Students at the University of Oregon deliver wide ranging concepts for Marquam Hill

Students in an urban design studio partnered with TriMet to design ambitious improvements to the Marquam Hill region in anticipation of two potential light rail stations


Carl Nelson


Megan Banks, Marshall Curry


TriMet, Portland, OR
Community Size
2,478,810 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Oregon
Sustainable City Year Program
Case Type
Project Stories
Architecture, Environmental Planning, Planning
EPA Region 10, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure

TriMet is a public agency that operates a network of bus, light rail and commuter rail transit services throughout the Portland, Oregon region. The agency is currently in the middle of the Southwest Corridor (SWC) project, “an ongoing plan to expand its light rail system by adding a new 12-mile line in southwest Portland and southeast Washington County” (WRTWC) that will connect downtown Portland with the cities of Tigard and Tualatin. The construction of the light rail presents opportunities for innovation on a host of peripheral projects in fields like urban planning, sustainability, technology, and land use.

A vibrant hub sees opportunity for growth in new transit facilities 

Marquam Hill is a vibrant residential and commercial district and an active medical community home to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Portland VA Medical Center and Portland Shriners Hospital. In anticipation of two proposed Southwest Corridor line extensions in the region, TriMet needed analytical research and urban design proposals for a large east-west transect of southwest Portland encompassing Marquam Hill, the Willamette River, South Waterfront, Lair Hill, Barbur Boulevard, and Terwilliger Parkway. Stakeholders specifically sought proposals that would embolden existing regional features and institutions.

Approaching an interdisciplinary challenge from every angle

Partnering with Professor Brook Muller’s architecture studio at the University of Oregon through the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP), TriMet challenged students to develop holistic design proposals for this complex project. The studio, composed of undergraduates and graduates studying architecture, urban design, planning, and preservation, lent itself to an interdisciplinary approach. Participants considered regional ecosystems and topography of the region, carefully analyzed the potential effects of each proposed line on surrounding neighborhoods, sensitive ecosystems, and the city. Guided by a core set of design principles, they focused on developing actionable concepts which would enhance accessibility, consider social equity, encourage adaptability, limit the impact of construction, and improve green space.

Bold student proposals prioritize sustainability, education, and community health

The final report provides a list of recommendations intended to preserve and accentuate Marquam Hill’s historical and environmental characteristics. Guided by the “triple bottom line,” students considered environment, ecology, and economy throughout. Their proposals, designed after a careful examination of the nuances of the site, center health and education. The results have the potential to bolster not only light rail expansion but also the vibrancy of the community. The report includes: 

  • Building programs including a library, childcare facility, state-of-the-art cycling and fitness hub, and an underground geological museum
  • An innovative system for treating runoff and protecting ecosystems integrated with a water education center
  • Dynamic public parks and greenspace intended as sites for urban agriculture and community education

These architecture students, hailing from diverse academic disciplines, combined their expertise to design a dynamic, exciting future for the project site. Their efforts are sure to complement and improve an already vibrant urban hub in tandem with light rail access. 

Sustainable City Year Program Contact Info
Sustainable City Year Program Manager
(541) 346-6395

University of Oregon Faculty Contact Info
Brook Muller

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.


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