August 21, 2013

An Interview with Dave Otte: The Bud Clark Commons

By Nigel A. Fenton
Dave Otte, the architect behind the Bud Clark Commons in Portland, Oregon. 

I recently sat down with my fellow alum from The University of Texas, architect Dave Otte, and asked him a series of questions about his award winning building 'The Bud Clark Commons'. In 2013 the “Creating Community Connections” award was given to Holst Architects by the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its altruistic attempts to alleviate the homelessness problem in Portland, OR. The Bud Clark Commons is an eight story building located in downtown Portland that provides health, shelter and counseling to help people transition from living on the streets and into a permanent home. It's a huge endeavor to tackle such a major issue facing our society but to attempt this with a building design is an even greater task. To get a better understanding of how such an project was tackled I asked Dave a few questions about the process.

Nigel: Were there any design sacrifices made to accommodate for the function inside the building?

Dave: The functions define the design of the building and the facade is a reflection of the interior functions. The windows are shaped differently in order to accommodate the small living units. Originally the design asked for a full block building built of wood. It also included retail on the bottom floor facing 6th st. However, the design was changed so that only half the block was built up. So, rather than wood, concrete was used because the building height was increased beyond the structural capacity of wood. The retail was then removed since it was no longer necessary.

How was information gathered that informed the design of the building and how influential were the occupants in the design process?
The research process focused on meeting the context, providing safety and making a good design. We looked at precedents that included: The Blanchet House, which is nearby; The Austin Resource Center For the Homeless, where we got the idea for an art studio and passive security that provides a line of site between the workers and the occupants; LA and Seattle were two other cities we looked at as well. We noticed that commonly cueing will occur around this type of project, so our design accommodated for that but also provided a welcoming environment.

How does the Bud Clark Commons fit into the Holst portfolio? Are there any plans in the future to design similar building?
Locally Holst is designing a similar building that has a service function on the ground floor and housing above in the Elliot neighborhood of Portland. It's meant to help treat for drug and alcohol abuse and will include 32 apartments above it. There's also another project with a similar mission in Gateway that teaches seniors how to use transportation. However, I suspect that privately owned facilities like Bud Clark will start popping up in the near future.

Have you been back to the Bud Clark Commons building since its completion to check how it's performing?
I actually live nearby it so I pass it everyday. I visit at least once a month. Every six weeks the design team will host dinner for all the occupants. This was originally a way to get everyone involved but has become a tradition that we've continued. The building is performing very well. We did have to upgrade the grey water system though. You'd be surprised at the things people will flush down the toilet. It probably would have been wise to install a bank of Toto toilets.

The Bud Clark Commons, designed by Holst Architects

As our meeting began to wrap up I had to ask Dave the most important question I had for him:

So, looking ahead to the Fall who do you think Mac Brown will choose: David Ash or Case McCoy?
(Laughs hysterically) I think David Ash proved himself in the Alamo bowl. That beat down on the Beavers should prove that he's the better quarterback. It helped that McCoy didn't show up. I guess he was busy watching someone else.

Nigel is a student at the University of Oregon studying for his Master of Architecture degree. You can see his work on his website


August 20, 2013

Portland Design Festival Street Seats Competition

Portland's Center for Architecture is presenting a design competition as part of the 2013 Portland Design Festival. This international competition offers students and professionals the opportunity to design and build a street seat pavilion that will be displayed during the festival. Read below for the design brief and how to enter.

The competition brief is to design a temporary, freestanding, pavilion at the Center For Architecture (CFA) during the 2013 Portland Design Festival. Utilizing the design guidelines of Portland’s Street Seats program the project will be a model for future street seat designs. The design shall provide a place for people to sit/gather for festival events as well as push the boundaries of what a street seat can mean for the urban environment.

 The pavilion will have a 2 month life outside the Center for Architecture, from the beginning of October until the end of November. After which it will be donated to a nonprofit, or kept at the CFA for installation for subsequent events.

 Digital Fabrication techniques for the construction of the pavilion is strongly encouraged. We are also looking for Multidisciplinary design teams to carry out the design and build of the project.

