Prof. Dr. Marc Angélil | Architecture and Urban Design

Portland Aerial Tram, Portland, Oregon

The city of Portland has initiated a series of planning measures to improve the quality of its urban core and metropolitan area by introducing limits to territorial growth, densification strategies, and networks of public transportation. Comprised of a system of street cars, bus lines, and light rail trains, a transportation infrastructure has been put into place to reduce congestion and air pollution. This is the context in which an aerial tram as a connection between two parts of the city was envisioned.

Oregon Health and Sciences University had no room to expand and was considering relocating elsewhere. Three quarters of a mile below the hillside campus lies 65 acres of redevelopment property along the Willamette River. Between them are an historic neighborhood, a protected park, and major traffic arteries. If seamless access between the hospital and the available land could be achieved, then the hospital could expand its campus. An aerial tram was determined to be the most effective system to connect the sites. An international design competition was organized to select the architects. agps.architecture was awarded the commission.

The project was based on a kit of parts strategy – a type of urban design tool box – to be deployed over time. The idea was to suggest an open set of planning measures framing various connections between the medical campus on the hill and the new campus on the bank of the Willamette River. Specifically, three types of urban links were proposed, a green connection, a land connection, and an air connection. The green connection proposed a new park along a re-established historic watershed. The land connection offered a bridge over the freeway as well as a series of paths for pedestrians and bicyclists along various trails. The air connection is the center piece of the scheme encompassing the components of the aerial tram.


Marc Angélil, Sarah Graham, Manuel Scholl, Reto Pfenninger, Hanspeter Oester

Completed project

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