Trevor William Lewis & Daniel Kaven – Architects

Trevor William Lewis explains with regard to his and his brother Daniel Kaven’s design partnership… “In some ways, it was a lifelong mission in that we’re building forts around the house and stuff in the back- yard from when we were six and eight, We always envisioned collaborating together, and then when we finished architecture school it just became more formal.”

Born and raised in New Mexico, Lewis and Kaven both studied architecture at University of Oregon before founding William Kaven Architecture in 2004. The firm has worked on a range of projects since its inception. As Kaven explains, “We do all sorts of different things. We’ve done a lot of high-end houses and then we do smaller commercial jobs, tenant improvements, and things like that.” Lewis adds, “We like operating at all scales, whether it’s early work to lay the groundwork for bigger projects, or designing a DJ booth for a particular venue or something to go in a commercial space.”

For Lewis and Kaven, the idea of architecture as art plays a major role in the firm’s design identity. Kaven says that the firm’s North Portland office location was greatly influenced by the fact that they would be sharing a building with Disjecta, a contemporary art center. “A lot goes on at Disjecta and we wanted to be a part of that. It sort of goes in tandem with what we do,” he explains. Kaven’s background in photography is also evident in the firm’s work. For each project, the brothers create photography-focused books that closely document the site’s ecology, geology, climate, history, and any existing design work in the area. For residential projects, family photos from the client are often included. “We compile everything that’s captivating about a site and the client,” Lewis says. “These books then become an ongoing reference throughout the project, so as we’re working, we remember how we got there. Then when it’s done, you can be sitting in the house and that’s the book that’s going to be on the coffee table.”

In addition to turning to art and photography for inspiration, Lewis says that the brothers’ designs are also motivated by their fascination with working with natural light. “Being from the desert, we bring a unique sensibility to Portland,” Lewis explains. “I think Daniel and I really know how to take advantage of the sun when it is out, in a way that’s often overlooked by people who have spent their entire existence in the Northwest.”

As an example, Lewis and Kaven point to their 2010, award-winning residential project in North Portland titled, Interchange. “Rather than a typical residence in Portland were you have a house that essentially divides the front and the back of the lot, we created an outdoor room that’s part of the house,” Lewis says of the home’s courtyard-oriented design. “Every single room faces or somehow relates to that central courtyard.” Kaven then explains, “That creates an amazing quality of light. The grey and the rain and all the things in Portland that to some people are not savory are very much diminished by a house built like that.”

Light also played a major role in William Kaven’s recent design for a house in Mosier. “In the early phase of design, we went there at all different times of day. There are dramatically different light conditions that exist in the Gorge,” says Lewis. “We decided to put the living area on the upper level where the view is best so that you could sit there and just watch the storms come through and fold over the mountain and evaporate into the Gorge.” Kaven adds, “You feel like you’re floating above the river—it’s really dramatic. It’s just a wall of glass.”

Looking forward, Lewis and Kaven hope to continue their work in residential design while also taking on more commercial projects both locally and globally. Currently, they are working on a housing project in Michigan as well as a hotel project in Laos. “We’re hoping that we’re going to continue to have opportunities in other cities and on different scales,” Lewis says. Kaven agrees. “We want to be a Portland-based architecture firm that isn’t just associated with Portland.”

About The Author: Katie Mitchell