Community Partners with the School of Architecture

The School of Architecture is proud to maintain professional relationships with regional architecture associations, arts organizations and humanitarian groups:

American Institute of Architects Portland / Center for Architecture

Architectural Foundation of Oregon / Architects in Schools

Mercy Corps Action Center

Community Collaborations

Many of our design classes allow students to work closely with nonprofit organizations and community groups, giving them the opportunity to find out what it's like to work with a client. Below are descriptions of some of our community collaborations:


In 2012, PSU School of Architecture began a collaboration with the Oregon Ballet Theatre, inspired by the dance company’s fall program “Body Beautiful.” This collaboration offered opportunities for architecture students to contribute to OBT’s visual stage presence, learn from the dancers by observing classes and rehearsals, and design performance spaces, both portable and fixed, for dance.

School of Architecture director Clive Knights led his Spring 2013 third-year studio class in a series of design assignments specifically for dance. One of these was intended to support OBT’s aim to reach out into the greater Portland community and share the beauty of dance with those who would otherwise never experience it. Working from the stated goals of OBT's interim artistic director Anne Mueller and OBT staff members, the class created designs for three separate but related projects: a portable performance structure that could be put on a truck, driven to a rural farm, suburban park, or urban street, and set up in minutes; a portable stage environment to both call attention to and set off the performance area of Director Park in downtown Portland where the company presents OBT Exposed each summer; and a design for remodeling and expanding the OBT headquarters in Southeast Portland. 

For OBT’s fall 2012 program “Body Beautiful,” PSU Architecture students assisted in building the 30-foot-tall Tyvek “trees” that formed installation artist John Grade’s stage environment for OBT’s world-premiere ballet “Ekho.” The process was a painstaking endeavor, with each tree composed of thousands of laser-cut Tyvek pieces that needed to be scored, creased, glued together, and attached to wooden rings. Each tree was of a unique size and shape, and some were lit from below by LED lights as dancers moved beneath and around them. The process of contributing to the fabrication of these elegant stage pieces was memorable and instructive for students.

Finally, our Design Fundamentals Studio 1 (ARCH 280) classes, which traditionally focus on the body and its use of space and the physical environment, were invited to sit in on OBT company class and rehearsal in order to observe and sketch dancers’ movements. Body Vox and AWOL Dance Collective also opened their rehearsals to our students so that they might learn more about the myriad ways in which the human body moves and occupies space. 



2015 marks the third consecutive year of collaborations with Pickathon, an annual roots music festival set on a bucolic farm in Happy Valley, Oregon, drawing 3,500 attendees each year. Our students are currently at work designing a unique, new temporary performance venue, where bands will delight Pickathon attendees throughout the festival weekend. The design is being built from a construction material that will be diverted from its usual duties in order to form the structure of the stage, and then will be returned to service once the festival is over. The specifics of the design and the material are currently being kept secret, but will be revealed in the weeks prior to the festival. A small group of students and two School of Architecture faculty members are designing the stage during Spring 2015 term, and a larger group of students will build the design in July in preparation for the July 31 – August 2 festival.


The 2014 Pickathon performance venue, called the Tree Line Stage, was designed and built by PSU Architecture students and two faculty members using 520 wooden shipping pallets, which were rented from a shipper to form a striking, multi-textured performance enclosure just for the festival weekend, and then returned to their owner to rejoin the working world again. After the weekend was over, no trace of the pallets, the stage, or the transformative experience was left, except in the minds and memories of the attendees. An excellent video and article on the project, with photos, can be found on Inhabitat:


In 2013, our students' contribution to Pickathon was a series of elegant gateway structures made from bamboo stalks, designed to help to set the tone for attendees from the moment they walked onto the farm site: this would be a magical weekend like no other.


On Memorial Day weekend 2015, a group of Portland State University architecture students installed the first public parklet in downtown Portland. Designed and built entirely by students under the guidance of Assistant Professor B.D. Wortham-Galvin, this parklet provides much-needed seating for the SW Fourth Avenue food cart pod, at the corner of SW 4th and College. Thanks to the efforts of the parklet team, made up of PSU architecture students, the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative of PSU’s Institute of Sustainable Solutions, and the SoMa Ecodistrict, students, faculty and workers from surrounding offices are now able to sit at this attractive outdoor mini-park and enjoy their food-cart lunches in the sunshine rather than racing back to their desks to eat.

Designed with sustainability and stormwater management in mind, the parklet features reused and reclaimed materials, including discarded escalator handrails for one of the vertical portions of the structure.  The parklet takes up the space of two parking spots, and has seating for approximately two dozen people. Creating a sustainable, attractive, real-life intervention to activate this busy but oft-overlooked area of downtown Portland has been an invaluable learning experience for the students. More information on the project is available here:


PSU Architecture students and Assistant Professor Nora Wendl designed and built a series of wooden exhibition structures to hold the inaugural exhibit for the King School Museum of Contemporary Art, a collaborative project of the PSU Art and Social Practice program, Portland Public Schools and other community groups. The exhibition, “Postcards from America,” featured the work of internationally renowned photographers from the international cooperative Magnum and was curated by elementary school students at King, with help from art professors and students at Portland State University. The art students and faculty also worked with students at the King School, helping them learn about museum practice and careers as they curated, installed, and promoted the exhibit. The “museum” opened to the public at an opening reception on Thursday, May 28.   


Working with the art installation coordinator for the 2013 Cascade AIDS Project Art Auction, a PSU Architecture studio class designed, built and erected a major interactive art installation at the event, held each spring at the Memorial Coliseum.

The installation was created to express the intense emotional journey experienced by people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and must face the reality of living with the disease. The students researched the HIV/AIDS experience and viewed hours of video interviews with individuals who are living with the virus. With a deeper understanding of these individuals' emotional experience, they created the concept of a walk-through installation made up of seven "bays," each fitted with reflective surfaces, projected video and a prism from which luminous color and projected light would emanate. Built in the Shattuck Hall materials lab, the bays were over 12 feet tall and provided a dynamic surface for the projected video, which depicted abstract horses, sea creatures and other animals moving through space.

At the auction on April 26, 2013, the installation was erected adjacent to the registration tables, so that guests entering the event walked through this asymmetrical, angular tunnel of light, following the emotional journey of a person diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.


In December 2013, PSU School of Architecture/Center for Public Interest Design faculty members Sergio Palleroni and Todd Ferry, led a group of Architecture students and volunteers, including two students from University of Oregon, on a design-build experience at the Montesinos Orphanage, 15 miles north of Port-au-Prince. During the December trip and in a follow-up visit by a smaller group in February 2014, the students designed and built an elegant structure to provide the barren, sun-exposed dormitory courtyards with shade, seating and rainfall collection for a planned bioswale, as part of a joint project with the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris. 

Other community organizations we have worked with include:

Community Warehouse

Outside In

Teatro Milagro