Before we renovated it, Moda Tower’s lobby was like many other large buildings’ lobbies: small, dark, and relatively constricted, with tiny windows. Coordinating with Unico, our client, and Portland-based artist Joe Thurston, our team envisioned a lobby redesign that would uphold Thurston’s idea of a springlike forest canopy—the feeling of trees reaching toward each other against the sky—suspended 30 feet up, just inside the lobby of Moda Tower. More than just a gallery, our natural mass-timber curtain wall and the renovated lobby itself would become integral parts of Thurston’s artwork.
After decommissioning the long-standing previous artwork, we enlarged the lobby itself, opened up the windows, and replaced the dated, dark-green floor with bright, crisp flooring material. The new mass-timber curtain wall is now punctuated by wood-accented walls, with white-painted ceiling posts that disappear against the other white walls. Warmth and light now flow through the lobby.
We had our blank slate: a perfectly white container framed by natural wood, glass apertures casting beautiful lighting against a drum wall. Crucially, our renovated lobby had to account for these reflections and shadows while successfully balancing the overall light and dark, just like a forest on a spring day. We want visitors to look up as they enter.
Will they? With our renovation complete, the glass leaves of Thurston’s tree-inspired artwork hang from the lobby’s ceiling, augmented by our expansive, not-quite-neutral, inverted gallery space. Colorful reflections play across the lobby as each morning turns to evening. From the outside, passersby are treated to a bright, vibrant extension of Portland’s forests. It’s important to note that this public art-centered lobby renovation occurred in early 2020, among extraordinary awareness of what it means to be together. If Moda Tower’s renovated lobby, and the artwork it elevates, can help people slow down even for a moment—to look up and think, even briefly, about spring leaves stretching out toward others—we’ve succeeded.