Design Week Portland kicked off Sunday, April 17, and the Center for Architecture in Portland, Oregon, was on the frontline with the exhibit Snøhetta: People, Process, Projects. Running until June 30, architecture and design firm Snøhetta compiled the material and designed the exhibition that serves as a retrospective and foretells of things to come. Originally shown in Copenhagen, this is the firm’s first extensive exhibition in the United States.
Previously on display last summer in Copenhagen, the exhibition highlights the firm’s work in Oregon on two large wall panels: The James Beard Public Market in Portland and the Willamette Falls Riverwalk in Oregon City. A fair portion of the exhibition covers the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with a site model, large-scale facade study, detail drawings, and several renderings—a variety that feeds an architect’s curiosity. The breakthrough Alexandria Library in Egypt and the Norwegian National Opera are included, as well as several net-positive energy buildings and more libraries that are underway in Philadelphia and Far Rockaway, Queens.
The exhibition excels at displaying Snøhetta’s process. A wall graphic shows the diversity of office locations and staff, and several panels comprise the communal table that represents the center of the office—both in practice and in headquarters—in Oslo, Norway. But the study models, material samples, and inspirational pieces give more insight into the firm than could renderings, which are just as flat here as in any publication or on any screen.
Scale models convey context, form, and texture—the last especially in the study for the Vulkan Beehives installed in Norway. They’re really just a second skin wrapping a traditional apiary, but they’re a beautiful way to bring attention to a vital function of our ecosystem. Mock-ups of glass frits provide support for display panels of their respective projects. White boards offer areas for visitors to comment on the James Beard Public Market…and, perhaps unintentionally, other projects. All are aspects that make the physical display more than a just a catalogue made large—the exhibition is an interactive process.
A really cool aspect of the exhibition is the lounge that was created in the reception area. Angular seating lines one wall, and a low table with seating provides a place to flip through a number of Snøhetta’s publications, chat with friends, or take a break from the jam-packed events during Design Week. Hopefully it remains as a future amenity.