Best Offices 2017: The Tower of Babel

Daimler Builds a Megalith on North Portland's Swan Island

Welcome to the auto company's new North American headquarters: huge, gleaming, and with Jet Ski access.

By Marty Patail May 15, 2017 Published in the June 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Daimler's new Swan Island home is built atop a former ’70s-era shopping center.

Daimler builds big, serious semitrucks. And its boomerang-shaped North American headquarters on Swan Island won’t let you forget it. With more than 2,500 employees in the Portland area spread over 17 separate buildings, the company has been around here for more than 70 years, when it was Consolidated Freightways. (German megacompany Daimler-Benz AG bought the brand in 1981). Today, the company's main building’s three-story, glass-encased lobby is big enough to fit even its hulking new models, like the 2018 Freightliner Cascadia.

Built atop a former ’70s-era shopping center, the gleaming nine-story building has enough room for 1,150 employees. Touchscreen panels on the wall display not only the day’s lunch menu in the ground-floor cafeteria but also floor maps and walking directions to individual employees’ offices and desks. The main conference center can fit up to 450 people at a time. Outside, a tiered, amphitheater-style lawn goes directly up to the Willamette River and hosts spontaneous soccer games. Across the grass, there’s a day care facility, and, soon, a gym.

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To ease Swan Island’s relative isolation, the company owns six electric Smart cars that employees can check out for any length of time, free of charge, no questions asked. Daimler also subsidizes public transportation costs, and the new building has showers and changing rooms for bicyclists. One employee rides his Jet Ski up the river to work in the summer, tying it to a tree near the lawn.

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Daimler's new building has enough room for 1,150 employees.

“We’ve been a traditional, some would say, conservative company,” says project director Josh Palmer, who oversaw much of the building’s design and development. “We recognize that not everyone in Portland knew who we were. We’re changing. This building reflects that.”

Daimler North America

Square feet
Employees 1,150
Key amenities River view, bike storage and showers, cafeteria, coffee shop, day care, and gym
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