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YMCA Adaptive Reuse

Portland, OR

YMCA Adaptive Reuse

Portland, OR

This is a glorious example of adaptive reuse. The architect wisely kept all the best parts of the original curved building and created a new office space that is a glistening modernist gem.

AIA Oregon Architecture Awards 2020 Design Jury

We completed the Portland YMCA athletic facility in 1977 with the goal of blending an architectural statement into the surrounding hillside. The original sweeping radius at the northeast corner of the building follows the site topography, and a large portion of the building is excavated into the surrounding slope. Over the course of its life as the “Metro Y,” the building was lauded for its contemporary modernist design, appearing in Progressive Architecture Magazine in 1978 and earning an AIA Portland Honor Award.

The YMCA operated the building until 2013, when it was repurposed as a private health club. In 2015 we were given the unusual opportunity to adapt and retrofit the core and shell of this building that we had designed almost 40 years earlier. Our developer client came to us at the behest of a sports apparel company, drawn to the building due to its distinctive massing, connection to Duniway Park, and history as an athletic building.

Bora’s renovation and expansion retains the existing footprint while adding an additional level to the building. Along with updating the building to respond to a different set of needs and inhabitants, we focused our design on augmenting the structure’s existing strengths. To reinforce visual connections to the park and surrounding neighborhood, we expanded glazing on the curved northeast façade. This new glass allows views to the concrete waffle slab ceilings and warm glue laminated wood beam structure within.

Because the building sits at the foot of a hill, we were particularly conscious of impacting views for residents whose properties look over the site. A Phase II third-floor addition will feature large swaths of eco-roof, designed to blend into the surrounding foliage, and three large skylights angled to ensure light from within is not visible from the boulevard above.

This building has been a beloved neighbor and urban landmark since its opening day. We’re grateful to be able to usher the old YMCA into a new future, honoring the past without being limited by it.

(Interior Architecture completed by Lever Architecture)


67,640 sf renovation; 41,420 sf addition (Phase II)


AIA Oregon 2020 Architecture Awards, Merit Award


Lease Crutcher Lewis