Not Just a Warehouse

November 25, 2019

By Tim Evans

Skip Stanaway was a principal at SRG Partnership for 11 years. He left in 2011 to take over his family’s business and in 2018 came back to SRG as a client and asked us to design a distribution warehouse. We agreed to take on the project but noted: “We don’t know anything about warehouses.” Skip’s reply was intriguing: “That’s perfect. I don’t want a typical warehouse.”

The Four-S Corporation is led by Skip, and their company A&I Distributors is a wholesaler of industrial lubricant products like motor oil, transmission fuel, and other mostly automotive related parts like air filters, wipers, etc. It’s a business Skip’s father established, and when his father was unable to continue running things, Skip retired from architecture to take over.

At SRG, Skip worked on higher education, civic projects, and of course Children’s hospitals, two of which were Shriner's Children’s Hospitals, an organization he’s still actively involved with as a board member. I’m not sure there’s a better way to put it than just, he’s a really good guy – really likable and just gets along with everybody!

From Skip's time at SRG (and he still looks just the same!)

It was a great opportunity to work with him, as he was very hand-on and involved with decisions, and he was supportive of doing high-quality design work, and not thinking of this as just a warehouse. The project would be approximately 50,000 square feet and built with tilt-up concrete panels on a 4 acre parcel in the outskirts of Tualatin, OR.

I began to pay closer attention to the warehouses I saw around the area, mostly noticing how much I disliked the fake windows, painted stripes, false panels, and stuck-on office volumes. When I relayed those comments to Skip he replied “Good thoughts – let’s not do any of that!” The table was set to re-imagine the typology.

We quickly decided that for economy and rigor, all of the tilt-up concrete panels would be precisely the same size and thickness: 26 feet wide by 33 feet high and 8 inches thick. The panel thickness was optimized by eliminating the various reveal joints commonly used on warehouse exteriors. We placed a large recess at one edge of the panel to articulate the joint, where the panel was less stressed. The result is that the panels remain monumental in character.

The design inserted areas of vertical ribbed steel panels at all corners to express the edge of the tilt-up panels as planes, reducing the “boxiness” of the volume. These were given a dark blue-gray color to emphasize the contrast and detailed to expose the entire edge of the concrete panels. These insertions are full height rather than “punched” openings, allowing the form to remain abstract and to retain its larger scale.

The warehouse sits on an arterial, and it’s a big building, so we wanted to have it have a visual impact. The 286 foot long west elevation includes perforated metal screens and fins, and we explored the way lighting can provide interest at night. Due to a change in soil conditions, we substituted bamboo for the specimen trees you see in the rendering above and ground lights for the façade. The effect is a welcome surprise. The color of the bamboo and the shadows cast on the tilt-up panels enlivens this façade more than we anticipated.

Overall this project has been a great experience. It’s an example of how we can utilize design to elevate an often overlooked building type, and it was an opportunity to collaborate with an outstanding former colleague.

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Tim Evans

AIA, LEED AP

Principal