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Origami-inspired apartment building is a fresh take on townhouses

A bit of irregularity makes it fun

Aerial view of C-shaped townhouse complex with a roofline that peaks and dips. Jeremy Bittermann

In Portland, Oregon, Waechter Architecture recently competed a residential development that manages to break out of the conventional boxy apartment building look.

Origami is a 12-townhouse residential development whose unusual shape is a nod to its name. The timber-clad structure unfolds like an accordion across an entire block, its roofline forming peaks and valleys and its dark blue facade covered in windows that dare to not line up.

“The design concept harkens back to the process of origami, in which a single sheet of paper can be manipulated through folding to produce more complex figures,” the architects explain.

Facade of of blue townhouse development shows angular roofline and mismatched windows. Jeremy Bittermann

Origami sits on a busy street in the city’s Piedmont neighborhood, an area known for its cozy bungalows. With that in mind, the architects wanted to avoid creating a monolithic slab of a building, which led them the slightly disjointed design.

The 12 units come in three different layouts, each with airy interiors and dramatic vaulted ceilings. Point is a 1,071-square-foot detached home that starts at $490,000; Pleat is a 1,568-square-foot three-bedroom home with a large outdoor courtyard that starts at $599,000; and Plane is a 1,960-square-foot corner home that starts at $649,000.

Taken as an entire unit, the three sides of the Origami development create a C-shape on the block, leaving plenty of room in the back for private courtyards and parking.

A living room with lots of windows, a gray sofa, and two gray armchairs in front of a modern fireplace. Shaun Records
An open living room/kitchen/dining room with concrete floors, gray couch, and black kitchen island. Jeremy Bittermann
A light filled bathroom with a wall of glass and white countertops. Shaun Records