June 1, 2006
Feathering the Office
Artist Patrick Dougherty builds a nest where Portland creatives can hatch new ideas.
Advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon—designed by celebrated local architect Brad Cloepfil—is an immaculate, clean-lined concrete-and-wood building bathed in natural light. But even for those who work in a Modernist gem, the most creative ideas sometimes require a change of environment. That’s the thinking behind Out in the Sticks (lovingly dubbed “the Nest” by employees), a kind of live-in sculpture by Patrick Dougherty made entirely of wood branches (mostly willows) collected from a nearby forest preserve that are twisted and stretched into form. The crude hut, constructed inside the headquarters this January, was conceived as a meeting space for some of advertising’s most sophisticated minds.
Dougherty’s self-described “stick works” recall animal creations such as bird’s nests and beaver dams, as well as primitive manmade dwellings. Like Andy Goldsworthy’s installations, Dougherty’s works are usually temporary. They’ve been exhibited in museums and public plazas, and even at the occasional rock concert. “I did one for Phish that was up for just a weekend,” he says. “It was bulldozed afterward, but something like a hundred thousand people walked through it.”
What’s different about Dougherty’s latest creation is not simply its permanence but also the fact that Wieden + Kennedy hopes to use it as a creative incubator. “The building is such a geometric form, and scale is such an enormous part of its beauty, that having something really small, organic, and uncontrolled seems to partner up well with the weird personalities we have here,” founder Dan Wieden says. “Creativity is not a completely logical act. Sometimes the idea comes to you when you stop thinking about it, when you’re involved in some other routine or sense of play. I suspect by its very nature the Nest can be a place where things are born and hatched.”