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Portland State University Master Plan

Portland State University
Portland, OR
49 acres
SERA Architects
Planning and Urban Design
Completed July 2010
Boston Society of Architects/Society for College and University Planning Campus Planning Design Awards, Honor Award

Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Portland State University (PSU) is a large and dynamic urban research institution with over 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students. With rapid growth in enrollment and research activity, it has formed strong partnerships with the city, peer institutions, and local businesses to develop new academic, student life, and residential facilities. PSU and Portland have a uniquely collaborative relationship where the city’s mayor and the university’s president work together to produce mutually beneficial results. Sasaki’s Portland State University District Framework Plan proposes a development strategy that leverages these partnerships in an integrated, mixed-use manner to guide the university’s future growth within the University District. Boundaries between public and private are blurred; uses are not only mixed, but shared; and a transparency permeates the environment, making the academic and social life of the university visible to all. Building on the relationship between the city and PSU, the University District Framework Plan proposes a new model of urban development that is neither city nor campus, but a unique fusion of the two.

Within the district, the blending of city and campus creates a vibrant urban environment. A network of corridors, parks, and plazas creates a web of active open spaces. Early redevelopment in the framework plan radiates from three major focal points in the University District, and complements existing hubs of activity. Each has a dominant theme, supporting the complex needs of the university in achieving its goals and representative of the eventual vision for the district as a whole. All three focal points optimize land use and accommodate growth, ensure institutional distinctiveness and integration of city and campus, maximize connectivity, capitalize on the Portland experience, and support partnerships. The focal points also blend public and private uses, provide transparency on the street level, integrate indoor and outdoor spaces, and demonstrate exemplary sustainable development.

The plan addresses not just integration at the district level, but at the building level. Portland State classrooms and offices are intermingled with private office space and research facilities, providing a vertical mix of uses within a single building. Ground floors have active spaces, providing retail services to a broad client base. Portland State classroom and academic space occupy the lower floors, ensuring that campus space is never disconnected from urban space. The top floors house commercial office or research clients. These layers of use are bisected by common spaces and open atriums that stretch vertically through the buildings.

The plan also establishes a long-term strategy to help guide the university’s development over the coming decades. Developed in conjunction with the Portland Development Commission’s (PDC) Portland Economic Development Strategy and the City of Portland’s EcoDistricts Initiative, the Framework Plan integrates the city’s vision for a sustainable future.

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