Pearl Gardens | The Pearl District, Portland, Oregon | Master Development Plan
This plan is currently being modified to include detailed 3-dimensional renderings.
In the Context of Portland, Oregon
The Pearl District is a staple of the City of Portland, and this plan strives to deliver a unique sense of place while blending into the existing urban fabric and overall theme of the Pearl District . The South Park Blocks are the primary seed of all of the plan’s design features, which is bound to a primarily north-south axis and blends into the surrounding grid via grand, tree-lined pedestrian walkways. Union Station – and access to and from the station – influences the placement of open spaces and surrounding plazas, which maintain an open feel while possessing a highly urban and enclosed nature. The bridge to the northeast of the site is also a primary feature, as the design and its diagonal moments mimic its entrance onto the site. From a ‘place making’ perspective, this site is plays into the concept of the pearl, which derives from the universally-known chambered nautilus. The chambered nautilus plays a central role in the development of the greenscapes within the plan, reinforcing the central theme of the district.
This district has been designed to deliver flexible proportions as derived from expected market demand over the life-cycle of the development process. The Portland Development Commission has unveiled a set of urban massing concepts for the site, and these call for a highly dense and highly urban feel. Because the proportions of the site (vertical-to-horizontal) can be variable, the site and its proportions are therefore maximized to meet market demand. This will allow the development team to assess the market and develop a plan that meets specific requirements by the public and private sectors. Specifically, this requires a study of market demand – by specific land use – and working backwards from that demand to retroactively become an instant power player within the city in terms of development potential. Due to this, a maximum cumulative figure for building stories (across the entire site) must be met. Among the variable land uses within the site, it is essential that an education component is incorporated and market leverage can be achieved by attracting a large corporation headquarter on the site. Educational programs would provide for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Green Infrastructure components (STEM/G) and would maximize its potential if aligned with the goals of the company headquarter on site to provide for concurrency on site.
Building and Greenspace Design Features
Buildings and Land Use
All but two of the buildings on site are framed by two-to-three story ‘building podiums’, pedestrian-level vertical moments that frame the sidewalks bounding the building massing and tree-lined green spaces in the central portion of the site. The podiums also play a critical role in the registration of sidewalk art onto the façades of the building structures as well as acting as horizontal, second and third level spaces for interconnected green-boardwalks and green roofs. The building podiums also act as a base mass for the architectural components of the central building structure, which are to jet out ‘as crystals’ from the center portions of the building podiums. Moreover, internal structured parking uses are allowed within building podiums, which, if built, are to be masked by architectural components that register with the sidewalk and green systems. Land uses are variable to market demand but include a mixture of residential, retail, hotel, educational, corporate headquarter, office and structured parking uses.
The nautili within the site act as the skeletal feature that synthesizes the placement of paths and building structures. These whimsical architectural moments also act as the central stormwater system. Gently-sloped paths terminate at the center of each nautilus park, acting as a low-elevation system that naturally collects rainwater. Rainwater is to be filtered via rainfall and used as a water system for other uses on site. Each of the four nautili are unique in usage; uses include a rain garden, an edible farming system, an educational arboretum that highlights exotic local green infrastructure, and finally, a nautilus of baroque nature utilizing a to-be-identified species of Pacific-Northwestern origin. Each nautili center has a center piece – a pearl.
The primary form of urban design utilized on site is ‘open enclosure’. Terminus vistas radiating from the site extend to the natural urban framework (often surpassing a mile), while terminus vistas within the site reinforce a sense of enclosure, as if one were ‘within the site’ and ‘looking into the city’ simultaneously. Accessibility is critical to four locations: to and from the south park blocks and downtown-proper, to-and-from the existing Pearl District, to-and-from the bridge district, and finally, to Union Station. The southern connection seamlessly occurs through north-south pedestrian systems and centrally located park systems. Access to the Pearl District is achieved using existing roadways. The bridge district is connected via a direct terminus vista, and the transit plaza (which could be implemented to the east of the site) is connected via open plazas on the northeast corner of the site. The transit component is critical, as regional visitors should seamlessly arrive on site and, more importantly, experience a seamless transition from the station platform to the original Pearl District.
Architectural guidelines have yet to be developed, but a tactic that would work on site (and that would blend into the existing urban fabric) would include a mixture of modern architecture based off of traditional principals that include an overly-exaggerated green component. Architectural moments should mimic the horizontal components of the plan, which include large scale nautilus curves and custom sidewalk art. This will help to form a bridge between the building facades and open spaces, providing a perspective as if one were within a continuous, up and down and side to side prism. Green components are to be overstated to reinforce the main focus of the site – a green future for the world. As stated earlier, building podiums are critical to the relationship between the open spaces and the primary building massing. The primary building structures, which extend up to 30 stories, extend above the green base of the building structure and rhythmically radiate into the sky, becoming thinner as elevation increases. Sky-bridges will maximize efficiency between buildings with correlating uses. The use of glass on building facades is imperative and will reinforce the modern nature of the site in unison with its green components.
LEED Neighborhood Deisgn Component
A primary goal for the site is to achieve a LEED Platinum score as determined by LEED Neighborhood Design standards. This will be achieved through the incorporation of bicycle and pedestrian-friendly facilities, greenspace allocation, as well as access to a number of different transit options. LEED Platinum Certification will provide additional accreditation to the site, allowing for excellent marketing opportunities to allow for high-quality commercial and residential tenants to anchor the economic base of the site as a whole. LEED accreditation also provides for a statement to be made – a statement that reinforces the philosophy of the design itself.
PJ Smith Design & Planning ---