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Mackenzie, industry firms bring fresh eyes to the Ford District

San Diego design students fly to PDX to masterplan the Ford District

The Ford District: if the location doesn’t immediately come to mind, that’s because it’s still being defined — the new community swirling up with creative developments is using input from some of the nation’s newest designers: undergrads.SUBMITTED: NEWSCHOOL - More than 60 fourth-year undergraduate architecture students will collaborate with Intrinsic Ventures to masterplan the Ford District.

Mackenzie, along with several other local firms including Intrinsic Venture development, hosted fourth-year undergraduates from the

NewSchool of Architecture & Design in San Diego, Calif. for a long weekend of collaboration on a sustainable vision for developing Portland’s Ford District.

The Ford District, an area located on the southern end of the Central Eastside Industrial District, was newly dubbed by Intrinsic developer Michael Tevis — a major player in the NewSchool studio program. In 2004, Intrinsic renovated the historic Ford Building conference center (2505 S.E. 11th Ave.), a hub that now has more than 100 maker spaces for retailers, creatives, entrepreneurs, manufacturers and artisans in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood.

The program is part of NewSchool’s Integrated Design Studio, developed to engage students in contemporary urban design and architecture.

In this program, more than 60 undergrads will work over the next two semesters, collaborating with industry partners.

The project is intended to develop viable strategies for communities that incorporate local technical system, materiality and programmatic optimization, addressing social and ecological challenges.

NewSchool is NAAB accredited (National Architectural Accrediting Board), and offers construction management, product design, media design, design studios, interior architecture, architecture and design.

“What’s special about this course is the confluence of three major architectural concentrations: architectural design, real estate development and construction engineering,” said NewSchool faculty leader Daniela Deutsch. “While these topics often remain part of specialized programs or elective studios, our philosophy is that they must be treated as equally relevant, and opened to discussion and research for each student of architecture in an accredited program before they finish their diploma. In our program, the goal is achieved by developing an integrated design approach in the framework of a mandatory Integrated Design Project.”

Mackenzie has an integrated design method, with all engineering disciplines together with architects and landscape architects.

Rich Mitchell, managing principal at Mackenzie, said they’ve invested time and energy into staying in touch with schools for a number of reasons.

“One of course, to keep our name and brand message of integrated design in front of students that we’re trying to recruit,” Mitchell said. “We’d like to get the first, best and brightest in the design schools to at least think about coming to Portland, and think about coming to Mackenzie.”

In April 2017, the students will present their exercise master plans and scale models of the proposed Ford District in San Diego and in Portland.

Studying the Ford District with Mackenzie

The NewSchool students spent a day in professional seminars from different studios on topics like land use and planning in the city of Portland, covering the interests of developers and client needs. Mitchell’s lectures covered Portland’s design guidelines, its history and transportation-oriented development.

Mitchell graduated from the University of Oregon’s architecture program, drawn in the late ‘70s by its high international rankings. He’s lectured at UO as well, and Mackenzie participates with Portland State, Washington State and OSU as design critics.

“We spread it around,” he said.

NewSchool is the first based in California to be included.

Mackenzie hosted lectures for a day, and then over the rest of the trip students went to on-site workshops, other seminars and tours of the site. The Green Building Initiative and Glumac lectured about sustainable certification, lighting types, ventilation and daylighting strategies associated with sustainable design.

“It’s kind of a whirlwind tour to soak up Portland, get the feel of the context and get professionals to discuss topics — which is what we’ve been doing — and really enrich the students with as much of a real-world situation as we can,” Mitchell said. “Then they’ll go back and begin their master planning for the district, go through serious exercises over the next ten weeks to develop a vision or plan for the district, and then from there break into teams and work the remainder of two quarters on specific sites of the district, in a nutshell.”

Mitchell said the Ford District is ideal for students for a list of reasons.SOURCE: NEWSCHOOL - The Ford District is currently fairly underdeveloped, which makes it a great place for students to practice sustainable neighborhood design.

“One, it’s on the south end of the Central Eastside, in an area that maybe hasn’t been getting as much attention as that area on the end of the Hawthorne Bridge or at the Burnside Bridgehead,” Mitchell said. “There is a lot of activity there, so a lot of attention gets paid at the bridgeheads. This area, not so much — it’s sort of new, but not very far from the bridgehead landing.”

With the Central Eastside Industrial District an up-and-coming site for large developments such as the OMSI expansion, Mitchell feels like it’s a new frontier. “There are a lot of open sites, a lot of potential, and it hasn’t been studied in-depth before — especially the southern end there, where the Ford District is,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity because there’s just a little more to chew on there, a little bit more that hasn’t been set in motion,” Mitchell said. “It’s more challenging that way, you can set a bigger mission for the entire district. That’s a little harder to do at the Burnside Bridgehead right now.”

Another reason is the opportunity for professionals to learn from students.

“Even as practicing professionals, when you help students look at a site and study a district, there is an exchange of ideas — it’s not just a one-way process, the professionals themselves learn a lot,” Mitchell said. “It is also a training ground for the rest of us where we can test out some ideas with the students and so on before anybody has to worry about real deadlines or hard commitments with development agreements or those sorts of things, you can really explore the potential of the district.”

Mitchell said Mackenzie hasn’t hired any graduates from NewSchool, but hopes to see that change. He said it’s been difficult to convince people living in San Diego to move up north, and has heard from students they’d like Mackenzie to open an office down there.

The students will present their final solutions around spring break time in April.

“It’s possible that some of the ideas are either metabolized or something going forward, or maybe even more directly something that’s taken further,” Mitchell said. “It’s hard to say (if the designs will be applied): that’s not really the primary objective as much as it is to explore ideas and concepts, so we’ll see.”

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Key Players

  • Mackenzie Inc. (Architecture/Engineering/Interiors/Planning)
  • Intrinsic Ventures in Portland
  • NewSchool of Architecture and Design faculty and students
  • The Green Building Initiative
  • Glumac Engineers
  • KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • UCSD Structural Engineering Department
  • SDSU Civil Engineering Department

  • Our Partners