Portland’s Aerial Tram, Age 10

Designing connection, place, and a new economy.

In 2007, Portland christened the second urban aerial tram in the country. Connecting the city’s landlocked largest employer, OHSU, with a brownfield site that had lain largely dormant since the 1950s, and designed through the city’s first international architecture competition since the Portland Building, the tram launched a bold new chapter in the city’s history.

On the tram’s 10th anniversary, UO Yeon Center director Randy Gragg brings together the architect and campus planners who brought it to life. We will look at the history of decisions that inspired the tram’s construction. We revisit the controversies around its conception, design, and completion. And we look at the dramatic expansion of OHSU the tram seeded and how it will shape the future of the campus, city and the region’s economy.

Sarah Graham, architect, cofounder of AGPS, Los Angeles/Zurich-based architecture firm and winner of the international competition to design the tram

Kirk Pawlowski, campus planner for Oregon Health & Science University (1999 – 2003), Washington State University, and Oregon State University

Brian Newman, current Vice President of Campus Development, OHSU

6 pm, White Stag, 70 NW Couch
Suggested contribution: $10 at the door
Students and Yeon Center members welcomed for free
Please RSVP

The idea for an aerial connection between OHSU and South Waterfront emerged in the early 2000s to provide the hilltop university new space for expansion. Controversy grew when a route was selected over one of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods. But civic excitement grew when, led by South Waterfront property owner Jay Zidell, the city held an international competition for the design. As the tram became a certainty, Schnitzer Investment Corporation gave OHSU 20 acres for expansion. Since then, the university has completed the Center for Health and Healing and the Collaborative Life Sciences Building. And with the $1 billion leveraged by Phil and Penny Knight’s $500 million challenge grant, three more buildings are underway, including the first phase of the Knight Cancer Institute. As well, the 33-acre Zidell Yards new master plan proposes 2,600 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, a grocery store, a retail anchor, restaurants, parking, a 200-room hotel, three parks, a public plaza and a waterfront greenway that includes recreational access to the Willamette River.

Kirk Pawlowski served as OHSU’s Director of Facilities Planning and Real Estate from1999 – 2003 and helped develop the tram concept into a master plan that could integrate campuses on Marquam Hill and South Waterfront. A 1984 UO architecture grad, Pawlowski has developed a variety of plans for University of Washington, Washington State University, and Oregon University.

Sarah Graham, cofounder of the LA/Zurich firm AGPS, won Portland’s first international competition since the Portland Building. Competing against UNStudio, Guy Nordensen, and SHoP, her design stressed lightness and reflectivity. A 1984 Harvard GSD grad, Graham has designed such award-winning work as the Esslingen Town Center, Zürich, Switzerland, the LA Children’s Museum, and the Zürich International School, Adiswil Zürich

Brian Newman manages OHSU’s long-range planning and development efforts. Prior, he was elected to the regional government in Portland, Oregon, Metro, in 2002 and again in 2006 where he focused on suburban revitalization, light rail expansion, and the Oregon Zoo master plan update. He has also worked as a senior planner with Parsons Brinkerhof, managing station area planning and advising governments on public-private partnerships.