Tram Wins National Award For Engineering Excellence

04/02/11  Portland, Ore.

The Portland Aerial Tram and the iconic angular, abstract Denver Art Museum expansion designed by Daniel Libeskind have been paired as winners of one of the nation’s most prestigious design awards.

The Tram and the museum each have been honored with the 2007 Presidential Award of Excellence by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) in recognition of the distinguished structural engineering they exhibit. The dual awards were announced at the AISC’s recent North American Steel Construction Conference in New Orleans.

“This award is a big deal and is quite important,” said Sarah Graham of agps Architecture of Los Angeles, the Tram’s architect. “It puts our project in the company of the best buildings in America, which we appreciate since we all worked so hard to make it happen. It’s especially satisfying to be put at the same level as the Denver Art Museum.

The Tram was one of 65 projects judged by a seven-member jury of design and construction industry professionals in the AISC’s IDEAS2 competition, which recognizes innovative use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural perspective.

The judges looked at the architectural utilization of steel in each project, creative solutions to the requirements each addressed, the aesthetic and visual impact of each, advances they displayed in the use of structural steel, and the use of innovative design and construction methods they reflected.

Steve Stadum, executive vice president of Oregon Health & Science University, which operates the Tram, said: “We are pleased that this unique project, which was key to the entire South Waterfront development and OHSU’s long-term expansion in Portland, is winning the national recognition it deserves.”

The Tram-which is owned by the city of Portland and operated by OHSU- opened to the public in late January. Through the end of April it had transported nearly 400,000 passengers up and down Marquam Hill. It provides a fast, energy-efficient public transportation connection between Marquam Hill and the South Waterfront as well as a link to the Portland Streetcar, bicycle and pedestrian paths and, in the future, to light rail.

The AISC award recognizes, in addition to Graham, the project’s structural engineer, the Arup Group of Los Angeles; the steel fabricator, Thompson Metal Fabricators, Inc. of Vancouver, Wash.; the engineering software contractor, SAP 2000; and the general contractor, Kiewit Pacific Co. of Vancouver, Wash. Arup also was the structural engineer for the Denver Art Museum expansion.

This is the second award the Tram’s design has garnered. It won the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter’s 2006 NEXT Honor Award.