Photo Essay: Coming Back to Life

Oct. 1, 2007
Charged with a historic upgrade of one of Portland's oldest active fire stations, Hennebery Eddy Architects added a contemporary touch to a piece of history.

By Robert Nieminen | Photography by Michael Mathers and Steve Cridland 


Constructed in 1913, the historic fire Station 28 in Portland, OR, had reached the end of its useful life as a firefighting facility in 1984. It was undersized for the modern equipment and machinery used to fight fires today, and the building faced some structural limitations and a difficult street alignment.

But in 2000, the City of Portland determined that the inactive station was ideally located to serve adjacent neighborhoods and began to explore the possibility of remodeling the building. For Fire Station 28 to become active again, a historic upgrade of the existing structure and a new addition were necessary for it to be recommissioned. Extensive collaboration between the design team at Hennebery Eddy Architects, the Bureau of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, and the neighborhood Station Advisory Committee resulted in a seismic upgrade of the historic, unreinforced masonry structure-bringing the building up to essential facility standards-and the construction of a new, modern building addition.

Sustainable design elements were tracked against the LEED® criteria in the development of the design. In addition to recycling materials from the existing historic building, reclaimed fir flooring was installed on the second floor. Tandem parking minimizes impervious paving; a dry well collects storm water on-site; and low-maintenance landscaping is also used.

The historic building was reconfigured to house the watch room, exercise room, and an auxiliary apparatus bay on the first floor, while the crew quarters can be found on the second floor. The first level of the new wing contains the main apparatus bay, while the second level houses the kitchen, dining room, day room and a south-facing terrace.

Limited by a site area of 8,500 square feet, the building addition as carefully situated in plan and elevation to provide direct access to Sandy Boulevard and to resolve the large elevation difference across the site. The new structure is connected to the historic building by a multi-story transparent circulation hinge containing stairs and the fire pole. This area is made visible from the street with a full-height glass curtain wall system, and makes it possible for the public to catch glimpses of the firefighters as they spring into action.

The addition respects the massing, proportions and materials of the historic building in a direct, contemporary manner. The new metal parapet continues the datum of the historic cornice. The proportions and elevations of the new windows acknowledge the existing openings, while the color of the taut new brick skin reflects the historic quoins and decorative elements of the existing building.

Anchoring the corner plaza is a dynamic sculpture with alternating rings of brass and glass that glow softly at night, surrounded by relics of historic fire poles and nozzles assembled into bollards.

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Extensive collaboration between the design team and the client resulted in a modern upgrade to an historic building. larger image

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The second level of the new wing contains a kitchen, dining room, day room and south-facing terrace. larger image
Within a limited site area, the first floor of the new wing contains the main apparatus bay, which provides direct access to the street. larger image
The new metal parapet on the south-facing terrace continues the datum of the historic cornice. larger image

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