Boasting a nationally recognized culinary scene and an enviable fleet of food trucks, Portland would appear to offer everything a foodie could desire. Like many American cities, however, the birthplace of culinary icon James Beard still lacks a year-round public market. But a multi-year campaign to build a James Beard Public Market moved one step closer to reality recently after supporters unveiled a proposed design by New York and Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta. According to designer and project director Nathan McRae, himself a Portland native, the concept fills in a notable gap in the city skyline and aims to create a contiguous market experience. As a model for neighborhood and urban regeneration, culinary infrastructure that regenerates what was once a bare parking lot on the Willamette River seems like a natural way to build community.
"It has the opportunity to provide a gateway into the city," says McRae. "It's a chance to really create link between the waterfront and downtown."
Design for the proposed site, currently bisected by the Morrison Street Bridge, began with feedback from vendors and locals. McRae and his team suggested realigning the ramps and adding a walkway to make the site more accessible. Currently, the area looks like a spiral cloverleaf straight out of the LA highway system, but this move, along with the addition of widened walkways, would help create a contiguous, three-block outdoor space and reclaim a key piece of the waterfront for pedestrians.
Inside, the designers rethought the stall, the basic building block of the market. Instead of grid-like, modular rows, McRae's team created a series of meandering pathways with a variety of different-sized spaces. The 60-plus vendors gain more valuable corner spots and appropriate commercial real estate, while shoppers were presented with a more walkable interior that flows into public spaces and cafes. Along with high ceilings and a series of retractable glass walls, and design elements such as steel trusses that referenced the nearby bridge, the proposal creates a seamless integration between indoors and outdoors that plays off its surroundings. The green roof, which may contain a hydroponic garden, will offer views of Mt. Hood.
"With this kind of natural ventilation for the produce, it should be a big sustainable measure," says McRae. "They won't need to use air conditioning for 10 months of the year."
McRae envisions activity from the vendors and restaurants spilling out to the patio and plaza, designed with a focus on native plants, such as Western white pine. A series of poles hoisting bunches of hops will hang above the outdoor seating, offering fans of Portland's potent IPAs quite the sensory experience. This kind of community space, according to McRae, may be just the catalyst this area, which is short on residential buildings, needs.
"There's no way for people downtown to get their hands on the amazing produce produced by this region year-round," he says. "Instead of feeling like it's cut off from the city, we want this market to really create an asset for the city"
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