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10.17.2011
Studio Visit> Allied Works
Portland-based firm designs cultural projects across the continent.
Calgary National Music Center
Courtesy Allied Works

Many might think of Allied Works as a West Coast firm designing cultural projects across the country all from its Portland office. But the firm has operated a New York office since 2004, and its principal, Brad Cloepfil, is thoroughly bicoastal. “To me, New York is all about people, and the stimulation from those around you,” he said. “Whereas Portland and the West, for me, are more about solitude and the landscape. That’s where the soul of the work comes from.” Currently, the Portland office has about 35 employees, while the New York offices totals only eight. “Those numbers really wax and wane according to the geographic center of gravity for our projects.”

Cloepfil said that landscape has always been a persistent concern in his work, and he has collaborated, often at the earliest stages of a project, with numerous landscape architects over the years, including Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, West 8, and Reed Hilderbrand. “I don’t know that we were ahead of the curve on that, but it certainly seems more common now than it did when we started out,” he said.

While the firm has quietly and steadily raised its profile over the years with museums in New York, St. Louis, Seattle, and Ann Arbor, the next phase of projects, including the much anticipated Clyfford Still Museum in Denver and a major new music center in Calgary, Alberta, should push the firm to a higher level of public recognition. The firm is also moving into public space and infrastructure projects with a waterfront competition in Florida as well as a bridge and landscape project in Washington State.

“Iconic design has almost become a warning now,” he said. “Architecture, it seems, has become tied to consumerism. We’re not interested in that.” Cloepfil believes the firm is pursuing a different kind of work from many of its well-known contemporaries. “We want to be more intentional and focus on our relationships with our clients, to do something that honors and elevates a place. We’re not interested in global domination.”


 
 
Jeremy Bittermann

Clyfford Still Museum

Denver, Colorado

Holding 94 percent of the total output of the abstract expressionist artist, the new 28,000-square-foot Clyfford Still Museum promises to be a singular and permanent addition to Denver’s cultural scene. With marquee buildings nearby by Daniel Libeskind, Michael Graves, and Gio Ponte, Allied Works chose a more anchored approach. Visitors enter a glazed lobby under a massive cantilever, which dominates the rough concrete façade, made with unsealed, beveled formwork. Inside, light from the sky filters through a structural concrete screen, washing down concrete and plaster walls. Reed Hildebrand designed the adjacent grove of trees with crisscrossing paths.


 
 
Courtesy Allied Works

Dutchess County Residence

Upstate New York

Allied Works previously completed an “Art Barn” and guesthouse on the property of this art collector’s estate. The main house, which includes site-specific art, is now taking shape. Surrounded by three landscaped courts, the house is clad in clear, etched, and opaque glass. “We wanted to de-objectify the object,” Cloepfil said. Double-height spaces at the corners of the house open out to views of the rolling meadows and the Catskills beyond. Doug Aitken video projections will be shown on the side of the 9,000-square-foot building.


 
 
 

Calgary National Music Center

Alberta, Canada

The main 135,000-square-foot concert hall is contained in a curved concrete volume that hangs over a large gathering space below. The intersecting geometries, rendered in mute concrete, recall the work of Louis Kahn, whom Cloepfil cites as an influence. A bridge above a main road is also a multipurpose event space overlooking the city’s famous rodeo grounds. “The building has to represent something beyond itself,” Cloepfil said, citing Calgary’s rapid energy industry-related growth and lack of major cultural buildings. Many of the spaces, for chamber music and informal performances, are designed so that sound will leak out into the circulation and public spaces.


 
 
 
Dean Kaufman

Downtown Residence

New York, New York

Like the Dutchess County Residence, the owners of this large downtown loft are avid art collectors. The architects wove rich materials throughout the space, including panels of cast aluminum poured over burlap, which create colorful distortions, as well as rich mahogany wood panels. Light pours in from glazed enclosed miniature gardens designed by Paula Hayes, reflecting off the white oak floors and ceilings. The architects also worked with Doug Aitken to create mirrored kaleidoscope-periscope light wells.


 
 
 
Courtesy Allied Works

Vancouver Community Connector

Vancouver, Washington

This 14-acre urban park caps Interstate 5 to reunite downtown Vancouver with the Fort Vancouver Historic Reserve. Designed with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, the park interprets the region’s landscape and topography while offering a window down to the highway below by an adjoining footbridge. The park will be heavily planted with trees visible to the cars passing below. It features a small promenade lined with a watercourse and a meadow with wetland and prairie grasses.

Alan G. Brake