2017’s Top Portland Design Events

Portland Design Events 2017 Blog  Year in Review

For those looking to learn about local architecture in Portland, 2017 was a very good year.  Events that explored past and present architecture in the area dominated Portland Design Events’ most viewed pages and articles of 2017. Over the course of the year, we published 725 individual events and 20 articles, promoting the best architecture and design-related events in Portland from dozens of organizations and individuals.

The year was a good one for Design Museum Portland, which launched their monthly lecture seriesDesign Museum Mornings, in May.  The organization immediately followed that successful launch with a Kickstarter campaign for a new bookDesign & Play, which wrapped up this summer.  The book has since been published, shipped in early December, and is on sale now.

2017 was also a year to celebrate famed Portland architect John Yeon, subject of the major Portland Art Museum exhibit Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon.  The exhibit, which was open throughout the summer, highlighted Yeon’s architecture as well as his roles as planner, conservationist, historic preservationist, and urban activist.  The exhibit also showcased numerous pieces from Yeon’s personal collection of Asian and European decorative arts.

Rounding out the list of firsts in the Portland design community this year, 2017 was also the year that saw Portland Design Events launch our online store and organize the inaugural event of our quarterly lecture series.  We were proud to welcome the principals of LMS Architects to speak in Portland this past November on the topic of “Designing for Change.”  The lecture was opened by inspiring local architect Amanda Petretti of Studio Petretti, and preceded by a social hour.  The series will continue in March, with more information soon to follow.

As we reflect on the year’s big accomplishments, we can’t help but take a look at the top events and articles, listed below and organized by the number of views they received on our site in the past year.  The events largely reflect an interest in local architecture, represented by the popularity of The Center for Architecture’s 7 Houses exhibit, the Portland Architecture Awards, and The Architecture Foundation of Oregon’s Dine & Design series.  The interest in Portland architecture very much spills into history as well, with The Architectural Heritage Center’s Minor White exhibit, Restore Oregon’s Modern Homes Tour, and The Architectural Heritage Center’s lecture on Alvar Aalto and the Mt. Angel Abbey Library all taking top spots among the hundreds of events published this year.


Designing for Change

William Leddy, Marsha Maytum, and Richard Stacy. Image by Carlos Camarena.

Top events:

1 | Designing for Change | Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
2017 was a special year for Portland Design Events as we launched the first of what is to become a quarterly lecture series, opening with LMS Architects this past November. Beginning with a social hour at the beautiful Ziba Auditorium, we were inspired by a talk from emerging local architect Amanda Petretti, and wowed by headliners William Leddy, Marsha Maytum, and Richard Stacy of LMS Architects. The event – Portland Design Events’ most visited event page of 2017 – drew a sold out crowd of 175 to hear the presenters “illustrate how architecture can help lead the way toward a just, healthy, and regenerative future for all.”

2 | 7 Houses
Opening during Design Week Portland this spring and staying up through late summer, the Center for Architecture curated and hosted 7 Houses, an exhibit that “explore[d] the state of Pacific Northwest contemporary architecture through the lens of seven houses by seven Portland architects.” The exhibit showcased drawings, models, and photographs of the houses, designed by some of Portland’s top award-winning firms.

3 | Freehand Drawing Workshop Pop-Up Exhibition
For the second year in a row, the Freehand Drawing Workshop Pop-Up Exhibition was one of our most visited event pages, this year coming in at #3. Spearheaded by Portland architects William Tripp and Suenn Ho, the exhibit celebrated the work of students and instructors of the Freehand Drawing Workshop hosted at The University of Oregon in Portland this past fall. The workshop, taught by Tripp and Ho with several guest instructors, “provides students hands-on experience with a variety of approaches and techniques, with emphasis on those benefits unique to drawing by hand.” The workshop culminated in the pop-up celebration taking place in December.

4 | From France To Oregon: Alvar Aalto And The Library At Mt. Angel Abbey
While the Architectural Heritage Center hosts numerous high-caliber lectures each year, their March lecture in particular struck a chord with our audience in 2017, placing it in the top 5 most viewed events of the year. At the lecture, retired architect Bob Hermanson discussed world-renowned architect Alvar Aalto, his philosophy, and his design of the Mt. Angel Abbey Library – one of only two Aalto-designed buildings in America. As the lecture was a must-attend event, Aalto’s library is a must-visit building for architects, designers, and students in the region – just a 45 minute drive south of Portland.

