Farewell, Balfour-Guthrie Building

by Jonah Cohen

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.

Building condition when we purchased it!

And after our renovation.

Left by a mystery artist on the back side of the building, literally the night before we vacated.

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Farewell, Balfour-Guthrie Building

by Jonah Cohen

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.

Read more

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Cultivating a New Generation of Leaders

by Stefee Knudsen

How do we cultivate our future leaders? It’s a core question for educators and one that ultimately influences the design of schools. Two projects in Portland, the Oregon Episcopal School’s Lower School and the French American International School’s new Gilkey International Middle School, illustrate how new environments can help to advance institutional missions.

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Hackers = Makers

by Scott Barton-Smith

If you’ve been to Hacker’s office in the past year and a half, you probably noticed art on the walls of our building’s vestibule and reception area. This rotating Makers exhibit showcases the off-hours work of our multi-talented team. By day we are architects, interior designers, and talented support personnel; by night we are artists. What began as a desire to exhibit some of our creative endeavors outside of work has turned into an amazing get-to-know-you. Every couple of months, a new batch of artistic expression graces our walls and gives us insight into our colleagues’ broad talents, inspiration, and personalities. Twelve Hackers have already displayed their art since October 2015 and there is no sign of it stopping! Scroll through for a sampling…

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Hacker Builds!

by Garrett Martin

Our website typically shows you beautiful photos of our completed projects, or equally beautiful renderings of our projects “on the boards.” Have you ever wondered what happens in-between, or when those renderings will finally take actual form? Despite how it may appear sometimes, it all doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye or under cover of darkness.

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What Pro Bono Work Has Taught Us

by Audrey Alverson

Pro bono architecture: Why do we do it?

Hacker has long been a signatory of the 1+ Program, which challenges designers to dedicate 1% or more of their time to pro bono service – but through trial and error over the years, we often found it challenging to bring this work to fruition. After a few fits and starts, and some mostly small-scale projects and studies, last year we decided to put some teeth to our commitment to pro bono service. Through this process, we’ve learned that the problem was never a lack of desire or good intentions, but more so a lack of planning.

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Nurturing Growth in Lents Town Center

by Garrett Martin

On Sunday October 23rd of last year, we joined Bremik Construction and the Portland Development Commission to strike golden shovels into the ground and begin construction on the 9101 SE Foster project, a mixed-use multi-family building in the heart of Lents Town Center.

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Why Hacker Started Paying for Parental Leave

by Sarah Bell

This year, Hacker implemented a new paid parental leave policy, covering six weeks at full salary for birth mothers and about four and ½ weeks full salary for a spouse of the parent who gives birth (adoptive parents get the same). This is in addition to the flexible paid time off granted to every Hacker employee.

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A Saturday with Lou

by Scott Barton-Smith

Nearly half of the Hacker team caravanned north to attend the final day of the Bellevue Arts Museum’s retrospective Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture on April 30th. Although the exhibit includes video interviews of notable architects enthusing Kahn’s work, we had a more interactive guide. Our firm founder Thom Hacker gave us a personalized tour of the exhibit, which includes several projects on which Thom collaborated with his mentor “Lou.” The exhibit features many models and drawings prepared by Kahn’s office spanning projects from the Esherick House to more well know works like The Salk Institute, The Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. The exhibit even includes a full scale reproduction of the famous window seat designed for the Fisher house. Much of this material has not seen the light of day since Kahn’s death and it is remarkable that the large yet delicate cardboard, clay, and wood models survived.

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University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility Wins COTE Award

by Nic Smith

Hacker is a proud recipient of a 2016 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects award for University of Wyoming’s Visual Arts Facility (VAF), a pioneering LEED Platinum facility that has shaped a new approach to health, safety, and sustainability in arts education. The 80,000-SF building consolidates the University’s fine arts program from its scattered locations, establishing a central component of the campus’s new arts district. It also marks a turning point in the campus’s thinking about environmental responsibility. Read more

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From the Vaults: High Desert Museum

by Sarah Bell

When the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon’s New Home had its dedication last year, I drove to Bend for the day with my two youngest boys, who were both under 5 years old. I arrived several hours before the dedication with both boys needing to expend energy built up over the 3-hour car ride. Not having planned on it, I took them to the High Desert Museum – not because I wanted to show them a Hacker building, but because I knew it would wear them out.

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