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COTE Tour: Multnomah County Health Department

  • Gladys McCoy Building 619 Northwest 6th Avenue Portland, OR, 97209 United States (map)

Join COTE and ZGF Architects for a preview of the new Multnomah County Health Department Headquarters. The building is nearing the end of construction and is scheduled to open to the public in April.

The new Gladys McCoy Building is an approximately 157,000 gross square foot, nine-story structure located adjacent to Union Station in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. The upper floors will include public clinics and associated support spaces as well as workplaces for the Health Department’s administrative and public health functions.

The mission of the Health Department is “Healthy people in healthy communities.” This project represents a significant opportunity for the County to represent this mission in the context of the central city. To that end, the building is designed as a simple but flexible and durable structure which engages the traditions of civic architecture in Portland and the unique architectural heritage of the district. The building massing is straightforward and compact: a rectangular masonry volume which fills out the zoning envelope on 6th, Hoyt and Irving. This volume is then given scale and order by vertically proportioned punched window openings. The upper level windows are scaled to help maximize interior daylighting, with deeply recessed windows associated with the workplace and individual functions and larger openings framing the more public spaces such as the waiting areas and conference rooms.

The exterior is designed to communicate the optimism and values associated with public health: the palette emphasizes transparency, with lightly toned, welcoming and familiar materials that root the building in the district. The principal building material is a light brick masonry with precast trim elements detailed to respond to the different solar and view exposures on each elevation. At the ground floor the fenestration and enclosure elements are scaled to the public realm with tall precast masonry window frames allow passers-by to see into a long gallery space facing the 6th street transit mall.

One of Multnomah County’s primary goals for the project is to build an ‘80-year building’, which is to say that the building will be flexible, adaptable and durable and also designed to possess a certain degree of timelessness, and respect for its future urban context. To that end, the building is structured similar to many of the historic and enduring masonry warehouse buildings in the district: it is organized by a simple square 32’-wide column grid for flexibility, floor-to-floor heights that allow systems to be changed out with time, and durable exterior materials and regular patterned window openings that anticipate and support reconfigurations of the interior spaces.

Learning Objectives:

  1. The Stewardship of Community Health: How does the building design further the Multnomah County Health Department mission of serving the community and being a good neighbor.

  2. Promoting a Healthy Work Environment: How does the building motivate physical and mental good health.

  3. Flexibility and Longevity: How does the design allow for flexibility over time, what is involved in designing an 80 year building.

  4. Sustainability: How are active and passive systems coordinated to improve the energy performance of the building, occupant comfort and air quality.

  5. Zoning and Code Requirements: How does the project mitigate stormwater runoff, how does the design respond to Design Review guidelines