A Giant Gnome Will Lord Over Beaverton's Coolest Apartment Complex

A '70s-meets-Portlandia makeover anoints an elfin mascot to capture its quirky design aspirations.

By Rachel Sandstrom August 27, 2015

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This is your main man right here, Beavertonians!

The marching orders for a $6.5-million renovation of an apartment complex in suburban Cedar Hills called for the design team—Oakland architects Einwiller Kuehl and local firm Hennebery Eddy—to make bold moves. The place was “the American dream in beige,” in the words of landscape architect Sarah Kuehl. The 18,000-square-foot property has now been transformed with a dose of 21st Century Portland whimsy injected into the Cedar Hills Apartments’ vintage ‘70s charm.

The project departs from the black-clad apartments popping up all over Beaverton with outside spaces mimicking an inviting living room, incorporating regionally sourced wood (western red cedar and walnut) for siding and detailing, and native landscaping. Throughout the project, the guiding principle was “careful consideration at every step of the way of ways to improve the tenant experience,” according to Hennebery Eddy architect Jon McGrew.

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The Cedar Hills Apartments, before and after. Image courtesy Hennebery Eddy.

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Tenant experience? What could be better for the tenant experience than a public art installation channeling an almost unworldly vision of playful oddity?

We’re talking about the gnome.

A 10-foot-tall garden gnome, specifically, overlooking the pool like an impish lifeguard. It started as a joke, riffing on the gnome in a resident’s garden, but ended up growing into a central characteristic of the space that Kuehl says “made people laugh, brought people together, and made the project a place of play.”

Who wouldn’t want to live under the watchful eyes of this stately fella?

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