5550 South Macadam Avenue Re-positioning

Portland, Oregon

How do we refresh a suburban office building and finally give it a true connection to its striking riverfront setting?

5550 South Macadam Avenue Re-positioning. In the background, a three-story grey brick office building surrounds a front courtyard where three people sit and visit. The plantings around the courtyard include hydrangas, small shrubs and buhes, as well as several species of both evergreen and disiduous trees.

FFA refreshed and re-positioned an awkward 1982 office building on Portland’s Willamette River.  The large, 3-story multi-hued brick facility was an imposing presence that lacked any meaningful outdoor connection to its most valuable amenity – a waterfront location.  Barricaded behind a heavy brick wall and arched entryway, it offered little in the way of ‘third’ places for people to use at their leisure.

The outdated atrium lobby acted simply as a space for people to move through when coming or going from the building.  Its view to the water through a three-story expanse of windows, was blocked by a heavy metal sculpture which eliminated both visual and physical access to the river and provided no inspiration for people to spend time outside.

FFA’s design solutions were multi-fold.  The heavy entry wall and arch were removed in front of the building and the exposed exterior spaces re-imagined with native plants, walkways and a prominent plaza offering multiple seating options.  The loud brick façade was painted in subtle grey tones which highlight the building’s geometry and present a quiet backdrop to the surrounding nature.  By removing the large sculpture on the east side, a strong visual connection was created between the front and the back of the building, and a newly-designed courtyard / ‘outdoor living room’ with seating areas and a fire pit, now offers wide-open views of the river and nearby marina.

Inside, we maximized opportunities to express the height of the atrium by choosing warm acoustical wood-slat ceilings which are balanced by the subtle grey tones carried through metal features and porcelain tile floor finishes.  To compliment furnishings provided by the owner, we designed a custom steel and wood bench which offers tenants river views while working on a laptop or enjoying a cup of coffee.

The open staircase which had formerly featured non-compliant railings was updated with safe, sleek, industrial metal and cable replacements. The pattern of the carpet used on the stairs and in the hallways took cues from the nearby river, and the porcelain tiles on the lobby floors are installed in a pattern that creates flow and movement through the space and out to align with the exterior pavers.  The team designed these finishes to be permanent, integral parts of the building’s identity.

Year Completed:
46,000 sf
Project Contact:
Richard Grace, AIA, NOMA
Partner, Market Lead

Entry walkway (after)


Compare images of the 3-story brick building’s previous state to it’s refreshed look. One of the key elements to tenant improvements is understanding the existing space’s potential for change.

Walled entryway (before)
Open entryway (after)
Loud brick façade (before)
Subtle grey tones compliment native plantings (after)
Atrium Lobby (before)
Atrium Lobby (after)
View to river blocked by metal sculpture (before)
Newly-designed ‘outdoor living room’ offers wide-open views of the river (after)