written by Sheila G. Miller
Since 1990, the Oregon Convention Center’s glass towers have been a part of Portland’s skyline.
And now, the convention center has a new look, thanks to a $39.5 million renovation that reimagines what it means to go on your next dreaded work trip.
Craig Stroud, the executive director of the Oregon Convention Center, said there were two big reasons to upgrade the facility. One, it needed a refresh—Portland in 1990 was a lot different than it is today, and he wanted the aesthetic of the center to reflect that. Two, the Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center is slated to open in January. The Oregon Convention Center holds about 500 events each year, Stroud said, with fifty or more conventions and between 500,000 and 600,000 visitors.
Stroud said the design of the convention center is poised to be a gamechanger—when you’re in the Oregon Convention Center, you’ll recognize it as Portland in a way that’s different from most convention centers.
“The majority of convention centers? Once you walk in, you see neutral colors and you could be anywhere,” he said. Not so with the new interior. “We were inspired to say, ‘You’re in Portland, you’re in Oregon, you’re in the Northwest, and our inspiration was from the natural elements from the place we call home.”
The wallpaper is textured and meant to evoke a stand of trees. The carpeting looks like lichen, with a gray color in the general thoroughfares and bright colors in areas where visitors will gather. And the piece de resistance, the ceiling of the Oregon Ballroom, which has 1,000 individually suspended pieces of wood meant to evoke looking up into a forest canopy. The area is supplemented with LED lighting, and a space outside the Oregon Ballroom features a topographic interpretation in wood panels of the Cascade Range, from Mount Hood to Crater Lake.
“You can’t help but know you’re in Oregon,” Stroud said.
The remodel, which was overseen by general contractor Colas Construction, a Portland-based firm, also included exterior work in the plaza outside the center, including weathered steel and column basalt trucked in from the Columbia Gorge, native plants and changed pathways to direct visitors to the doors. Like most remodels, much of the other work is invisible—retrofitted lighting and improved audiovisual technology included.
The remodel was also very Oregonian in another way—recycling. The entire facility’s carpet (10 tons’ worth) was replaced, and the original carpet’s backing was put on new carpet for another facility, while the wool carpet was shredded to be used in the Puget Sound as part of a wastewater filtration system.
“That was good work on our part to not incinerate it,” Stroud said. “We found solutions and we were innovative. … That’s just who we are.”