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Design Week Portland | Buildings Full Of Women | Swift Agency | Nightwood Society | Hacienda CDC


Buildings are the structures we use to frame our lives, but most of them are created by just half of us. Women make up only about 25 percent of full-time architects, and that number gets smaller the higher up the job ladder you go.

So this week on “State of Wonder,” we gathered some of Portland’s brightest minds at the creative event space Nightwood to ask: What would buildings designed by and for women look like?


Formerly the restaurant, Chesa, the Nightwood is now home to Michelle Battista and a collective of women chefs and artists.

Formerly the restaurant, Chesa, the Nightwood is now home to Michelle Battista and a collective of women chefs and artists.

Steven Tonthat/OPB

Cultivating Creative Space at the Nightwood - 1:55

Michelle Battista is the founder of the Nightwood Society, a collective of women creating a safe space for artists and designers to come together to learn and share their skills at their unique event space, the Nightwood. Regular events have included tastings for Oregon-grown olive oil, top-drawer chefs cooking to raise money for Puerto Rico, wine tastings that spill over into secret locations — even classes on how to butcher a hog or chicken. Battista talks to us about founding Nightwood and her ethos.

“I wanted a safe place for them to learn, and we focus on skill sharing which just isn’t present in most food and restaurant environments … so we wanted to create a collective where it was about collaboration first.” — Michelle Battista


Part of Oregon State Univesity's Learning and Innovation Center, designed by Bora Architects. Amy Donohue was a key member of this design team.

Part of Oregon State Univesity’s Learning and Innovation Center, designed by Bora Architects. Amy Donohue was a key member of this design team.

Steve Maylone/Courtesy of Bora Architects

Designing With Women: Anyeleh Hallová and Amy Donohue - 7:57

There’s no end to new development in Portland right now, but many of those impressive new buildings can look different, depending on who’s doing the looking. The fields of real estate development and architecture are mostly male. We talked to two people about how the design process is different with women involved. Anyeleh Hallová, a partner at the Portland firm project^, specializes in creative urban projects like Union Way and PNCA’s dorms, the Arthouse. Her latest act involves a high-rise made of wood. And Amy Donohue, a principal with Bora Architects, has a special feel for the places where people learn, having designed buildings for major universities and corporations.

“I think, as women, we have a different understanding as we walk in the world about sight lines and comfort. It’s not that we’re always thinking about safety. It’s just that our notion of safety is very different.” — Anyeleh Hallová


Headquarters for Swift Agency, designed by Beebe Skidmore Architects, uses dramatic diagonal sightlines and a clustered floorplan to create a workplace that transforms interaction.

Headquarters for Swift Agency, designed by Beebe Skidmore Architects, uses dramatic diagonal sightlines and a clustered floorplan to create a workplace that transforms interaction.

Courtesy of Swift Agency

Tranformative Office Space at Swift - 26:26

Portland is full of successful design agencies, but few shine as brightly as Swift. Started by Alicia McVey and Liz Valentine in 2006, it has grown to 140 people, 65 percent of whom are women. Of course, a fabulous company needs a fabulous office, and two years back, Swift set their eyes on an old awning factory in Northwest industrial Portland. We spoke with McVey and Swift’s chief talent officer, Maren Elliott, about designing the building and what’s different in an office where architecture deconstructs hierarchy.

“There was a time when the executive leadership team sat grouped together, tucked away in a corner. And we had an employee who had been with us for a long time make a comment when she walked back to us, that she felt like she was running a gauntlet when she came back there. I think it was the next day that we drew up new seating plans, and we moved the executive team out to sit in the open floor plan.” — Maren Elliott


A rendering of Las Adelitas, the new affordable housing c, Inc.mplex planned by Hacienda CDC, designed by Salazar Architect.

A rendering of Las Adelitas, the new affordable housing c, Inc.mplex planned by Hacienda CDC, designed by Salazar Architect.

Courtesy of Hacienda CDC

Reconstituted Sugar: Hacienda CDC Creates Las Adelitas - 40:43

A blighted corner of the Cully neighborhood is about to get a big makeover. Hacienda CDC is creating a new multi-generational affordable housing complex on the site of a long-standing strip joint the Sugar Shack. Rose Ojeda, Director of Housing Development for Hacienda CDC, talks to us about the new project, designed with women and their families in mind.

“I don’t know if any of you folks have been to the Sugar Shack — it’s just an old, dilapidated building — but we preserved basically the nightclub [of the former strip club] as an event space. And that event space just gets tremendous use. So that’s one of the things we really, really need to provide to the community.” — Rose Ojeda

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