Now, with the Ziba headquarters, Stuhr and Holmes have experienced the terror of designing for other designers, but also the elation of working with a firm ready to more aggressively project the values both companies share. Ziba’s founder, Sohrab Vossoughi, describes the building’s interior with urban analogies—streets connecting neighborhoods where tribes of creatives will conjure new products and brand images. But the building’s architecture also reaches exuberantly into the outside world. The huge, cantilevered picture window, extending three and a half feet over the sidewalk, provides rain cover to those walking beneath it, while inviting passersby to look in. In an auditorium with its own entrance on NW Marshall Street, Ziba plans to offer a community gathering space, where it will host discussions with artists and designers, among other things. “We don’t want to insulate ourselves within,” Vossoughi says. “We want a connection to the city and neighborhood. Holst shares our same values and work culture—they have a crafts mentality of engaging in the city with care, not about showing off.”
“When we started our firm four years ago, we could tell Holst was different,” says Carrie Schilling, a principal at Works Partnership Architecture, another small East Side office following in Holst’s wake. “Other firms wanted to build a business. Holst was building a practice, and they always put craft first.”
Mere steps away from Holst’s office, Works Partnership is putting its own ideas to the test with the Bside6 building on ?E Burnside Street, seven stories of work studios and retail space that seem to float above the street in a Tetris-like façade. As with Ziba’s headquarters, huge, floor-to-ceiling panels of glass will offer glimpses of the activity inside. The energy of the building’s overall form echoes the patterns of passing traffic below. With ribbons of dark-gray metal playing hide-and-seek with sleek glass, the structure mixes sexy and stern like no other building in the city. Yet Works Partnership’s bold, column-free reinterpretation of the lower East Burnside tradition of covered sidewalks nestles the building like a puzzle piece into the street’s ramshackle collection of bars, vintage retailers, and coffee shops as seamlessly as the new Ziba headquarters does in the far tonier Pearl.
Neburka notes with pride that the building’s budget fits this low-rent neighborhood as well. Indeed, while Holst has long been known for its willingness and ability to work on tight budgets, Works Partnership takes it one step further, considering itself a firm that can craft modern architecture on food stamps. “Holst asks clients, ‘What is it you like about meat and potatoes?’” Neburka says, laughing. “We say, ‘Do you know how much meat costs? You can do wonders with salt instead.’”
’We’re all trying to galvanize architecture in Portland by building into the urban fabric and sharing similar ideals.’ -Daniel Kaven, William Kaven Architecture
For these emerging firms, the budget question is rarely how much money they can spend, but how little they can get away with investing while still reaching their considerably high ideals—after all, it’s often their own money on the line. Atelier Waechter founder Ben Waechter, for instance, has applied his six years of experience working for top Portland firm Allied Works and for the world-renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop to the problem of designing two rowhouses just off of N Williams Avenue. In what he and his wife, realtor Daria Crymes, dubbed the “Z-Haus,” so named for its interior pattern of zigzagging spaces, Waechter raised the repetition of rooms and building parts found in any low-budget building to a geometrically precise elegance.
The home is a simple sequence of six identical fourteen-foot-by-nineteen-foot rooms connected by half flights of stairs rising around a central core of bathrooms, a kitchen, and a laundry room. With windows placed in corner locations for maximum natural light, the character of each space is determined solely by its unique views of neighboring houses, treetops, and sky. At first glance, the sternly rectilinear structure seems incongruous with the peaked-roofed cottages it sits between, but closer scrutiny ?reveals the Z-Haus’s careful tailoring. “The faces of the Z-Haus, both front and back, are perfectly aligned with the houses to either side,” Waechter explains. “And we used painted wood siding, since that’s the vernacular of the neighborhood.”
Waechter served as his own contractor, playing every penny to maximum effect with such carefully chosen details as innovative German windows that are made of nontoxic, recyclable materials and tilt open for ventilation, or the bathrooms’ warmly pigmented, hand-textured stucco. The Z-Haus is also chock-full of environmentally sound building methods and materials, from its rain-screen siding that keeps water out while allowing air in, to natural air-conditioning that draws cool air up through the house via a central vent. Waechter shrugs off the idea that he’s done anything unusual. “Urban infill by its very nature is green,” he says. “The architectural style is all about keeping it as compact and simple as possible.”