Well-designed public spaces invite people to gather and connect with each other in meaningful ways. The public squares in many European cities are great examples. People-watching, strolling, meeting with friends, special performances—all of these activities take place in welcoming spaces available to everyone in the community.
One of the most interesting facets of what we do is engineering the transition between public and private spaces. So often these realms are viewed as separate from each other, or black and white. Instead, we celebrate the gray. We think of these spaces between public and private as front porches or thresholds, and we’ve created a rich toolbox to help make great gray spaces
The entry to the Brewhouse and Cellar Building in the Brewery Blocks (a five-block, urban mixed-use neighborhood in downtown Portland) is a great example of these tools in action. A glass volume of a coffee shop flanks the entry to a glass covered outdoor plaza that leads to the office entry. The transition from public to private is clear because the pavement surface gives way to concrete pavers. On the right side is the historic brick cellar building, which we restored for office use. The coffee shop has glass roll-up doors, so it becomes a permeable space when the weather is nice, energizing the plaza. The main office building entry is clearly defined by its own vernacular. By thoughtfully linking public and private spaces, gray areas like these contribute to the social and economic vitality of communities.