Interview with an Emerging Architect
Cloepfil: The dialogue of architecture is so much broader there. In places like The Netherlands, the government actually helps fund the [architecture] offices. There are all kinds of programs for starting what they call "cultural work." It's a big issue here in the United States: how you initiate new work, new practices. It's very hard for young architects to get work here.
Libby: As you've moved up the hierarchical ladder, when you hire young architects to work for you, have you seen certain skills present or lacking?
Cloepfil: There's a lot of talent out there. I think problems with the architecture profession are at the top, not the bottom.
Libby: How does coming from Oregon affect your sensibility?
Cloepfil: The inspiration for my work comes from growing up and living and working in the Pacific Northwest: looking to the landscape for that sense of evocative space rather than the cities, because the cities don't have it here. I don't mean landscape in just a romantic sense — trees and flowers — I mean looking at the physical, spatial qualities of the land.
More about Allied Works
Born and raised in Portland, Cloepfil studied at the University of Oregon and Columbia University before working with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in Los Angeles, Mitchell/Giurgola in New York, and Mario Botta in Switzerland. His work seems particularly influenced by Botta's emphasis on craftsmanship and geometric order.
Although Cloepfil's unbuilt Seattle Brewing Company and Sitings Project attracted significant attention from architecture magazines, it is his headquarters for the award-winning Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency that has secured his reputation.
Fashioned from a historic warehouse that had previously served as a cold-storage facility in Portland's industrial-chic Pearl District, the restoration is an extraordinary integration of concrete, wood, and light in an atrium-centered layout.
Though still under construction, Cloepfil's FCA has already justified its benefactors' bold choice for an architect. The building is a poetic study in angles and curves, its smooth concrete skin and sculpted shape and displaying the power of simplicity that marks the best of contemporary architecture.
Brian Libby is a Portland-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis and Architectural Record.