5 | InProcess: Beebe Skidmore + Made
The most popular of AIA Portland’s 2017 quarterly lecture series, InProcess, featured local architects Beebe Skidmore and design-build firm Made. The event paired the two Portland design firms to “provid[e] insight into the creative process of local architects, designers, makers and creators.” Beebe Skidmore is a multi-award winning firm on the rise, while Made creates beautiful interiors and furnishings, “with an emphasis on materials, comfort, and utility.”


Artist Nathan Sawaya, creator of Art of the Brick. Image courtesy OMSI/Art of the Brick.

Artist Nathan Sawaya, creator of Art of the Brick. Image courtesy OMSI/Art of the Brick.

Top articles:

1 | The World’s Largest Display of LEGO® Art is Coming to OMSI
With a headline like that, it’s no wonder this was the most viewed article in 2017! Thanks to OMSI, Portland was fortunate to welcome renowned contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya and his collection of over 100 pieces of art, all created with LEGOs, for an exhibition this spring. From a 20 foot-long T-Rex dinosaur skeleton to unique versions of some of the world’s most famous pieces of art, this exhibit had something for everyone, including a play area for visitors to build their own brick masterpieces. The exhibit opened in February and remained open through late May.

2 | New Minor White Exhibition at the Architectural Heritage Center
While the Architectural Heritage Center was busy knocking their lectures and walking tours out of the park this year, they also organized and hosted a top-notch exhibit that was on view for much of the year. The exhibit featured renowned photographer Minor White’s photographs of some of Portland’s most significant 19th-century buildings, most of which were demolished in the 20th century. With the images were architectural artifacts salvaged from those buildings – often pairing the artifacts alongside images of them in their original context. The Architectural Heritage Center has more exhibits planned for 2018, to be announced soon.

3 | AIA Portland Announces 2017 Portland Architecture Awards
The annual Portland Architecture Awards, organized by AIA Portland, recognizes some of the best work recently created by Portland area firms. The winning projects are chosen by a panel of guest jurors, this year coming from San Francisco and featuring Allison Williams, William Leddy, and Zoë Prillinger. In addition to the projects, the Awards also recognizes an Emerging Professional of the Year, awarded this year to Nada Maani. Highlights of this year’s event included a keynote from Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the musical styling of Ural Thomas & the Pain, and a social hour prior to the program.

4 | Restore Oregon Presents 2017 Mid-Century Modern Tour
This fall, Restore Oregon presented a modern home tour, companion lecture, and after-tour celebration, all highlighting celebrated Northwest Modernist architect William Fletcher. The tour opened to the public some of Fletcher’s finest Portland-area homes – hidden gems celebrating the materials and landscape unique to the Pacific Northwest. The companion lecture featured a reflection of Fletcher’s life and work by Troy Ainsworth, Principal of FFA Architecture and Interiors, Inc. The weekend concluded with a celebration held at Rejuvenation.

5 | AFO Announces Dine & Design 2017
Rounding out the top 5 articles of 2017 is the announcement of The Architecture Foundation of Oregon’s Dine & Design series this spring and summer. Each year, AFO organizes a series of a dozen or so dinner events, held in some of Oregon’s most architecturally interesting spaces. The fun, casual events are hosted by architects, engineers, contractors, artists and others, with funds being donated to AFO – supporting programs including Architects in Schools. This year, the series took guests to some local architectural favorites in downtown Portland, Oregon City, and even to a Thorns game at Providence Park.

As a successful 2017 winds to a close, we look ahead to a 2018 filled with organizations and individuals continuing to create and grow programs and events that are second to none. We also look forward to you engaging in these events – learning about your community, engaging in discussions, sharing with your friends, and moving the needle forward to design a more beautiful, sustainable, regenerative, and inclusive environment for Portland and the world. We’re proud to be a part of it, and we can’t wait to see what you do in the coming year. We’ll see you there.


Cover image by Portland Design Events with images courtesy of Architecture Foundation of Oregon/Jeremy Bittermann, Restore Oregon, William Tripp, Architectural Heritage Center/modernhomesportland.com, and Carlos Camarena.

COVID-19: Due to the impact of Coronavirus on in-person events, we will not be updating this site for the duration of the pandemic. We are continuing to send weekly newsletters, however, with links to upcoming online events.Subscribe!