Lorraine Guthrie Architect
Coopers Hall in Portland, Oregon, is a winery-cum-taproom that finesses the rawness of an industrial space with the delicacy of its natural environment. Principal architect Lorraine Guthrie described how Coopers Hall began when A&R Development purchased a Quonset hut—a light steel-frame structure that had originally served as a service center for a car dealership. The structure is unique in the Portland area, so when A&R partnered with AlexEli Vineyard, ChefsTable, and Restaurant St. Jack to build Coopers Hall, Guthrie’s team “let the building lead the way” toward a space that reflected the desired experience: organic yet urban, light-hearted yet refined.
Guthrie stripped the hut down while retaining key elements: a mezzanine that became a dining area, and a northern wall full of windows that allowed patrons to enjoy the sunlight while hinting at an outdoor experience. Indeed, a handful of picnic tables coyly suggest that patrons might actually be sitting outside, and a west-facing wall that slides open during business hours furthers patron’s access to the outdoors. Between the sunlight received through the open wall and the windows, lighting is optional well into the evening hours. Once the sun does set, delicate white string lights that hang over the dining tables lighten the structure’s industrial edge while continuing the feeling of an outdoor space.
A large concrete and steel staircase leads to the ground floor, where fermenting barrels rest upon the burnished concrete floors. Accent lighting around the barrels brightens up the space while also giving a nod toward one of its more unique features: wines on tap. While most wineries use bottles, Coopers Hall elects to store its wine in mini kegs shelved behind a gleaming tile wall that spans the bar’s back. Not only do the kegs allow the wine to last longer and eliminate the need for 30,000 glass bottles each year, but they also offer a refreshing take on the winery experience. These seemingly small details not only economize the operation, they uncork pretense, allowing participants to enjoy the experience of fine wine and dining without the fussy accoutrements.
Still, “sumptuous but simple” details such as walnut table tops, stools remade from oak staves, and a Scandinavian-inspired, dark-stained wood bar show how luxurious simple can actually be. Guthrie sourced locally for most the design elements, although she was clear to state that reclaimed wood played no part of the project: “that’s been done to the point of cliché,” she said. “We actually painted the bottom half the bar white in response to that.” White walls top to bottom complement the bar space, while also showcasing the hall’s airiness.
A variety of plants in Rainier Beer buckets hang from the ceiling, bringing a touch of nature indoors, though as Guthrie noted, a winery, by definition, pays tribute to the outdoors. “The whole process is organic,” she said. “You’re drinking wine in the same place it’s fermenting.” What could be more natural than that?