Slabtown 4 / Scott | Edwards Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. In the late 19th century, Portland’s northwest quadrant adopted the name Slabtown when a sawmill opened on Northrup Street. Discarded edges of logs or “slab lumber” from the factory were piled in front of working-class homes as a cheap source of heating and cooking fuel.
Located in this northwest neighborhood, Slabtown 4 is a four-unit project for a multi-generational family. The challenge presented was to design two single-family dwellings and two accessory living units, each with private outdoor spaces and parking, all on a compact footprint to accommodate tight urban terrain. Three of the four units were to be occupied by family members and the fourth as an office or to provide additional rental income.
The inspiration for the form came directly from the ancient history of the region, with two wooden volumes, or stacks of wooden slabs, resting on a solid base. This solid base establishes the structure and provides a sense of security and privacy to its occupants. To keep the base modern and monolithic, dark manganese iron brick was paired with matching dark grout with raked seams – adding texture to the facade with a material that complements the surrounding context.
The ground floor is made up of two one-bedroom ADU units with exterior patios and two two-story townhouses above with private rooftop terraces overlooking the western hills. The proportion and repetition of the townhouses bridge the neighboring single-family homes to the higher-density four-story apartment buildings across the street.
The interior is clean, simple, modern and minimal with a slight Japanese influence. The palette includes natural materials, daylight-flooded white surfaces, black metal accents, and modern white oak built-ins with integrated drawer pulls. Townhouse units feature double-height living areas with loft-style master bedrooms to keep interior spaces bright, open, and airy.
A two-story vertical wall of white oak slats adds a textural element to the space by maintaining transparency while serving as a railing for the two flights of stairs. Maintaining a connection to the outdoors is important when the main living space is on the upper floor. Large folding doors ease the transition to the outdoors and allow the saloon to double in size for entertaining thanks to its proximity to the lower roof terrace.
A large format slab was selected which can be used indoors over a gypcrete subfloor with radiant heat as well as outdoors over an adjustable plinth system to maintain a continuous floor surface. The third floor bedrooms have direct access to the upper roof terrace, which is covered in wood to provide a soft and warm surface for yoga and bare feet.
By honoring the family’s wish to create four homes in a highly walkable and vibrant neighborhood, the result is a home that could serve as a model for multi-generational living in an urban setting.