History

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SERA was founded on the power of ideas.

A young Bing Sheldon, fresh out of his graduate studies at Harvard in 1961, pored over Jane Jacobs’ seminal book, The Death & Life of Great American Cities, and declared it the finest work he had ever read.

Shortly thereafter Bing and his family arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark where he experienced firsthand a city that embodied the vision cast by Jacobs. During his three years working in Copenhagen, Bing was enlivened by the notably collegial and collaborative society, by the focus on transportation and families, and by the widely held respect for history. He recognized this as values-based thinking, and Sheldon was determined to take it back with him to the States.

After hearing from a former classmate that Portland, Oregon was a city with a rich history and a promising future, Bing moved his family from Denmark to the Pacific Northwest sight unseen.

 

Having always intended to start his own architecture company, Bing initially worked at two Portland architecture firms before partnering with a colleague to form a new design firm in 1968.

SERA was born – although not yet known by that name.

Bing and his partner positioned their architecture business as a piece of a larger whole known as the Design Collaborative. The Collaborative included landscape architects, graphic designers, and various other creatives who shared office space and joined forces on each others’ projects. They operated on the belief that they would all be better at their respective crafts as a result of this collaborative arrangement — an innovative and important foundation for how SERA operates today.

The Collaborative maintained their office in the Old Town district of downtown Portland, which also foreshadowed the deep roots SERA would grow in this part of the city.

The Design Collaborative, 1970 [Bing Sheldon, top left]

Building Momentum from a City of Progress

The first few years were marked by some key projects and relationships that put Bing and his team on the “map.” In 1971, one project in particular, a student union building on the University of Oregon’s campus in Eugene, necessitated that Bing hire additional staff. Enter Don Eggleston (now President of SERA), who quickly became an integral part of the operations and then business partners with Bing in 1975 as the firm continued to progress.

One of the hallmark interactions that catalyzed SERA’s growth was the relationship fostered between Bing and legendary Portland businessman, Bill Naito. As Naito was a major property-owner throughout downtown, Bing guided numerous historic preservation designs for key Naito holdings, thus cementing SERA’s reputation as a thought leader for historic renovations.

Bing’s reputation for casting a long-term vision of urban revitalization led to his appointment as Chairman of the City of Portland’s Planning Commission during the early days of Portland’s downtown renaissance and the creation of the Downtown Plan.

 

 

Bing Sheldon in the 1976 film, Riches of a City

 

 

The design team for Bill Naito’s Montgomery Park receiving an award [Don Eggleston, second from left | Bing Sheldon, third from left | Bill Naito, waiving]

Sharing in Bing’s vision for the city and values-based leadership, Don further bolstered SERA’s design reputation by carving his own niche in the realm of seismic design, chairing the City of Portland’s taskforce on seismic upgrades in the 1980s.

Over the years, our story has been marked by key additions to the SERA team who brought new abilities to the collaborative whole and thus enabled SERA to provide additional services to the marketplace. Interior Design became one of our core services in the 1980s, as did Urban Design + Planning in 2001.

Following an influential backcasting process in the early 2000s, we better understood ourselves and our future vision of sustainability, and as a result, gained new clarity on how to approach our client work as well as our internal operations. The impact of this thinking led to the founding of our Sustainability Resources Group.

In the last decade we have seen the scale of our projects expand and our geographic reach extend to foreign soil, but we are determined to stay true to our values, collaboratively pursuing sustainable design for the built environment.

We invite you to join us in building a stronger tomorrow.

SERA Principals, 2012 [left to right: Joe Pinzone, Tim Smith, Bing Sheldon, Don Eggleston, Christine Garrick, Clark Brockman, Kurt Schultz]