AKA: Equitable Center, Portland, OR

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - corporate headquarters; built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Belluschi, Pietro, FAIA, Architect (firm); Wolff-Zimmer Associates, Architects (firm); Pietro Belluschi (architect)

Dates: constructed 1964-1965

4 stories

1300 SW 6th Avenue
Portland, OR 97201

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Pietro Belluschi had, since the late 1920s, designed several buildings for Ralph Harlan Cake (1891-1973), the President of Portland, OR's Equitable Savings and Loan Association between 1938-1962, including its sleek, celebrated Headquarters Building (1948) at 421 SW 6th Avenue. The Equitable Savings and Loan Association sold this landmark building in 1962 and sought to move to a new headquarters on the southern end of Downtown Portland by the mid-1960s. Following World War II, Cake and Equitable had a long-standing business relationship with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Portland Office (which Belluschi helped to found), but by the 1960s, the collaboration had soured. Belluschi, the Dean of the Architecture School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962, needed to find a new local firm with which he could collaborate. He selected Wolff-Zimmer Associates, a Portland firm founded in 1953 by George M. Wolff and Norman Zimmer. As lead designer, Belluschi roughed out the basic siting, floor plan, structural methods, materials and elevations of the new headquarters and used Wolff-Zimmer to fine tune the aesthetic and nuts and bolts decision. According to architectural historian Meredith Clausen, Belluschi was busy with many consulting projects in 1962-1965, and therefore "...drew heavily on the ideas of others." The building occupied a 200-foot square, and Belluschi set his four-story building on a plinth in the midst of it, like a Greek temple. The building's steel frame was covered in pre-cast concrete aggregate panels, recalling those of Belluschi's Pan Am Building in New York, NY. A rectangular block, its weight was contradicted visually by the architect's use of a peripteral colonnade of thin piers and the inset glass walls of the first floor. The templar composition, as Clausen has pointed out, referred to contemporary buildings that Belluschi had admired by Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's New York Office, the American Embassy, London, UK, (1960) and Banque Lambert in Brussels, Belgium (1965), respectively. The $3.25 million Equitable Center opened in 03/1965, in Clausen's view, a "...building that broke no new ground, formally or otherwise." (See Meredith Clausen, Pietro Belluschi, [Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994], p. 348-350.)

In 1982, the Equitable Savings and Loan Association operated 25 bank branches in OR, 15 in WA and 10 in ID.

PCAD id: 16169