Mississippi by Waechter Architecture

First 'All-Wood' Commercial Building in Oregon Completed

John Hill
10. April 2023
The mass timber construction is covered in a “rain jacket” of weathering steel. (Photo: Lara Swimmer)

The “all-wood” character Mississippi is not apparent when seeing the exterior of the building that sits on N Mississippi St. in Portland's Boise neighborhood: It is wrapped in corrugated weathering steel. Besides this “rain jacket” and radiant concrete flooring, all of the surfaces within Mississippi are exposed wood free of any additional finishes or (unnecessary) fireproofing. “This approach creates a simplicity and wholeness that is absent in standard CLT or traditional frame projects,” the architects wrote in a statement, “and creates spaces with uncommon warmth, beauty and durability.”

A south-facing courtyard occupies the middle of the site. (Photo: Lara Swimmer)

The rectangular site of Mississippi is oriented east-west, with large rooms located toward the street (west) and alley (east) overlooking a courtyard in the center; corridors and vertical circulation sit on the narrow north edge of the courtyard. It is a simple plan driven by “economy, constructability and agility,” per the architects, who created the courtyard as a semi-private transition from the street and a venue for events, presentations, and informal gathering. The ground floor of the building is occupied by a cafe, maker space, and bicycle parking; Waechter Architecture's offices are on the second floor; and a single residence occupies the third floor.

Capitola Coffee occupies the street-facing west end of the ground floor. (Photo: Lara Swimmer)

The programmatic mix of the building belies the nearly monolithic character of the interior, with wood covering every surface minus the radiant concrete floors. The benefits toward health and well-being that come from using wood in interiors is widely known, though its application still lags behind other materials, especially in the United States. With the design and completion of Mississippi, Waechter Architecture has received a grant from the USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations Program “to study the building’s performance, and to identify potential applications of its innovative approach in other commercial, institutional, and residential settings,” per the architects.

Waechter Architecture's offices are on the second floor. (Photo: Lara Swimmer)
“Every decision, from the building’s organization to the selection of healthy and highly efficient materials and building systems, such as all-electric, refrigerant free, hydronic heating and cooling systems, embodies the principles of resilience and enduring design. The ultimate goal is to create a future-proof building that also possesses a strong sense of identity, grace and permanence.”

Waechter Architecture

Wood is used for the walls, treads and risers, and guardrails in the stairwell. (Photo: Lara Swimmer)
Project: Mississippi
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Client/Operator: 4224 N Mississippi LLC 
Architect/Interiors/Construction Manager: Waechter Architecture
  • Principal Architect: Ben Waechter
  • Project Manager: Alexis Coir
Mass Timber Fabrication: KLH Massivholz (USA / Austria)
Mass Timber Installation: Mustang Ridge
Civil and Structural Engineer: KPFF
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer: PAE 
Code / Fire Protection: Code Unlimited 
Construction Management: Owen Gabbert LLC, Cutwater Design & Build Solutions 
Landscaping: Cistus Nursery
Concept Diagram
Site Plan
First Floor Plan
Second Floor Plan
Third Floor Plan

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