We had a wonderful evening, gathering for happy hour and dinner in the 6th floor “intellectual lounge” and its connecting terrace with stunning views of the east from the South Waterfront. A panel discussion hosted by Laurie Canup (SRG) and Mayer/Reed Principal Jeramie Shane included OHSU leadership and researchers who shared how the building design supports their work to cure cancer.
The key to the building’s success is space organization for efficient workflows, but we also heard that there is magic in the social “eddies” where interactions are less linear. “It’s the coffee” and “lunch with a view” that make it happen. Casual yet important interactions on the rooftop terrace and in the kitchen during a coffee break or meal are the moments of cross-pollination which spark meaningful collaboration. This is a universal idea so many of us can relate to. As we all find our way back into our respective offices, these moments of spontaneous connection can bring intangible value. It is a good reminder of the importance of our work to support well-being and serve as a catalyst for things far beyond our imagination.
We are grateful for OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s commitment to cure cancer and for their generosity to share their time and observations. Taking the time to learn from those who inhabit our projects is a gift to the future of design.
I’m 3’6”. Life at this altitude has given me a unique perspective on the built world and inspired me as both a designer and an advocate for disability rights. For those of us in the design world, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a familiar standard; the civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and guarantees access to public and private places that are open to the general public. On July 26, 2022, the ADA celebrated its 32nd anniversary. This year, I turned 33. It’s humbling to know that I am the last generation born before this groundbreaking act was signed into law.
I was born with a rare form of Dwarfism called Kniest Syndrome – a type of skeletal dysplasia that affects stature, joints, hearing and sight. In a single moment, my parent’s perspective on societal norms, healthcare and infrastructure shifted as they came to the stark realization that my life would undoubtedly contain physical barriers and discrimination. Fortunately for me, my family, and the 43 million Americans with disabilities at the time, the ADA was passed in the summer of 1990. With the stroke of a pen, my life and the built world around me began to change. For the first time ever, doors were figuratively and literally being opened for people with disabilities.
The signing of the ADA was a historical declaration of equity and equality – a request by millions to be seen, heard and respected. It was a national reckoning led by advocates with disabilities and allies who could no longer stand the injustice of discrimination. Real change is much more than a single act – it is the sum of many parts – and on this anniversary, I find myself thinking about the years of personal moments, countless conversations, interactions and relationships that paved the way for this significant milestone and that continue to inspire change today. The effects of the ADA are still rippling through our country and beyond. Since 2000, 181 countries have passed disability civil rights laws inspired by the ADA. Currently, designers and advocates are beginning to look beyond ADA requirements to develop new design concepts and details that consider a broader definition of disability.
Don’t get me wrong, life with a disability and the ADA is still fraught with challenges and oppression, both physically and socially. My mobility scooter and I are met with countless stairs, a lack of neighborhood curb cuts and gravel trails too deep for wheels; I still cannot reach parking meters and public restroom sinks or attain reliable accessible transportation. While access is legally guaranteed by the ADA, the built world is slow to change, and all too often those of us in the disability community are left to advocate for such change ourselves. It is not always straightforward or easy to get things done, yet we persist!
My life experience, the support of my family and friends and my career at Mayer/Reed have instilled in me a passion for design and the accessibility it can provide. I live each day with the hope that even the smallest change will lead to more, and the ripples from the ADA will continue expanding in new directions. Disability touches all of our lives in one way or another and I encourage designers to see their role in creating more thoughtful and inclusive spaces and to embrace each opportunity to make an impact. Design can be the driving force of change, and with that in mind, anything is possible!
On June 16-18 the long-awaited SEGD Portland Conference will welcome the global design community to meet in person after a two-year delay due to the pandemic.
This year a key theme is mentorship and creating access for BIPOC and young designers. As an example, one session in the agenda will feature three Portland area non-profits—Architectural Foundation of Oregon, Comma, and Diversity in Design—engaged in mentorship and community programs seeking to empower BIPOC communities and allies while connecting them within design fields. Together these groups will lead a workshop focused on the impact of informal and formal mentorship programs from high school to working professional.
Mentorship is also central in planning the conference. As conference co-chairs, Kathy Fry, Traci Sym and I collaborated with students in the Portland State University Graphic Design Department’s Design Club to develop conference branding. It was an exciting real-world opportunity with valuable hands-on experience for the students—and a lot of fun for us! They developed a bold, vibrant visual language for media graphics, signage, stage backdrops, tote bags and badges, and a custom bike donated for the SEGD Auction.
