Bryan Taylor

The Bard, Part 2: A Salvaged History

When we embarked on a mission to find a new Drawn workspace, we knew that we were leaving behind a place (at the 5th Street Public Market) full of character, old stories, and a culture that has evolved with time. The Market was once a factory that has been turned into a communal gathering space for restaurants, retail, and a few of us small businesses. But we were no longer as small as we once were and we wanted to find a new place that either possessed the same type of building quirks or, at the very least, was able to have some character built in.

545 Monroe Street used to be the home of Bourland Printing, and before that, a feed store built during the height of World War II. Being 75 years old, the building had character and quirks, but they were shrouded in layers of sheetrock and dropped ceilings. 

It is a long, narrow building that squeezed in a partial second floor built for people without claustrophobia: 6-foot-2-inch ceilings upstairs and only slightly taller ones downstairs. Commemorative printed pieces were glued to the wall at random, showcasing the printer’s “Best of:” posters, brochures, business cards, decals, and flyers. Wires ran everywhere, plumbing was shoehorned in, and creative use of duct tape was on display. But underneath the four decades of added materials was a building with good bones.

"Wires ran everywhere, plumbing was shoehorned in, and creative use of duct tape was on display. But underneath the four decades of added materials was a building with good bones."

Six weeks of ripping out the past opened the door to a future for Drawn; a foundation upon which to build the character and particularities that we desired in our new office. To put our own fingerprints on the beginning of an evolved Drawn culture, ready to start the next chapter.

We returned the building to its original vision: Open once again at the front, ceilings now exposed again and boasting their age with beauty, and tight-grained fir proudly representing an era that saw such wood available in lumber yards. The building had been stripped of its seven-plus decades of thoughtless additions and was ready to be given a new life that honored the heritage with which it was first built.

One of the first accents chosen at Drawn was the front door handle. It was a brass push bar salvaged from a theater that was also built in 1942, during World War II. The handle fit — its design, material, size, and story. But there weren’t any other brass elements in the building, so we set out to find ways to carry the material through the space. We found lighting fixtures salvaged from ships, made of brass and copper, to fill the front of house. We created brass finials that incorporated geodetic survey markers. We bought copper pans for the kitchen and splurged on a copper and brass Elektra espresso maker.

Photo: Trask Bedortha/Drawn

Ninety percent of the materials used in the Bard’s construction were salvaged from other forgotten stories: steps from a former school’s gymnasium bleachers, metal desks left by the former printer, RLM lights collected from remodeled warehouses, lockers discarded by an Oregon high school, one sink from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and another from BRING Recycling, couches from St. Vincent de Paul, seating built from wood that was abandoned at a lumberyard, a wall saved before a restaurant remodel, and doors that were moved, rebuilt, and redistributed after the former printer’s use. 

Left on the walls are decades of history in the form of random notes: lots of math, doodles of heads, hearts with couples’ initials, declarations of fame, written accusations, and pricing for wholesale sacks of Kellogg’s cereal products. And we left it all, hopefully to live on in posterity for another 75 years. With all of these salvaged notes and materials have come the cultivated character that we so earnestly sought in our new workspace.

"Ninety percent of the materials used in the Bard’s construction were salvaged from other forgotten stories."

Our environmental design philosophy (aka, how we approach built spaces) at Drawn is to design a space 60 percent of the way, let the construction process determine another 20 percent, and then let the use of the space itself dictate the final 20 percent. We designed the building with enough detail to estimate budget and direct contractors, but not so much that there was no room for that which was yet to be revealed. That is the building’s share to contribute.

Every morning for five months, I arrived at the jobsite to help our contractor-artists talk through how to build out the next 20 percent. We faced the creative challenges that always come with an aged building going through such a process. We designed on the fly, adapted to surprises, and continued to move the building toward the final shape that we hoped it to take.

Photo: Trask Bedortha/Drawn

We left the final 20 percent for the space itself to determine. We moved in without any cabinetry, decoration, or furniture. We moved in using random chairs and borrowed folding tables, and we watched how the space became used. Then we designed furniture that would fit our team’s needs, but also fit with how we found everyone to be using the space. We are still in that process of building out the space, patiently allowing the space and our team’s flow dictate the final build-out.

In all likelihood, the Bard will never be a project completely finished. It is at the beginning of a constant evolution; it is a workshop serving an ever-shifting collection of needs. And I’d have it no other way.