Text description provided by the architects. A multi-family development in Northeast Portland, Origami builds on Waechter Architecture's previous single-family work, while introducing a new dilemma of scale.
Taking up the street front of one full city block, the project required Waechter Architecture to find balance between the individual and the whole. In response, their concept harkened back to the process of origami, in which a single sheet of paper can be manipulated through folding to produce more complex figures in its form and play of light and shadows.
Adopting the fold as the formal driver of the project, the overall mass of the development was broken down, providing individual articulation to each unit while maintaining the sculptural impact of the whole. A folded roof-scape connects the offset facades of each unit, linking their gables, while complicating the overall perception of scale.
“Understanding the dilemmas of the site, we wanted to avoid a strategy of either fragmented individual buildings or a monolithic block. Our design takes inspiration from the process of origami, in which a single sheet of paper can be manipulated through folding to produce more complex figures in its form and play of light and shadows,” says Ben Waechter, founder and principal of Waechter Architecture.
The folded facades of the townhouses are complemented by more streamlined geometry on the inside. Large rectangular volumes consolidating service areas - such as bathrooms, closets, and mechanical spaces - are strategically located on each floor to define different living areas. Working together with exterior wall surfaces, each unit gains an individual character, while maintaining efficiencies and regularities in planning and construction. On the top floor of each townhome, vaulted ceilings bring the formal language of the development into contact with the interior, creating distinct, voluminous bedrooms with views out into the city.
Holding the street edge along three of its sides, the project’s footprint frames a shared internal court at the back, where each townhome has private space for gardens, entertaining, and parking. “We decided to build the ‘exterior rooms’ from CMU to really give them a sense of solidity and privacy, while at the same time being open to the sky and trees around,” says Waechter.