Working with the students has reminded me of the saying, “you get out, what you put in.” As a professional designer with over 25 years in this field, the mentoring experience allowed me to shed my seasoned designer lens and look at the world of design from the perspective of young and upcoming designers. It is rewarding and stimulating. I have shared my career observations with them, and they have opened my eyes with curiosity, personal stories and excitement for the future of design. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to devote time to build a connection with these promising designers.
I hope you will join us at the SEGD conference to see their work, share your experience and build bonds with our design community.
All over Portland this summer, you can see people out in the streets. Over the course of the past year, the city’s occasional parklet, or “street seat,” has multiplied by an impressive order of magnitude, providing more public outdoor space necessitated by the pandemic. Within downtown and neighborhoods, portions of streets have been closed to traffic and painted with colorful patterns. On a recent walk I saw nearly continuous dining pavilions along “restaurant row” on SE 28th Street in place of typical curbside parking. On SE Hawthorne, I was inspired by an exercise class held outside the front door of a gym. As a landscape architect and urban designer, I’ve witnessed this shift in street use with particular interest. The pandemic seems to have accelerated public acceptance for creative use of the right-of-way that’s friendly to small businesses.
This boom of places to eat, drink, shop and even exercise outdoors is thanks to an ambitious Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) program called Safe Streets Initiative established in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Now becoming permanent in some locations, the program allows changes to city streets that provide people and private businesses more space and visibility within the public right-of-way beyond just the typical claim of a narrow strip of sidewalk. Absent this initiative, approximately 60% of a typical neighborhood street in Portland is dedicated to the movement and storage of automobiles. But to support social distancing requirements and restrictions on indoor dining, PBOT has enabled more space for outdoor activities. Now businesses serve their customers in the street using custom themed furnishings, structures, signage, banners, heaters and landscape elements. One I saw even featured small fire pits.
These changes are particularly transformative in Portland’s Central Eastside. Historically a light industrial district, this neighborhood has grown to include many more active commercial establishments and offices. Despite becoming a more vibrant place to eat, drink and shop, there was zero open space and hardly any public seating in the district. Now, along SE 6th Ave alone, the street is hopping with people enjoying Kinboshi ramen or Hat Yai fried chicken, a glass of wine at Coopers Hall or a beer at Loyal Legion. These small bars and restaurants contribute a new neighborhood identity through a vibrant display of life on the street.
More permanent reimagined city streets are in the works. Landscape architects and urban designers are leading the charge in addressing these changing roles of public space. As an example, Mayer/Reed is working with the City of Portland to envision ways to implement the “Green Loop” along SE 6th Ave through the Central Eastside. The Green Loop is an urban design initiative adopted in 2018 to repurpose certain segments of rights-of-way for a linear park that connects and celebrates neighborhoods in the central city. In the section through Portland’s Central Eastside, our proposed design introduces much-needed broad canopy street trees and open space, as well as more generous places for people to walk, run, scoot and bike. The current streetscape activation that we are seeing now along 6th Ave just hints at the vision being designed for the forthcoming Green Loop that will encircle the downtown.
In the summer of 2020, we worked with Friends of the Green Loop, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and PBOT on a concept for uniting the existing Safe Street installations along the corridor with street paintings to infuse Green Loop identity while also collaborating with the adjacent artists and businesses.
In addition to this work, I had the opportunity last fall to co-teach a landscape architecture studio for the University of Oregon focused on urban design in the post-COVID city. As a project, one group of students imagined the future of SE 6th Ave as a place that celebrates the district’s industrial roots, promotes a vibrant neighborhood, and expresses the creativity of the district’s businesses. They proposed new green spaces, flexible uses in the right-of-way and parking lots, an innovative bike delivery system, solar energy generation and spaces for art and artists. Stakeholders from the Friends of the Green Loop and the Central Eastside Industrial District collaborated with the students and are carrying some of these ideas forward.
As our cities continue to densify, there will be increased demand to support streets as places for people to linger and gather, rather than exclusively as places for people to move. A key to success will be finding the right balance and integration of placemaking and transportation. I can imagine a future where it will be possible to walk along SE 6th Ave and enjoy a mix of open spaces activated by adjacent businesses with spaces that are truly public, where you can experience the shade of a mature tree, comfort of a bench and conversation with a friend.