Saturday, April 24, 2010

Clinton Condominiums

Not specifically 'landscape' focused, but a wonderful juxtaposition of materials is found on the Clinton Condominiums at SE by Holst Architecture. I think it's a great example of mid-density infill within the context of a commercial street corridor. All photos (c) copyright Jason King, 2010

This is one of my favorite buildings in Portland, with a delicate composition of cor-ten steel, ipe wood siding, and baby blue elements transposed on different sides of the building facade. When I h
ad a chance to snap a few shots of last week while on a site visit in SE Portland a thought I'd post them here.

The wider view towards the Northeast gives the balance of the cor-ten and translucent panels work will together in tandem. Both materials seems to change nature in different lighting conditions, showing their true form in the dull gray of the day these photos were taken.

The opposite facade takes a difference character, with vertical slats of ipe wood siding giving a much warmer facade towards the adjacent residential areas. The dynamic of the cor-ten is one thing (as you see from the different hues on each side of the building). Arranged with two equally appropriate yet different materials of wood and translucent panels gives the building an added dimension of interest - even compared to many other buildings by Holst, which seem often to stick to a very minimal 2-material palette.

The ipe is taken down to street level to provide softening of facades. I particularly like the use of a range of different color types to generate a bit more interest, particularly in areas where there is a lot of wood such as these service doors.

The building of course is defined by the extensive use of cor-ten steel, which is installed in panels with stainless steel hardware, which provide some additional metering of the facade due to the dramatic contrast of the rust v. shiny interplay.

The definition of cor-ten as 'weathering steel' is evident as a living skin that is always changing in subtle ways over time and seasonally as the material displays evidence of time and process in simple ways.

An interesting feature of buildings making use of cor-ten is the process of imprinting ground plane surfaces over time due to rust staining - in this case the surrounding sidewalks. I'm not against this as a way of subtly connecting site to building - even more important in zero lot-line development where landscaping is virtually non-existent. The image below shows a reflection of the rusted canopy above in perfect shape on the concrete below.

The opposite side of the building is the automobile access area, which is less successful in creating the subtle connection, and begins to look more like a mistake than a happy coincidence of merging materials.

The attention to the interrelationship of building materials is simple and brilliant and makes the building a gem. The connection to the site needs to have that same level of attention and purpose, being able to turn what I'm sure was a known quantity of inevitable concrete staining into something wonderful, instead of detracting from the pedestrian experience - how most people interact and view this building.


  1. Do you know anything about the provenance of the ipe wood?

  2. Not personally, although I've worked on a number of projects using FSC certified IPE and other tropical hardwoods. There is some definite issues, as the use of these woods have increased, it was put additional pressure on the regulators to be able to ensure wood is sustainably harvested (or actually deserving of certification) and it is often really difficult to determine the provenance.

  3. Those photos is a great masterpiece. What a beautiful world when you have a beautiful condo like this.

    Angelo H


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