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Farewell, Balfour-Guthrie Building

Farewell, Balfour-Guthrie Building

Jonah Cohen
April 13th, 2018

After 16 years, Hacker has vacated the Balfour-Guthrie Building and moved to its next iteration, which in many ways is a perfect symbol for our successful leadership transition that has taken place over the last five years. This is an emotional milestone for a few of us, especially me.

For architecture practices, the physical environment they choose for themselves says much about their values. And this is particularly true for Hacker because our work more than anything aspires to be grounded in deep meaning and authenticity. Our move to the blossoming Central Eastside to a state-of-the-art, highly sustainable, light-filled work space is really perfect for who Hacker has become, but even more importantly to the future we hope to manifest. And while those of our colleagues who have patiently inhabited our light-starved basement might not appreciate it, when Hacker moved to Balfour-Guthrie 16 years ago, it too was a wonderful and energizing reflection of who we were becoming at that time: a nationally influential exemplar of design excellence.

The Balfour-Guthrie Building has an interesting history. Built in 1913, it was one of the first reinforced concrete structures on the west coast designed by well-respected Architect Morris Whitehouse, who was involved in many notable Portland buildings including Beth Israel synagogue. Hacker was only its third primary tenant. The first, there for 50 years, was the Balfour-Guthrie grain exporting company which specifically chose the then cutting edge structural system because they had just lost two other properties to the fires in the San Francisco earthquake. The second tenant, there for over 40 years, was the Portland Rubber Stamp Company, which in one of life’s bizarre coincidences is where I went in 1979 to get my first architect’s license rubber stamp. You can’t make this stuff up.

Full disclosure: I have mixed feelings about leaving the Balfour-Guthrie Building because I was the driving force with my partners in its purchase; listing the building on the National Historic Register; and the complete renovation for Hacker’s new home, which became the first LEED certified architecture office in the country. I also have many fond memories there, including countless holiday parties; Hacker’s 25th anniversary open house; and many project fundraisers for our clients, including one for a theater in which actors performed Shakespeare excerpts with a sword fight and the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. And let’s not forget a lecture by world renowned architect Kengo Kuma and just last month, a string quartet performance.

I have given countless tours of the Balfour-Guthrie Building and always enjoyed seeing the surprised and delighted faces of guests when they walked into our lobby for the first time. It is a look Hacker hopes to inspire in visitors to all our buildings – a look that says, “I’m not sure why, but I feel really good in this space.”

Anyway, it’s now time to embrace change and move on. Thank you, Balfour-Guthrie Building. You have been an incredible home for Hacker and most importantly you have nurtured and supported the making of much great architecture.

How can our work bring us closer to each other and our world?

How can our work bring us closer to each other and our world?

Cultivating a New Generation of Leaders

Cultivating a New Generation of Leaders

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