When a host of politicians, developers and business leaders gathered last week amid the decaying shipyards poised to become chic new South Waterfront neighborhood, one visionary force was missing.
Brad Cloepfil, who designed the acclaimed Wieden & Kennedy headquarters, was involved in some of the drawings that helped backers promote South Waterfront as a modern enclave of sleek glass structures. But Cloepfil now says his firm, Allied Works, has been all but abandoned by Homer Williams and co-developer Gerding Edlen in favor of more mainstream firms such as Brewery Blocks designer GBD Architects.
In recent years, Cloepfil has emerged as Portland's most celebrated architect since Pietro Belluschi, winning highly coveted art-museum commissions in St. Louis, New York and Seattle.
Cloepfil worries that after the promise of bolder architecture, South Waterfront is now poised to become a repeat of what he calls the Pearl District's uninspired architecture, simply trading faux warehouses for bland facsimiles of Vancouver, B.C.-style apartment towers. "It's the same architects and the same formula," he says.
Williams says it was his client, Oregon Health & Science University, that nixed Cloepfil's plans, but he hopes the "extraordinarily talented" architect may still be able to leave a mark on the South Waterfront.
Cloepfil is doubtful. "I feel a little bit like we were used for our design reputation," he says. "I'm not sure they ever intended to hire us. "If I had more time to think about it, I might have some seriously hard feelings."