Back in 2014, AIA Portland hosted the Stitch Design Competition at the Center for Architecture. The challenge was to design a solution for capping the section of I-405 highway between SW 13th and 14th near the Portland Art Museum, the central Multnomah County Library branch and Providence Park. Always up for a challenge, we teamed up with a couple of friends from a Bay Area architecture firm along with a local designer and presented our idea for this unique area of the city. Essentially, as we envisioned it, a park would rise in the north, and create a covered space for Portlanders to get away from the rain. An open space above this area would offer an ideal location for gatherings, and the entire design would be easily connected so that visitors and locals alike could easily navigate from one end to the other. Overall, the design, which would naturally intertwine with the existing highway and buildings, was aimed to provide “an adaptable, engaging, connecting space available for a variety of purposes and users, whether they happen upon it or intentionally arrive.”
The city of Portland never built this idea out in the real world, but we loved our proposed design just the same. Therefore, when we came across the Przelomy Centre in Poland, we were excited to see such a unique, yet similar design come to life. From the Public Space website, the project is described: “The south-western edge of the square, which is curved, also rises above street level in order to protect the space from traffic noise from the motorway running along that side. The two sloping edges gently converge from diagonally opposite points to meet near the centre of the square, which is now sheltered despite the gaps in its urban facades. A downwards-slanting ramp set at an angle to the gradient of the square is located in the central dip giving access to the museum. This central zone, at ground level, respects the diagonal route taken by most pedestrians and cyclists when crossing the square before it was renovated. The pre-existing trees on the north-western quarter just in front of the Philharmonic Hall were also conserved and, in the opposite quarter the Angel of Freedom still stands.”
While the Portland design solution for capping a section of I-405 and the Przelomy design for the heart of Solidarity Square in Szcecin, Poland are remarkably different, their structural and aesthetic elements are strikingly similar. To us it’s exciting to see such a uniquely contrasting part of the world utilize a design that is functional, beautiful and meaningful all at once.