On display through June 30th at the Center for Architecture, the current exhibition, entitled “People, Process, Projects,” showcases work in the U.S. by the design firm Snøhetta.

The exhibition aims to visualize office culture and design philosophy through different visuals: diagrams, drawings, models. I had the chance to stop by the space during this month’s first Thursday, not only find out what Snøhetta has been up to for the last 25 years, but also to listen in on conversations from locals about the firm’s current project on the SW Waterfront, the James Beard Public Market.

Snøhetta first took off in 1989 with their competition-winning entry to design the new library of Alexandria, Egypt. Other notable works since then include the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo, the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center in New York City, and the expansion at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Their practice is concerned with integration and it all begins with human interaction.

While slowly walking around the scale models of completed projects, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the complicated shapes. It was inspiring see the forms they’d used in the ways they had. I was especially drawn to the process models: all varying in material, form and the message they wanted to communicate. That was the most effective way for me to understand the firm’s process and realize how thoughtful design can be.

Inside the exhibition, a temporary hallway was dedicated to local feedback on the community’s needs from the new market, which is expected to be completed in 2018. Sheets of paper were filled largely with suggestions for what most people love about Portland – responses like “coffee” and “donuts.” Others however provided more abstract responses, which were interesting to see. There wasn’t space for me to add my own comments by the time I had gotten there, but I figured everything must have already been covered.

Thousands of voices were already on that wall with the presumption that the firm would look over every single idea – a means of public discourse that hints at the virtue behind Snøhetta’s design practice: truly, to benefit people.

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