Rowell Brokaw Architects

1203 Willamette.jpg

203 Willamette is a re-envisioning of a vacant, rundown building on a lifeless block of Eugene’s historic main street. Key interventions include a new circulation core to promote a more diverse tenant mix. Layers of old finish are removed to reveal concrete and timber. Blank walls are opened to introduced daylight. The street façade is re-framed to be transparent and showcase the wood structure.  An extended roof overhang invites street level activity and seating.

1203 Willamette is a re-envisioning of a 1940s era furniture store that had in recent decades become an antique mall. At 36,000-square-feet, and with two-stories and a basement, the building consisted of two 60'x120' nearly blank U-shaped concrete boxes, a 20'x20' timber grid, and wood joist floors. By 2017, the building was vacant and rundown, on a lifeless block of Eugene’s historic main street—a teardown.

The timber frame module had potential for a range of tenant sizes and types, and the layers of acoustic tile, plaster, carpet, and trim concealed raw board-formed concrete and timber structure. In a city with scant warehouse building stock, this had potential. Key interventions: A new east-west circulation core inserted within the frame, connecting the street to the alley parking and opening the possibility for a diverse and complementary tenant mix. Layers of finish are removed to reveal the structure. The concrete shell is strengthened to resist seismic action, and the nearly light-less interior opened up with new windows and skylights at the second floor. The Willamette facade is reframed in glulam timbers, maximizing transparency. Each bay contains a garage door with storefront sidelights, allowing tenants to open to the generous sidewalk for outdoor seating and retail exposure. The new roof overhang, clad in reclaimed Douglas Fir from the building interior, protects outdoor seating and invites street level life. The design is direct, seeking the right moves and no more: diversify the mix, reveal the bones, keep details simple, and limit the palette.

Jury's Comments; “The adaptive reuse of a 1940’s era furniture store, with limited relationship with the life of downtown Eugene, is a terrific case study of urban revitalization.  The design decision of using ‘removal rather than insertion’ proved to be an excellent strategy. By engaging both levels of the original building it completely transforms the streetscape, and greatly contributes to the City’s livability.

The jury commends the use of the building’s elements of wood structure, open fenestrations, and authentic materials to create lively interior and exterior spaces.  In particular, the jury recognizes the careful proportions, scale of spaces, use of elemental materials, interior and exterior lighting, vertical circulation and layering of movement.”