Lee
Principal architect:
Jeff Kovel
Design team:
Jeff Kovel, Creative Director / Principal Architect. Brent Grubb, Principal. Susan Barnes, Project Lead. Nathan Cox, Project Architect. Jill Asselineau Project Architect. Josh Ashcroft, Designer. Ben Porto, Designer. Stephen Miller, Visualization. Amy DeVall, Interior Designer. Mark Nye, Project Lead. Jim Henry, Project Architect. Jon DeLeonardo, Architect. Marian Jones, Architect. Katy Krider, Lead Interior Designer. Hiroki Abe, Designer
Built area:
343,100 ft²
Site area:
Design year:
Completion year:
Interior design:
Skylab Architecture
Acoustical Engineer: SSA Acoustics, LLP. Geotechnical Engineer: GeoDesign Inc. Surveyor: Blue Dot Group. Acoustical Consultant: SSA Acoustics, LLP. Building Envelope Consultant: The Façade Group, LLC. Environmental Graphics: Open Studio Collective
Civil engineer:
Harper Houf Peterson Righellis - Inc.
Structural engineer:
KPFF Consulting Engineers
Environmental & MEP:
PAE Consulting Engineers
2.ink Studio
LUMA Lighting Design
Andersen Construction
Stephen Miller
Tools used:
9Wood / Ceilings and panels. Lapchi Carpets / Rugs. Stephen Kenn Loft / Couch. Arcadia Curtain Wall and Storefront. Guardian Glass
Key Development Corporation
Residential › Mixed-use Development

Skylab Architecture: Located across the Willamette River from downtown Portland, the YARD is a 21-story, 343,100-square-foot mixed-use apartment building that rises above the famous Burnside Bridge. The roof of the podium elevates a native planted landscape to the level of the bridge to create a shared community landscape environment, while its folded roof shape abstractly recalls the natural slope of the waterfront site. The landscape is both open to the public and tenants offering spa, fitness and co-work amenities that take advantage of the unrivaled views of Portland downtown across the river. The buildings 284 residential units—20 percent reserved for residents making 60 percent or less of the local median income—constitute a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The site was not without challenges: a full 40 percent of the site was limited to construction of no more than five or six stories. To resolve the site constraints and grade change, the tower was shifted off-axis and bracketed between halves of the podium. The exterior mass of the building is defined through its chocolate-brown anodized bronze metal facade, set in contrast to the reflective glass windows. Together, the cladding and the window system embody the spirit of the project which explores how simple moves and commodity products can be elevated through simple modifications. Inside, an easy-going, Pacific Northwest aesthetic defines the buildings communal spaces. Apartment amenities include glass top ranges and granite countertops to smart-home technology (in some units) and electric car-charging stations. Communal co-working and lounge areas encourage a sociable atmosphere, especially on shared indoor and outdoor portions of its landscaped podium.

Knot Springs—a popular spa and social club focused on health, wellness, and community—is located on the 4th and 5th floors (Skylab was also responsible for the design of this space). The design for Knot Springs was inspired by the hot springs found within the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon. The elevated YARD landscape and concrete structure undulate throughout the baths and gym recalling the native river embankment. The spa opens to the landscape, allowing flow through an open-air hallway to respective destinations in a wellness journey. The Knot Springs palette draws inspiration from primal materials to heighten the pools of water using wood, glass, steel, and concrete in sustainably effective applications. The environmental graphics, macrame plant ceiling, and small details engage guests by embedding messaging and communication systems cast in the concrete and heat branded wood to further refine and use materials holistically.

The tower, the porosity of the podium and expansive outdoor spaces—each in their own way—combine to knit the building into the urban scape. Its inviting the street and the public into the building,” Skylab founder Jeff Kovel explains. Were in an age where buildings have become almost like gated communities, and we really set out to create the antithesis of that. I think thats a big part of why people like to live there. They feel like its a social hub and connects them—to other people and to creative life in the city.”

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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