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ZGF Architects' next generation

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Articles - July 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By Linda Baker


Photos by Justin Tunis
Exactly two years ago, ZGF Architects moved into its new Portland headquarters in the Twelve West building — a mixed-use high rise featuring exposed-concrete-and-wood interiors and eco-friendly technologies such as rooftop wind turbines and “chilled beams” to control temperature. Designed by ZGF, the edifice received a 2010 Top Ten Green Projects award from the American Institute of Architects. It is also one of several new projects that reflect the firm’s rejuvenated outlook and growing attention to cutting-edge, environmentally responsible architecture.

“We have been pushing ourselves like never before on high-performance building design,” says Bob Packard, 60, ZGF’s managing partner. A new generation of “bright, inquisitive” employees is also challenging and energizing the firm, says Packard, who came on board in 1979. He laughs: “I try to provide support and get out of the way.”

The biggest architecture firm in Portland and the fourth-largest in the country, ZGF, founded in 1959, is known for its diverse portfolio, from medical and university facilities such as Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the University of Oregon’s Jaqua Center, to U.S. Embassies in Turkey and Bulgaria. Employing 460 people in five cities — 250 in Portland — the firm takes an equally holistic approach toward each of the projects it undertakes. “We think of it as macro to micro,” Packard says. “From the community and urban context, down to the craftsmanship of the building, what you see, touch and feel.”

ZGF Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP
Managing Partner:Bob Packard
Founded: 1959
Employees: 460 (250 in Portland)
Offices: Portland, Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles
Estimated Annual 
Revenue: $125 million in 2010
Noted: ZGF has worked on more than 1,000 projects

An emphasis on “fundamentals,” including customer service, also characterizes the ZGF approach. “We believe being a great design firm is the value we bring to customers,” says Packard, who speaks in careful, measured tones and favors a conservative blue-pinstripe style. “But it’s an unfulfilled value if we deliver innovative design at the expense of meeting a client’s needs, schedule and budget.”

Today, rapidly evolving technologies, from 3D architecture modeling software to energy-saving materials, are stretching the boundaries of the ZGF universe. So are designers such as 44-year old Eugene Sandoval, the lead architect behind Twelve West and the new Port of Portland headquarters. The latter, a recipient of a 2010 Metropolis Smart Environment Award, features a ship’s hull-inspired design, geothermal heating and cooling, and a “Living Machine,” an indoor wetland that treats all the building’s wastewater for reuse in toilet flushing and cooling towers.

The new Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville, Calif., is another example of ZGF’s next-generation approach. Located in a reclaimed warehouse, the 75,000-square-foot building features custom door pulls fashioned from reclaimed bike frames, open workspace architecture, and the largest electronically enhanced solar array in North America, providing nearly 100% of the office’s electricity.



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