Wild Urbanism is about architecture and ecology. It is about function and form. It is about balance. The
project is a mixed-use development adjacent to a riparian ecosystem located in SE Portland, Oregon. The site is
bordered by Johnson Creek, a tributary of the Willamette River, Interstate 205, and a mixed upland forest. It
is an intersection of human and non-human habitats. Prior to the construction of I-205, the site was an
important habitat corridor for wildlife. The creek’s associated riparian forest provided essential foraging
and nesting sites for mammals, birds, and invertebrates. The creek itself provided spawning areas for salmon.
After the construction of the interstate, much of the habitat’s integrity was lost. Johnson Creek was
channelized and much of the site was buried in urban fill, including a wetland and perennial branch of the
Wild Urbanism seeks to incorporate the site’s potential ecological function into an urban
community. Residential, commercial, and community areas reside adjacent to and within natural areas. Habitat
patches and corridors as well as stream health are integrated into the design and provide an additional means of site
form and organization. This integration was effectively realized because of the partnership of landscape architect
and architect. The landscape architect student shared an understanding of the ecological foundations and site
analysis. The architecture student shared an understanding of spatial composition and site hierarchy. Together
the students then experimented with urban and natural
forms to create a final design scheme.
The collaboration between landscape architect
and architect was paramount to the success of Wild Urbanism.
It involved effective communication and compromise.
The design work was realized through an integrative
and responsive process of merging each other’s
ideas and skills. Every layer of information in every
drawing was passed through two sets of hands. Both students
relinquished their own geniuses and listened to one
Six primary principles drove the design
of Wild Urbanism. The principles were conceived from
the site’s location, scale, and ecology. They
were also a response to the programmatic elements seeking
to create an ecological and urban community that was
also a great home. The following briefly describes each.
The images on the subsequent pages provide further explanation
of the principles.
1. Reconstruct: Site within Context:
The site lies in flux in both space and time. Located
on the edge of Portland’s city limits, adjacent
to Interstate 205, and along a main tributary of the
Willamette River, the site has historically witnessed
high habitat value followed by extreme urban fill and
stream channelization. The design seeks to find a balance
while also integrating itself into the regional urban,
water, and habitat context.
2. Superimpose: Urban Form and
To instigate the design process, the focus was quantity
with the intention for quality to follow. Through diagramming
and sketch models, we tested many formal, conceptual,
and metaphorical schemes around both urban and natural
forms . Dominant themes of landscape ecology’s
corridor and patch as well as the urban grid developed
through the process.
3. Intersect: Human and Natural
The planting plan seeks to establish ecological function
and structure. The design’s ecological framework
is defined as including all site inhabitants, non-human
and human. A riparian forest and two corridors (the
primary corridor is a upland mixed forest and the secondary
is a stormwater filtration swale set within an allee)
are comprised of native plants that are common to Portland
and northwestern Oregon. The native vegetation fluctuates
between random patch planting and formal forest archetypal
plantings (specifically a long allee and bosque). The
street trees were chosen based on vitality, form, and
the aesthetic appeal. The nursery is intended to supply
the site with a variety of trees.
4. Water Spine: Stormwater
To preserve pre-development run-off rates, the design
incorporates a bioswale collection and filtration system.
The system is strategically placed in the site’s
existing low areas and runs through the middle of the
development between a reestablished wetland to the west
and a recovered perennial stream to the east. The water
collection and filtration design is then celebrated
rather than concealed. Water falling from roofs and
moving towards the centrally located stormwater bioswale
is dramatized. The dull rhythm of Oregon rains is exploited
5. Overlap: Dynamic Experiential
Through overlapping various programmatic elements, there
are multiple opportunities for unique experiences. For
example: people on streets, streets through trees, paths
over water, habitat on roofs. The metaphor of a plaid
– elements running parallel and perpendicular
to each other to create interesting and evocative moments
– was a strong diagram throughout project development.
6. Share: an outdoor space for
Open space is spread throughout the site to ensure equal
access and use. Living streets allow the street to also
be a playground and serve people on foot, on bike and
in car. Community outdoor areas are located nearby all
residences and are flexible to the inhabitant’s
whims: community gardens, open lawns, maybe a sculpture
gallery. Soft pathways run throughout the site’s
habitat areas and provide quiet solitude. A large park-like
open space is designed to provide a community gathering
area as well as a place for spontaneous frisbee games.