For decades, Adidas has been known for their apparel, shoes, accessories and brand. The slogan “Impossible is Nothing,” coined in the 1970s, has defined the company’s mission and values over the years. With its maker culture and participation in community, Adidas has now grown to be one of the largest sportswear manufacturers in the world, and as such, its North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon has grown, too. Through the efforts of Portland-based architecture studio Hacker Architects in partnership with independent general contracting group PCL Construction, Adidas has expanded its Pacific Northwest footprint with the Intersection & Canteen, a multiphase project that has renovated and transformed the kitchen, dining and community spaces at Adidas Village.
“Everyone has their angle on the [Adidas] brand, but theirs is changing and evolving real time in relation to culture and art,” said Corey Martin, design principal from Hacker. “They design through making, which is something that we really identify with. The design ideas for the space grew out of that, from how the brand was integrated into the space to the materials that were used in the space to the spatial relationships in the space. The fundamental concept of space was designed as a background for them to move into and do with it what they wanted to do and to make it changeable over time.”
Located in the North Portland Overlook neighborhood on Greeley Avenue, Adidas Village is designed to not only serve its own employees, but also to welcome the surrounding community into its culture through the intersection and connectivity of the site. The project, which was split into two phases, was completed in 2019 after a two-year delivery timeline. During the first phase, the team renovated the Canteen, expanding the kitchen and servery space and allowing for more circulation throughout the building. During the second phase, the team combined two existing structures into one building. The Intersection now offers not only dining space, but also flexible uses for community gathering, all-hands meetings and impromptu working sessions.
“It was really fun because when we were getting toward the end of the project, we actually didn’t totally know what some of the [interventions] were going to be [and what] they were going to do with the space, and we got to see them and it was like ‘Wow, that’s really a great surprise,’” Martin said. “It’s really cool, and it was really fun to collaborate with [Adidas] that way.”
Rather than build an entirely new structure, Adidas approached Hacker with the idea to unify two existing buildings that were connected underground by a basement, readapting and transforming the space into the renovated Intersection & Canteen.
“While creating this, the vision that came out of the process was that this needed to be their iconic all-hands company space to create community and also function as a place for people to take a break and get food and stuff and not have to drive so far from the campus,” Martin said.
The three-story, steel frame building is sheathed in glass curtain walls, and the facade facing Greeley Avenue is louvered to not only express the concept of motion, but also to prevent passersby from peering directly inside. The louvers are angled to allow views when crossing the bridge that stretches across Greeley Avenue and connects the Intersection & Canteen to the rest of campus, but prevents anyone crossing up or down the avenue, or taking pictures with the iconic Adidas Superstar shoes icon in front of the building, from looking directly in.
“It’s this kind of irony that they built the all hands space right next to the place where there’s the least privacy on campus,” Martin said. “These louvers actually work to help screen that and also direct your view and bring light in from the sky and from different parts of the campus without making it feel like you’re on display for people that might be out there taking a picture of themselves.”
The interior of the building is designed to encourage socialization and collaboration. The team used cross-laminated timber (CLT) where they could as an interior finish, building bleachers and counter space to create what Martin described as a “raw” finish. The steel-framed ceiling plane is coated in a sound-absorbent material, and from this backdrop, Adidas can decorate and transform the space with any details they choose.
“We actually decided consciously not to take the amazing tactile research based materials laboratory that they actually have on the campus near this space and use their materials,” Martin said, “but we said that was too much interpretation by us and what would be better to do would be to make something that is more neutral and more authentic, that they can then enhance in all the ways that they do with their products and their design and their graffiti and their art and all the things that they make on campus. It’s pretty cool in that way.”
CLT is a regional, biophilic material that is pre-manufactured for quicker assembly on site, and the Intersection & Canteen isn’t the first building on site to use it. Martin explained how CLT is gradually changing the architecture game for companies like Adidas because of its versatility of use.
“[Adidas’] new office building is CLT concrete hybrid, which isn’t a pure CLT building [and] isn’t necessarily the most direct way to use CLT, but they did it that way because it was faster to build,” he said. “It’s really cool to see people taking the constraints of CLT and the benefits of it and combining it with traditional systems when needed to make things work for whatever the specific constraints of that specific project were. We do that on every project. We don’t just say, ‘Hey, you should use CLT no matter what we say.’ Let’s look at the pros and cons of it relative to normal systems and work together to figure out if it really is a match or not.”
Martin mentioned one of the more challenging parts of the project was building over the basement space that connects the original two buildings because that space houses Adidas’ data center. During construction, the team needed to ensure no moisture or damage affected the servers, and also had to limit their live loads so the building was structurally independent from the basement space. To achieve this, the team drilled down and placed structural columns between the servers.
“We basically had to design this building to fit on top of and be built right on top of this continuously operational server farm that could not be moved and could not get wet and could not get damaged,” Martin said.
The building that is now the Intersection & Canteen also used to be a Kaiser hospital, and Martin explained the team was going into the construction phase partially blind because good drawings of the layout didn’t exist.
“We knew that going into it,” he said. “There was going to be a big discovery phase during construction where we were going to have to adapt the design in potentially really big ways to what we discovered once we started demolishing certain parts of the site. That was a huge challenge and…that’s one way that we dealt with this challenge was doing selective demolition, really precise ways and really careful ways again to protect what was underneath the site.”
Martin noted Adidas’ commitment to adaptive reuse and looks forward to how projects like the Intersection & Canteen will affect future architectural endeavors.
“Adidas is all about exploring the potential of materials and space and how they all work together in a really neat way, and they’re really supportive of innovation in that way,” Martin said. “As a result, there are going to be some things happening with architecture and design with companies like Adidas that are unexpected and could be part of the solution, too, to some of the problems that we’re all facing with climate and costs and all those things. I’m looking forward to seeing how spaces like this help inspire these people that work here to do something better. That’s what it’s all about for us. It’s all interconnected.”