 Parking Space on NW Flanders St, outside the Center for Architecture, 403 NW 11th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97209 (Second spot in from the intersection)

Page limit: up to 10, 11x17 pages as a single PDF (150 dpi min, 10 MB max)
Images: Renderings, plans, sections and elevations required (proof of buildability in the tight schedule is a must)
Narrative: 500 words max.

Please ensure that your submissions are anonymous. Include your name in the file name but not on any images or pages within the PDF submission. 

Winning project gets built & displayed at the festival including a $1000 stipend to attend the festival to present the design* 2 Runners up and 5 honorable mentions to be displayed at the Portland Design Festival Awards Gala and featured on AIA Portland Website and** All shortlisted projects to be included in a Center for Architecture publication about the project and used for promotional material for the City of Portland Street Seats program

Visit the competition website for more information and registration:

Submissions due: August 26th 2013
Winners Announced: September 1st 2013
Build: September 20th - 30th
Project Completed: October 1st 2013

Entry Fee$25 for students
$50 for professionals
payment info will be posted soon.
Budget$10,000 USD
Includes all materials, fabrication, construction, breakdown and any transportation costs.

Hunter Tura - President & CEO, Bruce Mau Design
Hillary Sample - MOS
Michael Meredith - MOS
Daniel Mihalyo - Lead Pencil Studio
Annie Han - Lead Pencil Studio
Kurt Lango - Lango Hansen Landscape Architects
Sarah Figliozzi - City of Portland
Contractor - TBD

SponsorsCenter for Architecture
AIA Portland
City of Portland
Printing Company TBD (to print and mount shortlisted entries)
Contractor TBD (to build it)

Design Guidelines (
  • Site locations and platform design are approved by the City Traffic Engineer based on the following criteria: 
  • The dimensions of the design shall not exceed 20' long and 6' deep.
  • The Street Seat platform will sit on top of the existing street surface. The design should not include any bolts/anchors or other elements that require disturbing the street surface or sidewalk. 
  • The use of high quality, durable materials capable of withstanding year‐round use is required.
  • Facility may not extend beyond six (6) feet from the curb line where there is parallel parking. Angled or perpendicular parking locations will be approved on a case by case basis.
  • The platform design must include vegetation in the form of planters. Plant selection shall be submitted to PBOT for approval. Proper drainage of planters shall be provided.
  • The proposed site should be located on a street with a speed limit of 25 MPH or less. Locations on streets with higher speeds will be considered on a case by case basis.
  • The proposed site should be located at least one parking spot in from a corner or a protected bollard, sidewalk bulb‐out, or other similar feature must be present if located at the corner.
  • The maximum length of the platform must not be longer than the frontage of permit holder’s establishment unless given permission by adjacent property owners.
  • Design must maintain an six‐foot pedestrian zone next to the platform where sidewalk width allows.
  • Platform must be designed to allow for curbline stormwater drainage.
  • Platform should be as level as possible and flush with the sidewalk height. At least 12 feet of the platform must be flush with the adjacent sidewalk for wheelchair access. Proposed platform furniture must be able to accommodate wheelchair patrons.
  • Platform design must include a physical barrier along the street while maintaining clear visual sightlines to the street. Vertical elements, such as planters and umbrellas, should be included so that the facility is visible to vehicles.
  • The platform shall not be permanent. It should be removable in case street maintenance or other similar needs arise.
  • To protect the platform from parking maneuvers, planters or weighted bollard on either end of the platform are required.
  • 2 feet on either end of the facility will need to be reserved for wheel stops with embedded reflective candlesticks. These will be installed by PBOT after final facility construction/installation is complete. Additional traffic safety items may be added to the final design by PBOT staff.
  • The proposed number of table and chairs shall be approved by PBOT.

The Portland Design Festival becomes the rights holder for all images and submissions for the competition. Both the Portland Design Festival and the City of Portland may use any images from the entries for promotional materials for both the festival as well as the Portland Street Seat Program.

*All prizes are contingent on fundraising for the competition. If adequate funding does not become available the competition committee withholds the right to amend the prizes or cancel the competition outright.

** the jury withholds the right to adjust the number of winning proposals based on the amount and quality of the entries.

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