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Mayer/Reed makes its mark through blend of historic structures, contemporary design

COURTESY: NBBJ/MAYER REED - Landscaping of the OHSU Marquam Hill campus was an essential part of the overall projectA significant portion of Mayer/Reed's work on landscape architecture, urban design and visual communications projects involve a seamless blending of the historic and the contemporary, and improving public access amid some of the Portland metro area's most challenging topography.

A case in point is the firm's work at Oregon Health & Science University's Marquam Hill campus. Its trio of adjacent projects includes a renovation of older hospital space and the new Elks Children's Eye Clinic at the Casey Eye Institute. The clinic features green roofs and eco-roofs, native plants and wildlife habitat, as well as stormwater treatment and bioswales. Elks Children's Eye Clinic received a design excellence award from the Portland Design Commission last year.

"It's always interesting to work up there. It's a difficult, challenging site with steep grades, and we're trying to improve public access," said Principal Carol Mayer-Reed, FASLA, adding pedestrian access and vehicle drop-off and pick-up was a top priority. "It's a very chaotic and disorientating space, so we're working to achieve some coherency to the wayfinding."

Principal Jeramie Shane, ASLA, said the firm's work on the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project is a continuation of its long-time relationships with TriMet and Metro and involves better connecting Marquam Hill with Southwest Portland.

"Getting people up the hill from that major transportation artery is a big piece of that project," he said.

As the corridor line develops, Mayer/Reed and other project team members are seeking ways to increase equity and build community along the new MAX line and its stations. A conceptual design released several weeks ago is now being presented through a series of community meetings to gather feedback on how the project fits within the neighborhood, how people will use it to travel, and other impacts.

"This is one of our most challenging projects because of the topography and the length of the segment. It also involves a lot of project partners and team members," Shane said. "We're working to fit this in with all of the physical and aspirational goals and objective goals about including more affordable housing."

Mayer/Reed also is involved in the corridor's urban design component and is working with the engineering team on technical aspects of the project.

"It's interesting to see how we as stewards of the land work on a much broader view of how urban design fits with the architecture," he said. "There's a long way to go, and we're making sure everything fits together so the vision can actually fit within the design parameters."

Mayer/Reed has partnered with Portland Public Schools on the restorations of the historic Franklin, Grant and Roosevelt high school buildings and is on the team building the new Lincoln High School. It also will be part of the renovations and expansions at Madison and Benson Polytechnic high schools.

"We feel like that is really important civic work that touches all parts of our city and touches thousands of kids, teachers and staff, and we're working with the community on those," Mayer-Reed said. "Traditionally, historic buildings don't have great indoor/outdoor relationships, so part of the renovation is trying to improve that."

Among the topics of discussions with community members, school staff and others is the issue of equity and inclusion and how design outcomes should remove both physical and social barriers. Student safety is top of mind as well as how to create common spaces that link to the outside of the buildings and how classrooms can provide space for social interactions, celebrations, performances, fitness and teambuilding.

Mayer-Reed said a trend she is seeing is how schools can incorporate outdoor maker spaces, science labs, urban agricultural areas and stormwater treatment.

"We're doing our best to demonstrate green practices and stewardship, part of which includes the installation of hundreds of trees to reduce heat islands and contribute to air quality and habitat," she said, noting another goal is to strengthen the schools' identities and build pride and ownership in the buildings.

"We've been really grateful to contribute to this meaningful work and we're excited to see these projects move forward since they're all in different phases of completion," she said.

Shane noted that the firm's work on the Oregon Convention Center, which included a hospitality terrace and events plaza, improves pedestrian circulation throughout the site and illustrates how landscape architecture impacts transportation.

Mayer/Reed has worked on the convention center since it installed a rain garden there in 2002 and has seen firsthand how the OCC's vision plan for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Holladay Street has transformed the area into a more pedestrian and transit-friendly atmosphere.

"What was really great was to create a flexible outdoor space to have a programming plaza on the site," Shane said, adding building a connection between the convention center, the Hyatt Regency Hotel Portland, and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was a big piece of the challenge.

Mayer-Reed pointed out that the firm also worked on the hotel and its parking garage while collaborating with OCC staff and LMN Architects to improve signage and wayfinding both inside and outside the convention center, including the main entrance. That process involved understanding how people use the space and the light rail infrastructure around it.

"I think it allows us to have an interdisciplinary office in how we work together and the toolkit we use," she said. "It was also really cool to work with Colas Construction and build relationships with the administrative group."

Mayer-Reed called the Willamette Falls Riverwalk in Oregon City, which the firm has been working on for about five years and will build Phase 1 with Otak and Snohetta, "a legacy project that is culturally and environmentally significant."

Phase 1 will provide a view of the falls through the adaptive reuse of a former mill building. Mayer/Reed also is working with the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, which purchased the former Blue Heron Paper Mill site last September, on how to provide public access within the property. The Willamette Falls Riverwalk project's four core values are historic and cultural interpretation, public access, healthy habitat and economic redevelopment.


Melody Finnemore is a contract writer who regularly contributes to the Business Tribune. She can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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