Of Bill, Engineering, and an Old Department Store

Photo Credit:Ackroyd Photography

I started at Little just weeks before our founder, Bill Little, passed away, and I was disappointed not to have met him in person. And yet in many ways I have both met him and begun to know him. I see his influence throughout the company – in our vision, our values, our passions, and our people.

The way in which everyone at Little has responded to Bill’s passing shows how much he was truly loved. He devoted himself to investing in people and listening to his clients. He left a legacy that still lives in the company today, in “Results Beyond Architecture” and in the company’s drive to develop breakthrough ideas that both improve the performance of our clients and create a better future for us all.

I am honored to now join the Little team and attempt to follow in Bill’s footsteps… as insurmountable a task as that may be. My greatest passions in life focus on people – serving my family, investing in those around me, and working to make the world a better place. As one of my favorite authors and preachers said long ago:

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you when forget-me-nots are withered. Carve your name on hearts, and not on marble.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Bill Little so wonderfully lived up to this ideal, and I will try my very best to do likewise.

Let me start by telling you a bit more about my background, as the new Structural Engineering Studio Principal at Little. Perhaps the best way is to share the story of one of my favorite projects: an old department store made smarter and new.

The Meier & Frank department store once filled a 14-story building in downtown Portland, Oregon, back when such a business model worked in city centers. However, ten years ago, the store was only able to occupy one-third of the building.

One idea placed a new luxury hotel in the remaining space, but there were some significant challenges for the project to succeed: the hotel required more daylight than could be found in this solid 200’x200’ structure, and the building needed a full seismic upgrade with minimal disturbance to the historic terra cotta cladding while allowing for both retail and hospitality programming.

The solution?

Viscous dampers. Like the shocks in your car. As the building moves in an earthquake, the dampers absorb energy and lessen the earthquake’s effects.

They worked so well we proved the existing terra cotta skin would survive the design earthquake with minimal retrofit. And the beauty of the dampers was found in the flexibility – the new steel frames didn’t need to stack through the building like a traditional braced frame. The locations could change at each level to accommodate the tenant’s floor layout.

At the time, it was the largest number of viscous dampers installed in any building in the United States.

Architecturally, the daylighting answer was found in a new light well through the upper nine levels, which now allows double loaded corridors for the new hotel (“The Nines” by Sage Hospitality Resources). Yes, my architect friends, we cut a giant hole through the middle of the existing building. And a complete renovation to the lower five levels now houses the consolidated and updated department store (Macy’s at Meier & Frank Square).

If you’d like to know more about the project, check out this article in Structures magazine.

I am excited and honored to bring this experience and more to the Little team as we work together to listen to our clients, build our communities, and create Results Beyond Architecture.


One Comment
  1. Jerry D. Blow, AIAP, SMPS | August 6th, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Bryan – Welcome! I’m eager to meet you. The folks at your firm have always impressed me with their professionalism and honest desire to do their very best. I’ve done photography for Little periodically for many years and would like to do a lot more. Hopefully, we can make some time for each other soon and talk further. Best! – Jerry