MONDAY | APR 15 | 4PM Reception | 5PM Lecture | AB 100

Imagine trying to reduce the carbon footprint of an airport. That’s just what ZGF Architects did when the firm was tapped to design a new terminal building for the Portland Airport, a building called “glorious” by one Portland magazine.

Resiliency, sustainability, and community connections were all at the heart of that project — and ZGF’s Nat Slayton will share how the project came to fruition when he wraps up the Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning’s annual guest lecture series at 5 p.m. April 15, in AB 100. The lecture is titled “Crafting Community – Portland Airport’s New Terminal Building and The Potentials of Contemporary Architectural Practice.”

Mr. Slayton’s lecture is the second in the Ethan Whitehead Guest Lecture in Sustainability in the Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning. Ethan Whitehead was studying architecture when he passed away in 2021. In his honor, his parents Julie and Doug Whitehead established the Ethan Whitehead Guest Lecture in Sustainability Fund to develop a lecture series to inform and inspire as many people as possible on a topic that was close to Ethan’s heart.

Portland airport project

Portland’s airport has repeatedly been ranked as one of the best in North America. But it, like many others, has growing pains. How do you grow – in place – and retain and amplify the things that make you great? Long known for its specific local character and focus on sustainable initiatives, the challenge for the team at ZGF Architects was how to strengthen the airport’s connections to the local economy, reduce its carbon footprint, double in capacity all while keeping the building open and keeping passengers moving.

Early collaboration with the contracting team and airport stakeholders allowed the team to come up with innovative solutions to unique challenges: a long span 9-acre wood roof prefabricated offsite as ‘mega modules’; a high-performing glazing system that turns the typical window inside-out to maximize energy performance; prefabricated mass timber retail and concessions structures that link to both the scales of the Portland street and the region’s rich tradition of craft and fabrication; and a focus on finding new ways to leverage large projects to lift small – and often cutting edge – local maker economies. These strategies have allowed the team to build a world-class seismically resilient airport and, at the same time, an important precedent for how we build mega projects going forward.

Nat Slayton helped to lead the project

For the past 20 years, Nat Slayton has helped lead the design of some of ZGF Architect’s most complex buildings and challenging projects. With a strong technical and design background, Nat guides collaborations among designers, engineers, builders and stakeholders, working across disciplines to discover innovative opportunities and unexpected solutions. His experience includes the design of research and teaching facilities for academic institutions, such as the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley; high-performance high-rise buildings; corporate campus headquarters; and public projects, such as the U.S. Embassy Compound in Paramaribo, Suriname.

For the past eight years, Mr. Slayton has helped lead a team of over 100 architects and engineers to design the Portland Airport’s new terminal building, a seismically resilient project that includes a 9-acre wood roof, a geothermal heating and cooling system and a unique curtainwall glazing design that maximizes interior daylighting while minimizing solar gains. Growing up in a small Oregon town, he is passionate about the potentials of architecture to create high performance spaces that strengthen our relationships with local communities and environments. Before joining ZGF, he worked in the offices of Rem Koolhaas/OMA in Rotterdam and New York. He received a Master of Architecture with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Discussion points

  1. What does it mean to design for resilience and a Cascadia-level (9+) seismic event – impacts on structure, envelope and other systems.
  2. How prefabrication and modular construction can be used at both a macro and micro scale to help solve challenges associated with building over an operating airport.
  3. How a team’s procurement strategy (where “all the stuff comes from”) can be part of the design process to create new scales of transparent engagement with the communities that supply materials and craft to projects.
  4. How a large, operating airport can be “rebooted” with a high-performing envelope, structural and mechanical system while remaining in operation.

You can receive LACES and AIA continuing education credits for this lecture.