The most distinguishing feature of the Broadstone Enso apartment building in Portland, Ore.’s Pearl District was also the most difficult to get city officials to sign off on.

Portland likes orderly oriel windows on its buildings, the bump-outs stacked in a straight line up and down the façades. Myhre Group Architects had a different idea for Enso, an infill apartment project in the city’s now gentrified Pearl District. “We thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity for us to do something unique and different,’” recalls Jeff Myhre, the firm’s president, of the former warehouse site near Interstate 405. “There’s a lot of motion from the freeway, and we wanted the building to reflect that with implied motion.”

So the architects came up with the idea of turning the oriel windows on the building into cubes that pop out randomly from the façade, giving the building the appearance of a library card catalogue after a frantic searcher left a bunch of drawers pulled out. The goal was to break up the 166,000-square-foot, six-story building’s face and give it a more contemporary feel. The city’s permit people hated the idea.

Merit Award

Category Apartments, rental
Entrant/Builder/Developer Alliance Residential Co., Phoenix
Architect/Land planner Myhre Group Architects, Portland, Ore.
Interior designer Lyndon West, Cuero, Texas

“The easy route is to do what the city wanted,” says Myhre. The result would be a “homogenized-looking environment that does not evoke creativity.” So the firm pressed on, appealed the decision, and eventually the city agreed to the change.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Portland, OR.