From hip restaurants and music venues on one side of the Willamette River, to the house of a cinematic vampire high in the hills on the other side of town, the city of Portland, Oregon is home to several iconic works by architect Jeff Kovel. In a city perhaps best known for flying under the radar, Kovel is challenging the status quo. "I think we probably push the boundaries more than other firms in town," says Kovel of Skylab Architecture, the firm he founded in 1999. One of his latest projects, the Weave Building, will be built on a high-traffic corner, and with its distinct façade of undulating glass panels separated by crenellated precast concrete, it is sure to garner attention. It will be LEED Platinum, and made with reclaimed timbers from the two-story building that previously stood at the site.
Kovel founded Skylab as a "laboratory to explore a departure from an industry of mounting standardization." Skylab has built several private homes and commercial spaces around Portland using techniques and materials that blur the distinction between architecture and design, natural and synthetic, and past and future. All eye-catching works, they have helped move Portland toward becoming an epicenter of emerging architecture and design.
Skylab has won many awards over the years for design and sustainability, including Built Citation awards from the American Institute of Architects Portland Chapter for two projects — Doug Fir, a restaurant, bar, and, music venue; and apparel firm Nau.
Skylab is currently working with a prefab home builder to design a line of high quality, and high style, modular houses meant for urban locales. Kovel even envisions operating his own assembly plant for prefab modular homes, enabling him to bring "creatively designed homes to the masses."
In addition to Skylab, Kovel is co-owner of Doug Fir Restaurant and Lounge in Portland, and KBP, a real estate development company. Kovel is also a board member of Oregon College of Art and Craft, and has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Oregon and University of Texas.