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Featured customer: Rallymade

Updated: Oct 11



Many of you know Rallymade principal Jennifer Wright through her tireless activity on the AIA's Small Firms Exchange; or, through her service at the Portland Center for Architecture, as the Director on the Board of the AIA Portland, her volunteer work with the Architecture Foundation of Oregon, the Design Museum of Portland, or her work with Designers Build PDX.


So it's no small honor and privilege to introduce Jennifer Wright of Studio Rallymade as UrbanForm's next featured customer.


Rallymade is exactly the kind of architecture and design firm that is most dear to UrbanForm; deeply experienced, locally-oriented, evidencing a level of client focus, design sensitivity, and attention-to-detail in sublimely beautiful work. Our world would only be so lucky to have more of Rallymade's work.


UrbanForm is deeply honored to be able to support Jen's work and the development of Rallymade's practice.


As Jen herself put it:

As one of my firm-wide goals is to prioritize a transparent and efficient process, UrbanForm is as important a tool as my CAD and 3D rendering software in articulating the final project.

UrbanForm and Jen have had the opportunity to discuss Rallymade's development and the impact of UrbanForm on both her practice as well as the larger environment; lightly edited excerpts from the conversation can be found below.



Columbia Riverside Home. Project completed as Residential Studio Director for Telford + Brown Studio Architecture. Photographer: Matt Swain


Quang

I'm sure many of the people who would be reading this will know already, but I'd love to hear about your background as well as how Rallymade came into existence.


Jennifer

I launched Rallymade exactly one year ago as a design studio focusing on residential & small commercial projects. I had been working in architecture since 1998 after graduating from the University of Oregon with my Masters.


The first part of my career was spent working at LRS Architects focusing on a wide range of commercial and multi-family residential projects. Over the course of 17 years there, I became involved with the local Portland chapter of the AIA and eventually led the Forum for Women in Architecture & Related Design (ForWARD) Committee which then transitioned to the Committee on Equity, Inclusion & Diversity.


At that point in my career, I was focused on being a good project manager, with all that that entails professionally. At the same time, I was enjoying being a mom to two young kids. That meant I delayed getting my architectural license. As my kids grew more self-sufficient, and with the support of the network I had developed through the AIA, I got my license and considered my next steps.


I knew I wanted to lead a design studio eventually. So I intentionally shifted to a smaller firm, taking the opportunity to work and learn from Richard Brown. While at RBA [Richard Brown Architect], which eventually became T+BSA [Telford + Brown Studio Architects], I got an education in prioritizing site development, passive building strategies, and regional best practices, such as celebrating local materials, craftsmanship, and designing intentional spaces.


My goal with Rallymade is to build off the framework of this experience.


Quang

What do you think distinguishes Rallymade as a design/architecture firm?





Jennifer

Above my desk is a print by one of my favorite artists, Nikki McClure. She’s known for her x-acto knife linocut illustrations often set in the natural surroundings of her home base of Olympia, Washington.


This one in particular features a shower of rain and pink petals on a robin-egg blue background above two interlocked hands with the singular word Rally. Whenever I was faced with a challenging design problem or what seemed like an unsolvable issue, I would take a moment to look at the print & read the words. It was like a mantra; it would remind me to re-calibrate my thoughts, soften the noise, and consider the original question in order to find a solution.


Rally reminds me that when we come together behind a common cause, we can drive change. Good design is fueled by collaboration, with multiple voices sharing their skills and perspectives.


Good design is fueled by collaboration, with multiple voices sharing their skills and perspectives.

When I considered how this idea of Rally manifested in design, I stumbled on the term Rallymade, and the studio took hold.


Quang

I don't know that image, but I'll make sure to ask you for it at the end of this conversation. It sounds like a great source of inspiration and focus. What is the project you're most proud of so far and tell us why.


Mid-century inspired ADU Project in SW Portland, Oregon

Jennifer

This past year I had the opportunity to collaborate with a former client on the design of a shade structure. Previously I had worked with this homeowner to craft an ADU adjacent to their mid-century home in the SW hills. The lot was beautifully terraced with gardens & large trees, so the challenge was how to successfully integrate the ADU next to the house while preserving privacy, views & the existing natural beauty. The finished ADU shares a roof with the main home and frames a gateway to a series of cascading terraces below.


