COURTESY SWIFT; PORTRAIT: JESSICA HILL
o one would have protested if the former factory and warehouse at 17th and Overton had been demolished. The concrete-block structure in Northwest Portland’s Slabtown neighborhood was nearly windowless, and after four expansions over the years, its interior was a gloomy warren. You wouldn’t peg it as the future home of Swift, an advertising agency built around ideals of openness and collaboration. But Swift and its architects, Heidi Beebe and Doug Skidmore of Beebe Skidmore Architects, saw an opportunity to pay tribute to Slabtown’s industrial past by creating a compelling hybrid of old and new design. Swift, which has grown steadily over the past decade with its digital campaigns for the likes of Starbucks, Google, and Nestlé, wanted an open office space designed to foster interaction. “We wanted everyone on one floor, all together,” says Swift cofounder Alicia McVey, “and we wanted to use the raw bones of the space. We didn’t want to do anything just for design’s sake—instead we took the existing structure and put our own mark on it.” The resulting design harmoniously weaves crisp new features through the rough original space. New glass cubes cantilever over the sidewalk from the old warehouse’s concrete-block base, while skylights on the sawtooth roof (smaller extant ones as well as large new ones) draw light deep into the interior, illuminating the massive original glulam ceiling beams. “We didn’t just stick new objects onto the old building,” reflects Skidmore. “They’re very embedded.” Practical considerations and »
FROM TOP: The building’s exterior is an eye-catching interplay of simple geometric forms that recall children’s blocks, even as the original warehouse remains discernible. Heidi Beebe and Doug Skidmore of Beebe Skidmore Architects stand outside the new office.
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