Photo: Joshua Jay Elliott

Wood: Warm, natural response to commercial office space

To fully appreciate 160 NE 6th Avenue in Portland, Oregon, stroll by it and look up into the interior. Revealed beyond the sleek glass-and-aluminum curtain wall is a 24,447 square foot mid-rise office building composed of wood.

Project Details

The $3 million class A office center, called Framework and delivered in September 2015, takes full advantage of advances in modern mass timber products to gently disrupt its neighbors in Portland’s revitalized Central Eastside, a century-old warehouse district rejuvenated by adaptive reuse.

Links to Now and Then

“In collaboration with the client, we wanted to create a commercial workspace building that was a direct extension of the historic timber frame industrial structures that dot east Portland,” explains project architects, Carrie Strickland, AIA, and William Neburka, AIA, principals and cofounders of Works Partnership Architecture, LLP, an award-winning Portland-based design studio.

The concrete podium base houses parking, retail, and the lobby. The heavy base pays homage to the thick masonry walls of neighboring buildings. That podium is topped by four stories of glulam construction. The all-wood interior keeps faith with the district’s heritage of timber framework, though a masonry cladding has given way to a sophisticated glass-and-aluminum curtain wall system. The designers liken the blended aesthetic to a ship in the bottle.

Celebration of Wood

“The upper four floors are a mass timber frame with glulam beams and columns with a 3-inch tongue and groove wood decking, laid diagonal,” explain the designers. “Plywood shear walls constitute the lateral system and are the only fixed walls in the space.” Transparent. Open. Inviting. Framework is a contemporary salute to Oregon’s timberland tradition. “The project celebrates wood,” Strickland and Neburka observe. “The design exposes 80 percent of the wood used. There is a warmth to wood that can’t be replicated in other materials. Wood has the ability to create a more complex and intimate environment even in an expansive, open space.” Wood also represents “an inherently sustainable strategy of renewable and regional materials.”