Photos: Courtesy of Mackenzie Architects

Autodesk’s Historic Timber Office Building Showcases Local Materials and Craftmanship

Autodesk’s Portland-based office, a 60,000 square foot historic post and beam timber building inspired by the company’s mission “Make Anything”, showcases local artists and craftsmanship throughout its wood-clad interior, giving employees a workplace truly reflective of this culturally rich, sometimes quirky, city once coined Stumptown.

Project Details

  • Architect

    Mackenzie

  • Date Completed

    2018

  • Location

    Portland

  • Owner

    Autodesk

  • Category Height

    Mid-rise

  • Type

    Commercial

  • Size

    60,000 square feet

About this Project

Autodesk, the brand best known for its computer drafting tool AutoCAD, dubs itself a company that “makes software for people who make things.” When looking for a new more centrally located space for their Portland office—one that expressed both global brand and local character—they settled on the newly refurbished Towne Storage Building, a red brick, heavy timber building that hearkens to the region’s industrial yesteryears. The new location provides open concept offices, unique meeting rooms and communal collaboration space for their 200 Portland-based employees.

Wood Use

Located in the city’s burgeoning Central Eastside Industrial District, the restored post and beam timber building, a typology reflective of the region’s roots in industry, forestry and wood construction, seemed the perfect home for a CAD software company with the moto “Make Anything”. Within its historic 100-year old timber bones, wood finishes are used throughout, giving warmth and contrast to the exposed brick and concrete walls. By exposing as much of the existing nail-laminated timber (NLT) floors as possible, the architect accentuated the character of the building and the industrial history of the neighborhood. Local makers and locally sourced wood form the interior finishes, including Douglas Fir reclaimed from Centennial Mills, a complex of buildings along the Willamette River slated for demolition.  This includes a dramatic cubist-style all-wood staircase, resembling a 3D AutoCAD model, that envelopes visitors in Douglas Fir as they ascend to offices above.

Collaborative rooms and meeting spaces are inspired by the tiny house movement, using a palette of materials reflective of the Central Eastside neighborhood’s industrial history, and incorporating the work of local makers. Portland cultural motifs are woven throughout the workplace, paying homage to the city’s artisans, urban landmarks, geography, and history. All the casework is plywood, as are many components of the “tiny house” rooms.

Environmental Impact

Social benefits of the project included connections with local artists and artisans on the project ranging from neighborhood makers working sustainably with salvaged material to a retired couple who crafted picnic tables for communal areas. Malachi Milbourn of Against the Grain, a neighborhood maker/woodworker, crafted the black walnut library table/benches, and a Japanese garden conference room table.  By occupying a building of adaptive reuse, and sourcing wood and materials locally, Autodesk reduced the environmental impact of this dynamic new office space.