In 2015, as the Portland, Oregon–based strategic creative agency Swift sought a new home for its 150 employees, an opportunity emerged right under its nose. Local real-estate developer Project Ecological Development (PED) had begun rehabilitating the single-story Rose City Awning factory opposite Swift’s existing Slabtown home. And, according to the plans, the warehouse would seem to check all the boxes of the boutique advertising firm but one: the updated building would fall about 5,000 square feet short of Swift’s need to double its space.

Although PED planned to lease the converted warehouse to five different occupants, the architect it tapped to upgrade the core and shell championed Swift’s cause. Portlandbased Beebe Skidmore encouraged single tenancy because the architects could then forge stronger connections between work and circulation zones and the office and the street, principal Doug Skidmore explains.

To achieve this cohesion, the architects proposed replacing two of the building’s three north-facing sawtooths with a double-height version, and adding three similar roof monitors elsewhere. Placing mezzanines within those volumes would not only make up the square footage, but also enhance daylight and “unify the interior and exterior, giving the brand a physical presence in the city,” says principal Heidi Beebe. The developer agreed to the more ambitious scheme for Swift, which then tapped Beebe Skidmore as its interior architect too.

Rose City Awning was built between 1950 and 1970, in 50-by-100-foot modules, and Beebe Skidmore could have squared that compartmentalization with its new client’s mode of work. But “Swift is not your traditional advertising agency,” chief creative officer Alicia McVey says of the company she founded with Liz Valentine in 2006. Instead of handing off concepts to a production company, it executes them in-house. The start-to-finish approach thrives on collaboration, and Swift requested that 50 percent of the interior be devoted to meeting areas and conference rooms. 

McVey notes that dialogue happens casually just as frequently as it does formally. “This is laptop culture on steroids,” says Beebe, and the headquarters project demanded an openness and homey ambience to encourage that interaction. So, in addition to inserting the four new sawtooths, the architects cut through the vintage CMU structure wherever possible, placed meeting rooms at the perimeter and on the mezzanines, and they enclosed spaces with glass.

They organized these moves around a common space with a kitchen, sunken conversation pit, and multiple bar- and dining-height surfaces for conversation. Besides creating an inviting feeling for staff, COO Maren Elliott adds, “this atrium is our main entrance for everyone, including clients and potential employees. That the space has a full-width glass door that folds away is a bit of a confidentiality risk, but it speaks to an ethos of transparency and welcome.”

The feeling of inclusion is palpable, as are the payoffs. Since the move here in early 2016, Swift has significantly increased business with existing clients and landed several new accounts. It has also hosted more events and tours than it had across the street. Elliott reports that this activity and the new space overall have been boons to employee satisfaction and recruitment—boosting opportunties for learning from one another and sharing best practices.

Back to Good Design Is Good Business 2017



Beebe Skidmore Architects
917 SW Oak Street
Portland, Oregon 97205

503 477 8452


Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Heidi Beebe, principal (RA-Oregon)
Doug Skidmore, principal (RA-Washington)


Architect of record:

Beebe Skidmore Architects


Interior designer:

Beebe Skidmore Architects



Structural Engineer: Grummel Engineering
Electrical Engineer and Low Voltage: Cochran Inc.


Landscape Design: Lango Hansen
Energy Performance: BEA
Procurement: Absolute Procurement
Lighting Consultant: Luma


General contractor:

Yorke & Curtis



Jeremy Bittermann, 971-570-2020 



Structural System

Concrete block with steel reinforcing, heavy timber roof

Exterior Cladding

Metal/glass curtain wall: Dorma


Metal frame: Kawneer


Glass: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

Skylights: Architectural Specialties


Entrances: Willamette

Wood doors: Willamette

Special doors: Overhead Door Company


Locksets: Grupo Valli & Valli

Pulls: Schoolhouse Electric

Interior Finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Tectum

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: McCarthy Millwork

Paints and stains: Rodda

Wall coverings: Fizfelt

Paneling: McCarthy Millwork

Plastic laminate: Wilsonart

Solid surfacing: Silestone

Special surfacing: Oregon Tile & Marble

Floor and wall tile: Daltile - wall tile and backsplash

Carpet: Interface

Raised flooring:

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Fossil Lumber - Juniper Flooring


Office furniture: Denali - owner furnished work desks

Reception furniture: MADE - custom reception desk
Herman Miller - chairs
Artek - sofas

Fixed seating: McCarthy Millwork - conversation pit

Chairs: Herman Miller - stools, conference chairs, Eames chairs
Buzzi Cubes

Tables: The Good Mod - custom conference table, custom picnic table and custom movable aluminum occasional tables and stool cubes for the Conversation pit
NK Build - custom collaboration area plywood coffee tables
Brendan Budge - custom studio movable desks
Bludot -  meeting room tables
MASH - conference room tables

Upholstery: Maharam, Sunbrella


Interior ambient lighting: Delray Lighting Incorporated


American Standard