The Portland Building Valley Theme - CODAworx

The Portland Building Valley Theme


Client: Howard S. Wright on behalf of the Owner the City of Portland

Location: Portland, OR, United States

Completion date: 2020

Project Team

Environmental Graphics

Kathy Fry


Fabricator and Installer

Jeff Wallin

Fireart Glass

Senior Superintendent

Bob Mathisen

Howard S.Wright


The City of Portland hired me to make ten site-specific, wall-mounted glass panels as part of its renovation of the historic Portland Building. Michael Graves designed the original building. The commission was integral to DLR Group’s Interior Design and Mayer/Reed’s Experiential Graphics in order to create a sense of place. We interpreted the themes of valley, river, forest and basalt. I made unique glass imagery for each of ten Gathering Spaces; these function as the floors’ living room/kitchen. My handmade work correlates with a photographic mural by the elevators, abstract graphics in the stairwells, and graphics in the bathrooms. Across the body of work, the perspective shifts from macro to micro. Styles range from pictorial to abstract. (Photos by the artist due to the constraints of the pandemic.)


Our intent was to celebrate the region that is central to Portland's identity and key to the people who choose to live there. The layout of each floor is very similar. Through color, graphics and my artwork, we differentiated one floor of workers from the next. When you get off the elevator, walk up the stairs, or enter the common area of the Gathering Space, there are distinguishing visuals to let employees know where they are. My work speaks to the larger setting of geography and landscape that speaks to place. It offers a visual reprieve from computer screens and desk work.


I drove through valleys, hiked forests, sat by rivers, and rambled on rock. Based on my impressions and photos, I developed pictorial and abstract interpretations of each theme. I worked from macro to micro and from pictorial to abstract. This was of interest to me and in concert with the approach by the Design Team. It was a great opportunity to stretch my range since every piece was hung independently of the next. I took advantage of the project and medium to capitalize on the depth possible with fused glass in some, and pushing qualities of drawing and painting in others. My thinking and facility with the materials grew. These images mark significant advancement in my practice of fused glass. My hand is in every piece and dominates those that look like a drawing or painting. I worked side by side with my fabricator to develop the palettes, mark making, layering, and all other effects.

Additional Information

A link a webinar about how I made this work and others for the City of Portland: The nighttime, abstract work Dazzled suggests the City of Portland settled among rolling terrain with the Willamette River, in iridescent white, meandering out to the Columbia River. Portland is in the Tualatin Valley and 58 miles from the Willamette Valley. Each valley is rich with cities and towns, agriculture, recreation and beauty. The work Terrior has qualities of my watercolors although it is made of glass. Agricultural land produces grapes, hops, vegetables, fruit, hazelnuts and nursery plants just miles from Portland. People raise lamas, cows, horses, goats and other animals for wool, pleasure, and food. The title Terroir suggests how this region is particularly good for certain crops. This composition reflects the human hand, subdividing space into geometric areas, and honors the land. These landscapes are sources of great pleasure, habitat and income.