1st Edition

Shaping Portland Anatomy of a Healthy City

By Paddy Tillett Copyright 2018
    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Portland is a young city founded on a river bank in a virgin forest less than 200 years ago. Shaping Portland: Anatomy of a Healthy City is about the values engendered by the place, and how those values have influenced the growing city. It examines how and why the public realm supports or obstructs the health-forward lifestyles of those who choose to live there.

    This book explores the values and dynamics that shaped a healthy city to enable those things. It is a case study of a recognized success – looking more closely at a recent urban infill: the Pearl District. The future roles of the planners and other design professionals in continuing to build healthy and responsive environments are suggested.

    The cities of the future will be those that we already inhabit, but infilled and adapted to tomorrow’s needs and values. Understanding the dynamics involved is essential for those in whose hands we entrust the design of cities and urban places.


    1. Symptoms of Urban Health

    2. A City Cast in Place

    3. A City Shaped by Values

    4. Dimensions of a Healthy City

    5. The Pearl District

    6. Past Errors & Future Options

    7. Corrective measures

    8. Improving the Health of the City

    9. Look Back in Anguish

    List of Acronyms

    Photo and Image Credits



    Paddy Tillett is an architect, urban designer, and city planner with 40 years of international professional experience, having worked for consulting firms and public agencies in many parts of the world before settling in the Pacific Northwest. He grew up in rural Scotland, completing his formal education in Oxford and at Liverpool University, where he gained a master’s degree in Civic Design. He is a principal with ZGF Architects LLP focusing on planning and urban design, and is an adjunct professor at Portland State University. Paddy is an Accredited LEED Professional, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

    "Insightful. Tillett brings his intimate knowledge of the city and it’s city-shapers to illuminate the critical ideas and the social context that gave rise to a remarkable story in modern city-building. And he lets us know it's a work still in progress, signaling hope for the next generation of city-builders."

    Gil Kelley, FAICP, General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability, City of Vancouver, BC; former Director of Planning, City of Portland, Oregon


    "Portland is a wonderful city and Paddy Tillett's thoughtful and exhaustive analysis describes the important contribution that intelligent place making and urban design has made. This book is surely a must read for any aspiring politician as while Portland currently benefits from enlightened governance there is no cause for complacency. Tillet's fictional epilogue charts a catastrophic, but credible, future that matches any Hollywood block-buster script, should his warnings be ignored."

    Howard Sheppard Director, City Design and Planning, LDDC


    "An insightful and laser-sharp assessment of the successes and shortfalls of Portland’s innovative and place-based planning and urban design within an international professional context. The result is a must-read book with hope and direction for development that sustains a healthy metropolitan life-style while confronting the realities of climate change, flooding, landslides, and a major seismic event."

    Don Miles, FAIA, Founding board member of Project for Public Spaces, Retired principal of ZGF Architects LLP


    "Paddy Tillett is a student of urbanism and design, able to articulate well how each has been exhibited in his adopted home town of Portland, and the role each has played in the evolution of one of America's most livable cities. He has a good grasp of how the implications of our urban design decisions, whether intentional or not, greatly affect our use and enjoyment of a place, and its spaces. In Shaping Portland, Tillett communicates this in a manner accessible to both the professional design practitioner seeking to learn from the experience of a successful natural and built environment, as well as the lay person seeking to quench their thirst for knowledge of how this most successful exhibition of a healthy and livable city came to be. There are many lessons contained within this book that provide insight into Portland's future as a resilient city, and to inform others who may wish to apply them to help improve the health of communities elsewhere." 

      David M. Siegel, FAICP, Former President, American Planning Association


      "What I really like about the book is how it looks at Portland from a variety of vantage points: as a collection of buildings, streets and parks, but also natural factors like topography and climate, as well as the values that underscore all that we do in shaping the city, the past errors we've made, and the great challenge we face in the years ahead preparing for a potentially cataclysmic seismic event."

      Brian Libby, Portland Architecture