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Featured Customer: Bora Architects

"My hope is that we broaden the perspectives we hold as designers and the tools that we use to engage the communities we serve." - Brian Squillace, AIA


In this continuation of a multi-part series, we are showcasing customers and users of UrbanForm — innovative people and practices who are making a difference in their environments. This feature is about Bora Architecture & Interiors, a 65-person, national design practice based in Portland, Oregon. UrbanForm co-founder and CEO Quang Truong had a conversation with Associate Principal Brian Squillace, AIA.


Brian started out in community organizing before working his way up at one of Portland's most far-reaching firms, and it's easy to see how this perspective drives his work at Bora. With an emphasis on community, cross-disciplinarity, and the design process, it's the kind of proactive and engaged perspective on architecture that UrbanForm is working hard to support. It's hard to think of more enlightened answers then the ones Brian gives to my questions about how architecture can begin to enact positive change. UrbanForm is very happy to call Bora a customer and to support their vision for architectural practice.


Below are edited and condensed excerpts from our interview.


Quang Truong

Ok, first off, tell us about your background and how you came to Bora.


Brian Squillace

I came to the profession through community organizing. Working initially in cohousing and affordable housing design, I then shifted to K-12 and Higher Education, seeing how the community-oriented lessons of my past efforts could expand to other areas of practice. For me, Bora is a place where I’ve been invited to stitch together these passions, bringing stakeholder and community engagement together with great design regardless of building use or type.


Quang Truong

What do you think distinguishes Bora as an architecture firm?


Brian Squillace

Bora strives to be great listeners and broad practitioners, looking beyond the traditional scope of architectural services. We seek ways of introducing cross-disciplinary partnerships and broadening the design process in service to those that will be affected by the final construction – whether a space for living, learning or working.


Quang Truong

I know Bora has worked on projects across the nation. What is the project you're most proud of so far?


REACH Community Development for Dartmouth Crossing

Brian Squillace

I’m personally very proud of the work we have done recently with REACH Community Development for Dartmouth Crossing in the Tigard Triangle. We worked closely with a Community Advisory Board throughout the design process and helped to craft a vision for affordable, resident-first living in a newly developing, transit-oriented neighborhood. In addition to 200+ units of affordable housing, the program includes a mix of commercial and amenity spaces, as well as both plaza and park space, tailored to support existing and new residents in the neighborhood.


Quang Truong

How would you like to see Portland develop as a city, and what is your dream project within Portland?


Brian Squillace

I’m lucky to say that I already feel I am working towards the solutions I want to see in Portland. We have an abundance of great thinkers who are exercising their voices in support of bringing other new voices to the table. Our city, long acknowledged as a leader in Urbanism is now facing some of its largest challenges – working to undo generations of systemic inequity that have led to uneven access to housing, transit, healthcare and education. With these issues clearly on the table it’s now in our court to be proactive, as designers and citizens, to enact meaningful change. I think the solutions are out there, we need to work together, listen to each other, and collectively develop a vision that we then execute.


Quang Truong

How did you find out about UrbanForm?


Brian Squillace

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Quang through a mutual friend.


Faubion Elementary School

Quang Truong

It's clear to me that these broader goals of community and positive urban impact drive your work. And I'm happy to say that, in that way, the goals of Bora and UrbanForm align. Can you describe how UrbanForm helps Bora better achieve its firm-wide goals?


Brian Squillace

Bora understands that space is not neutral. Every individual interprets the built environment through their past experience and has a valid, unique perspective of it because of that. Empowerment comes through education and I’m hopeful that UrbanForm can help to make the governing rules behind our built environment more transparent and available so that we can have honest conversations about what directions our city should evolve.


Quang Truong

Can you tell us about a specific project or situation where the information provided by UrbanForm made a difference?


Brian Squillace

While we are still exploring the depth of impact UrbanForm can have on our practice, I have seen immediate benefit for quick investigations of multiple sites, working with mission-based clients, to help them prioritize efforts that will maximize their impact. This is a lively moment. Many affordable housing developers have had their pipeline on pause for much of the pandemic and are now itching to help make positive change even though land values and construction costs remain high. UrbanForm has allowed us to be a thought partner in these conversations, quickly sifting through opportunities and envisioning partnerships to help prioritize projects that foster supportive growth.


Quang Truong

To dive into specifics a bit more: how much time do you typically spend looking at the zoning code for a project? And how much does UrbanForm cut that down?


Workforce Training Center Portland Community College

Brian Squillace

Depending on the site this can be anywhere from a couple hours to several days. UrbanForm has helped considerably in shortening our quick go/no-go assessments of certain sites. We still see it necessary to do a manual zoning review to assure we are serving our clients through the full nuance of the regulations but are hopeful UrbanForm will continue to streamline this effort.


Quang Truong

I'm very happy hear that it's helping in the ways you describe. Is there anything you would like to see UrbanForm provide in the future?


Brian Squillace

I am personally very excited about the growth of UrbanForm. The tool helps make incredibly technical, and often privileged, information visible and accessible. Continuing to develop in ways that can mainstream access to our codified landscape will empower communities to communicate their needs and enact change.


Quang Truong

Ok, now tell us what the future holds in store for Bora.

Brian Squillace

Our hope is to grow as a practice, alongside our evolving city, in ways that are inclusive and just. My hope is that we broaden the perspectives we hold as designers and the tools that we use to engage the communities we serve.

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