Event Recap • Provocations for a More Vibrant City

November 12, 2017 | | View Comments

Design, community, and accessibility can redefine Portland’s waterfront and connect the city like never before.


Portland’s growth is on the minds of designers, urban planners, and city innovators. How do we scale while maintaining our city’s culture and preserving the bustling business that reside here? Michael Tingley, Principal at BORA Architects, shared a design provocation that imagines ways to utilize the largest undeveloped land parcel within the central city while remaining sustainable, open, and just: the Water Avenue Yards.

Rethink the Riverbank

Michael Tingley passionately stated: “We need to stop thinking of the Willamette as an industrial channel and start thinking of it as a beautiful, living organism in our city.” Portland is a city defined by its river, yet access to the Willamette is limited; even the major waterfront parks are lined with river walls and docks are few and far between. One of the biggest attractions of the Water Avenue Yards property is that it lies along the east bank of the Willamette River, beside the Morrison Bridge. By placing steps leading down to an urban beach, the project proposes introducing ways Portland’s citizens can reconnect to their river, complete with a ramp for canoes and kayaks.

Embrace Industry

The Central Eastside Industrial District is heavily focused on maintaining its defining characteristic: makers, manufacturers, and builders. In order to draw attention to and celebrate these core innovators, the plan foregoes the classic block structure in favor of rows of affordably-built office and visible maker space to increase connection between local craft and visitors. Instead of succumbing to the mass development block architecture, the idea creates a natural flow that draws visitors from dense urban activity towards the river.

Diversify Utility

Development can be a tense process, primarily when space used for transit and community is reallocated to allow for more traffic and commercial use. In order to keep the neighborhood vibrant, Water Avenue Yards draws inspiration from the Dutch term woonerf (VONE-erf), meaning “living streets.” The plan would prioritize transportation for bikers and pedestrians by reducing car access within the area, and includes a public square in the center of the property with space for temporary structures such as art installations, food carts, or event tents.

Connect The City

Projects such as Water Avenue Yards face numerous naysayers due to the location and high demand for alternate use. Michael and the BORA team have prioritized the notion that yet another stark, inaccessible new development will stifle the potential for the neighborhood. A successful use of the land is one that invests in the wellbeing and vibrancy of the Central Eastside’s river district. The project is the start of what Michael Tingley calls, “stitching the two halves of the city together,” where he ultimately aims to transform the area into an industrial space that is both expansive and versatile.

A huge thank you to Michael Tingley for this wonderful event!

Design Museum Mornings happen every month! Join us for Biodesign: Every Body in Motion with Wilson Smith on December 8th!