No. 538 . 02 November 2011 
ArchitectureWeek

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The project to update and extend the Portland Transit Mall in Portland, Oregon, is one of nine projects awarded for general design in the 2011 ASLA Professional Awards. The downtown transit mall now supports light rail in addition to bus and automobile traffic on a north-south street couplet. Photo: Bruce Forster/ ZGF Architects

American Landscape Awards

by ArchitectureWeek

When it originally opened in 1978, the Portland Transit Mall created a transit-focused corridor in downtown Portland, Oregon. For a distance of 11 blocks through the commercial core, a pair of one-way streets combined dedicated bus lanes and limited car traffic with wide brick sidewalks and an abundance of trees, benches, and shelters. But despite being an icon for progressive urban planning, the mall suffered deferred maintenance and deterioration over time.

The recent decision to add light-rail service within the same right of way became an opportunity for a broader revitalization. Completed in 2009, with design and construction led by ZGF Architects LLP as urban designer/ landscape architect, the now-extended transit mall integrates buses, light-rail, and more car traffic, and also features rebuilt intersections and 45 new transit shelters.

The renovated Portland Transit Mall was one of 37 projects honored recently by the American Society of Landscape Architects in its 2011 Professional Awards. With both design quality and sustainability as selection criteria, the awards recognize exemplary public places, residential designs, campuses, parks, and urban planning projects from around the United States and beyond.

Revitalizing the Portland Mall

Portland's three-county transit agency, TriMet, is widely regarded as an innovator in the U.S. transit industry, pioneering low-floor light rail in North America 25 years ago.

Its ambitious original transit mall project — designed by architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and Associates, and engineer Moffat, Nichols, and Bonney — comprised an 11-block-long bus transit corridor on 5th and 6th Avenues. A seven-block-long north extension to Union Station was built in 1994.

The mall revitalization addressed both of those sections and added a new nine-block-long extension south to Portland State University, integrating light rail throughout. The mall now stretches a total of 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers), along 116 block faces in six downtown districts.

For the overhaul, TriMet made an unusual move in assigning the urban designer as design lead on an infrastructure project. Working with TriMet and a citizens advisory committee, ZGF conducted an extensive program of evaluation and design consensus.   >>>

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