Stoel Rives

Celebrating the beauty of wood, ZGF Architects crafts a contemporary interior for a law firm in Portland, Oregon. Photography by Nick Merrick/ Hedrich Blessing and Pete Eckert.

More Photos

The 110-year-old law firm Stoel Rives enjoys a national presence, with a dozen offices across the country serving a number of practice areas. Timber, though, is one of the more important industries for the 350 attorneys at the firm’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Stoel Rives hired locally based ZGF Architects to craft a contemporary interior with beautiful wood detailing and natural light.

The largest law practice in Portland, Stoel Rives spent 45 years downtown in a midcentury tower with minimal natural light and a succession of fully enclosed offices. “You could close your door and nobody could see what you were doing,” recalls Stoel Rives Partner Wally Van Valkenburg.

Now in a bright new space, the firm has transformed its culture with a sense of light and transparency. The interior has “given us energy and a sense that we’re a 21st-century organization, as opposed to the feeling we had in the old building,” Van Valkenburg says. “You want to hold on to the history that’s of value, but you also want to feel like the organization is looking to the future.”

Interiors warmed by wood finishes
The firm occupies 120,000 square feet on the top nine floors of the new 31-story glass-clad Park Avenue West tower. Programmatically, the interior includes two floors for reception and a conference center for client meetings; five floors of attorneys’ offices; and two floors for administration, a cafe, and catering kitchens for meetings and events.

Upon arrival, visitors to Stoel Rives immediately encounter the warmth of wood in a welcoming double-height lobby, with white oak floors, vertical-grain Douglas fir walls, and a latticed ceiling. A nod to the firm’s many timber industry clients, the extensive use of wood also helps create a warmer, more relaxed feel with both texture and imperfection. “It’s going to have knots, and it’s not going to be a perfect wood floor as you’d assume there would be in a big law firm,” says Sue Kerns, ZGF’s interior design director and principal in charge of the project.

“But [the attorneys] liked that,” adds Kerns’s colleague Sharron van der Meulen, a ZGF principal. “They wanted it to be modern and dignified—a timeless design. But they didn’t want it to be too precious.” Knots notwithstanding, the FSC-certified wood wall panels are pristine. “There’s a lot of attention to craft and the detailing,” van der Meulen adds.

Customized internal stairs
Because Stoel Rives signed on early, before construction of the building by Portland-based TVA Architects was complete, ZGF was able to create both the firm’s lobby and a series of interior open staircases. The stairs, which encourage more incidental contact among colleagues, connect two or three floors each, the maximum allowed by code.

Firm leaders had toured other corporate and government offices for inspiration, and they contemplated the possibility of an open configuration before realizing that it was not going to fit its practice. “We decided that [an open plan] was just a little bit too far to go,” Van Valkenburg says, due to client confidentiality.

Incorporating an extensive art collection
Attorneys’ offices, ranging from 112 to 220 square feet, are about 14 percent smaller, on average, compared with the previous building. But the attorneys now enjoy a greater variety of conference rooms and collaborative workspaces, as well as a partially covered roof deck. With a combination of banquette and lounge seating, an employee cafe on the 26th floor has a ceiling of wood from maraschino cherry barrels and a porcelain tile floor.

A supporter of local artists and arts groups, Stoel Rives has an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, and photography. A selection of artwork is hung on white plaster display surfaces extending out from wood walls in the conference center. “The idea was to create a gallery wall that wraps the core of the building,” van der Meulen says. Hallways are extra wide to double as social gathering spaces.

ZGF designed the workplace to be highly sustainable, incorporating a lighting strategy that saves more than 40 percent on energy costs compared with a code baseline building. A Platinum rating for LEED-CI is anticipated to be confirmed this summer, and the project has already received four Green Globes for Sustainable Interiors, the highest rating from the Green Building Initiative.

who Architect and interior designer: ZGF Architects. Project team: Sue Kerns; Sharron van der Meulen; Michael O’Mara; Jeanne Jameson; Lance Hastings; Heather Collins; Fred Chomowicz. Contractor: Lease Crutcher Lewis. Lighting: Biella Lighting Design. Engineering: KPFF Engineers (structural); Interface Engineering (MEP). Acoustician: Altermatt Associates. what Wallcoverings: Carnegie. Paint: Benjamin Moore; Sherwin-Williams. Laminate: Nevamar. Wall tile: Design Direct Source. Countertops: DuPont, Stone Source. Drywall: USG. Wood wall paneling: VG douglas fir and Oregon white oak tongue and groove plank. Hard flooring: Endurawood. Cork flooring: Wicanders. Ceramic flooring: Design & Direct Source. Resilient flooring: Tandus Centiva. Carpet/ carpet tile: Tandus Centiva. Area rugs: Christiane Millinger; Bolon. Ceiling tile: Mars; Halcyon; Decoustics; 9Wood. Recessed lighting: Intense Lighting; Prudential Lighting Company; USAI Lighting. Suspended linear: Fluxwerx. Track lighting: Intense Lighting. Floor/table lamps: Vibia; Eleek; Foscarini. Pendants/chandeliers: Luceplan; Lightyears; Marset. Other: Cooledge. Hardware: Corbin Russwin; Forms+Surfaces; Spinneybeck. Doors: Modernus; Legend Custom Woodworking. Decorative glass panels/ partitions: Forms+Surfaces. Window treatments: MechoShade. Workstations: Knoll. Seating: Knoll; Coalesse; Carl Hansen & Son; Keilhauer; Steelcase; Bright, Herman Miller. Upholstery: Designtex; Bernhardt Design; Textus; Spinneybeck. Tables: custom by ZGF and the Joinery; Andreu World; Steelcase; Legend Custom Woodworking; Knoll. Files/drawers/casegoods: Knoll. Architectural/custom woodworking: Legend Custom Woodworking. Signage: Pathway Design. Plumbing fixtures/fittings: Kohler; Dornbracht; Brizo.