Design Week Portland Showcases the Talent of its Vibrant Design Community

Design Week Portland Showcases the Talent of its Vibrant Design Community

From Friday, April 21 to Saturday, April 29, the Portland Design Community came out en masse to celebrate the city’s innovative design scene.

Now in its fifth year, Design Week Portland's lineup of independently organized events spanned hundreds of venues. Events and talks focusing on emerging and established architects, graphic designers, illustrators, makers, fashion designers, interior designers, and furniture makers brought out the city's progressive creative energy and the activist spirit that the Pacific Northwest is known for.

The event kicked off with Main Stage talks, with topics ranging from how designers can make a positive global impact, to a look at affordable housing. Portland then came alive with multiple design events held around town over the course of the week. Hikes, exhibits, pop-ups, tours, open houses, maker events, sketch jams, and panels discussions—all with a distinct Portland flavor—covered the range of creative talent that exists within the community. To get a taste of what went on, follow us to some of the highlights from this jam-packed week. 

Restorative Design: Confluence Bird Blind by Maya Lin

Confluence is a non-profit company that has established six reflective sites along the Columbia River. Designed by Maya Lin, each site uses design to reach a greater ecological awareness in conjunction with a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration of the land. This guided hike to one of the six sites, Bird Blind—which sits on the Sandy River Delta at the confluence of the Columbia River—was a great chance to experience Lin's prowess as a landscape architect. 

When coming up with the concept for Bird Blind, Maya Lin went back to what Lewis and Clark experienced when they camped along the same delta. The spot was so full of noisy birds that the explorers couldn't sleep. 

The Redd, Design Week Portland Headquarters

The headquarters for DWP was housed in The Redd, a former industrial ironworks factory in Southeast Portland that used to produce car bumpers and has been turned into an event space. It also played host to panel discussions, pop-ups, and an ongoing exhibit that detailed the proposed plans for The Green Loop—a six-mile linear park that will link Portland's east and west sides with a bicycle and pedestrian network by 2035.


The Center for Architecture's exhibition 7 HOUSES explored the state of Pacific Northwest contemporary architecture through the lens of seven houses by seven Portland architects. 

7 HOUSES will be open through June 30th and features projects by award-winning firms, Allied Works, Architecture Building Culture, Architecture W, Holst, Hennebery Eddy Architects, Waechter Architecture, and Works Progress Architecture.

Design Activism / The Creative Resistance

Two panels touched upon the activist theme. Design Activism, hosted by Gray Magazine, examined approaches for bringing design out of the abstract and and into the forefront of our cities' and community’s priorities by using individual practices for social good. An example is Kevin Cavanaugh of Guerrilla Development, who has been shaking up his industry and creating a new model for affordable housing. The Creative Resistance was a panel discussion hosted by Visible, an alliance of activists working in the creative industry who have pledged to provide free creative services to organizations fighting for social, environmental, and civil rights causes. The conversation examined how leaders from Portland's creative community have been using their voices to create change through their work. 

The Design Activism Panel took place at Hotel Lucia in Downtown Portland. 

An Office on Wheels: Rolling Out an Alternative Build

Laurence Sarrazin's design studio LOS OSOS was asked by their client Coroflot to design an office inside a warehouse—and with tiny homes as a starting point, LOS OSOS created so much more. The Mobile Work Unit (MWU) is a modular and mobile office on wheels that's complete with a custom furniture system.  

Modular and mobile—the (MWU) houses five work stations in 280 square feet and is parked inside an old ambulance garage in downtown Portland—ready to be hitched to a trailer and relocated should the need arise.

Place-Based Making: NW Vernacular Design 

A panel led by writer and curator Namita Wiggers examined the Pacific Northwest's distinct language of design, and how the traditions, native materials, and environment shape the contemporary craftsmen, designers, and architects of the region. It was hosted by WildCraft Studio School, which shares a space with Fieldwork Design & Architecture.

Wildcraft Studio School—which offers a wide array of fascinating Pacific Northwest-specific courses and excursions—also hosted a mini-workshop that highlighted dye plants and mineral pigments that are native to the Pacific Northwest. 

Making at Multiple Scales in Portland

This open house at Albina Yard was a opportunity for conversation with the project’s designers, builders, and tenants as they examined making at multiple scales—from artisanal objects to architecture—and how it's informed by the culture of Portland.

Albina Yard, designed by Lever Architecture, is a new creative office and retail project in North Portland that also happens to be the first U.S. office building made from domestically-fabricated, cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Celia Bertoia 

As the daughter of midcentury designer Harry Bertoia, Celia Bertoia was hosted at The Good Mod, a design/build workshop and modern design showroom in Portland's Pearl District. She discussed the life and work of her father, which ranged from his iconic chair designs to his sonambient sound sculptures. 

Vicki Simon 

Vicki Simon, interior designer and vintage home specialist (whose work has been featured on Dwell), teamed up with Salvage Works for an evening examining Pacific Northwest reclaimed style. 

Crafting with Heavy Timber

New Energy Works Timberframers—who have been designing and building environmentally-responsible timber frames across America for more than 30 years—had makers raise a Douglas fir timber-frame carport with solar panels on the roof of Synchro Solar at this event.  All proceeds and donations from the event went to Community Energy Project

The New Energy Works Timberframers event raised a structure with solar panels at their big timber event, Thinking Outside the Frame: Traditional Craft Melds With Modern Technology.

Pioneer Millworks 

Pioneer Millworks held an open house that featured seven creations that were made with reclaimed wood from Portland artisan makers.

zenbox design showed a bar cart in reclaimed oak at the Pioneer Millworks open house. 


Organized by The League of Women Designers, this exhibit and design talk examined work that exists in the periphery—that's not client- or profit-driven. They asked the question, "Is this work only an outlet for creative inspiration, or does it help inspire creativity at the day job?"

"I Cry When I Laugh" by Laura Allcorn and the Periphery exhibit will be on view through May at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center.

DWP Closing Party

A closing party hosted by DWP and William Kaven Architecture brought an end to a week full of inspirational experiences that touched on multiple facets of design. 

At the DWP Closing Party, Portland State University students painted a mural that attendees collaborated on. 


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