Over the last few years, central Portland’s most forward-thinking residential architecture has taken a distinctive turn. The city’s relatively dense, close-in neighborhoods offer few blank slates for unfettered, blue-sky-thinking design. (And, as anyone who has actually built a building can tell you, the city’s codes impose a…discipline of their own.) Instead, architects and developers have searched out opportunities to slide forward-thinking home design into tight corners and unloved lots, crafting small- and medium-scale modernist gems that fit with their more traditional surroundings. In many cases, those designs also harness the soaring demand for multifamily residential, probably the single strongest force in Portland’s current development boomlet.

This year’s American Institute of Architects Portland Homes Tour showcases eight of these “crafted and creative urban infill” works in an intricate one-day daisy chain of design ideas. “We looked for projects that are not single-family residences or traditional condos,” says Dave Otte of Holst Architecture and the AIA. “We’re highlighting stories about how people express design in new and different ways, in specific contexts.”

The self-guided tour—compact enough that it could be biked—will also reveal the flexibility and creativity Portlanders are applying to the whole notion of urban living. “Last year, our theme was ‘small and smart,’” Otte says. “This year, its about think differently about where and how we live. It’s okay to share a yard; there are more effective ways to invest.”

Tickets for the Oct 11 tour, AIA’s first under the aegis of Design Week Portland, cost $40 and are on sale now

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