Karl Miller Center, by Behnisch Architekten + SRG Partnership

Located in downtown Portland, the Karl Miller Center is home to Portland State University’s School of Business, and is part of the city’s rich network of public spaces and diverse urban uses. That wasn’t always the case. The original building, which was a 100,000 square-foot 1970s structure, did not include space for students to gather for “informal” learning, faulty offices were segregated from the classrooms spaces and the space was not well-ventilated.  

The Karl Miller Center has breathed new life into the existing structure through a multi-storey central spaces that is open and collects daylight. LEED-Platinum certified, the building utilises a variety of innovative, yet largely passive, low-tech climate concepts to minimise the environmental impact, reducing the total site EUI of the new building to less than half the original, pre-renovated structure.

The new construction also took advantage of Portland’s temperate climate by not using any mechanical cooling equipment. Indoor air quality, daylight, and views to the outdoors as well as acoustic and thermal comfort were also studied in detail during the design process in an effort to create a ‘lighter’, more flexible form of building that fuses sustainability, urban activity and campus life while prioritising comfort and well-being.


Appearing as two distinct structures, the renovated existing building is retrofitted with a metal panel facade system dotted with an irregular composition of punched windows, contrasting yet complementing the new, dynamic and shifting 45,000-square-foot building, cladded in regionally sourced FSC-certified Alaskan Yellow Cedar. Coupled with a series of terraced, occupiable green roofs and new circulation pathways linking the surrounding public amenities, the Karl Miller Centre enhances the public realm by providing a more diverse streetscape.

(All images are credited to Brad Feinknopf)