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.