This project emulates the Rallymade philosophy: it was crafted locally by metal fabricators based in Scappoose and outfitted with fabric shades sourced from Rose City Awning. It’s also a wonderful example of leveraging the site to expand the boundaries of day-to-day living, creating gathering nodes and outdoor rooms for the benefit of both the homeowners and their ADU guests.


Quang

The development of our local housing stock seems like such an important conversation lately. But it's not just quantity that's important, it's the quality, as well. How would you like to see Portland develop as a city, and what is your dream project within Portland?


Mid-century inspired ADU Project in SW Portland, Oregon. Photographer: David Papazian

Jennifer

I’ve always thought that Portland, being a city bisected by a river, could engage with the Willamette so much more. I think of the Portland Winter Light Festival, which encourages people to explore the City during the darkest & coldest times of the year. But now imagine this on the Willamette River, in the form of temporary islands or a series of lounge pads during the summer to swim, sail or paddle to. Concerts, movies, and restaurants (or carts) floating by on barges. Floating pavilions that invite you to experience the water from a new perspective, if only temporarily.


I’ve always thought that Portland, being a city bisected by a river, could engage with the Willamette so much more.

Several years ago New York City hosted a competition to develop design strategies for under-utilized City-owned land called Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC. Architects such as Jonathon Tate in New Orleans do zoning & development research as part of their practice, leveraging odd lots, & garnering public support to create additional affordable housing opportunities.

Both of these ideas, pop-up installations & under-utilized lots, require creative thinking. And they were brought to the table by people with a variety of perspectives, lived experiences & backgrounds. That is what I’m most excited about being involved with & lending my voice to as Portland keeps developing as a city.


Quang

I love it when ideas from other places find their way into Portland. It basically comes from a perspective of curiosity and learning, and I feel like we could always use more of that. How did you find out about UrbanForm?


Jennifer

Both Quang & I are past Van Evera Bailey Fellows who connected through this shared experience & continue to be ambassadors for the value of this amazing fellowship.


Mid-century inspired ADU Project in SW Portland, Oregon. Photographer: David Papazian

Quang

Yeah, the VEB [Van Evera Bailey] Fellowship is an amazing little program that has an outsized impact. Kind of like the AFO [Architecture Foundation of Oregon] itself. Can you describe how UrbanForm helps Rallymade better achieve its firm-wide goals?


Jennifer

Reviewing and researching the zoning code is the initial step I take with all my projects to assure feasibility. UrbanForm allows me to assess a project in minutes, rather than hours, and save valuable time.


As one of my firm-wide goals is to prioritize a transparent and efficient process, UrbanForm is as important a tool as my CAD and 3D rendering software in articulating the final project.


Quang

That's an amazing way to put it, but I can't agree more. I hope UrbanForm becomes a part of every professional's basic toolset; no less integral than CAD [computer-aided drafting]. Can you tell us about a specific project or situation where the information provided by UrbanForm made a difference?


Jennifer

Recently I have had a couple of projects that I’ve met with the City to discuss the development potential of adding a detached ADU or garage conversion to an ADU. In both these instances, I looked up the address in UrbanForm & reviewed the report as a reference. I appreciated the report including the specific sections within the Development Code where the information was cited so I could refer the City representative to the correct chapters quickly & efficiently during our conversation. There was no discrepancy between the information the City described and the UrbanForm report, and I valued having UrbanForm as a reliable resource.



Rallymade Project in progress: The Foglight Farm

Quang

Is there anything you would like to see UrbanForm provide in the future?


Jennifer

I would love to see a mashup of UrbanForm and TestFit - especially with respect to leveraging odd-lots throughout the City. I am excited to see the synergy of connections being made by architects, developers, and planners in this space. I am intrigued with how to best reach those just dipping their toe into development or looking to leverage their own properties.


Quang

Tell us what the future holds in store for Rallymade.


Jennifer

Launching into year two, I look forward to seeing Rallymade projects move forward from design into construction and share the joy of bringing these experiences to life. I’m excited to maintain my role as the chair of the AIA Portland Small Firms Exchange. It’s about supporting a community of small businesses devoted to the value of design. I am committed to progressing my knowledge by actively pursuing Earth Advantage accreditation as a Sustainable Home Professional.


In my mind, the future is full of projects big & small that share the consistent quality of collaboration; between clients, fellow creatives, and the community.


Quang

Jennifer, thank you so much for your time.


Jennifer

Thank you!

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