Being raised in Portland, surrounded by NW Regional, mid-century, and contemporary masterpieces, modern architecture is (practically) interwoven into my genes. Because of this, I am constantly on the lookout for new waves in architecture and design, especially in Portland.

This is precisely why I am excited to share the innovative processes and designs of DAO Architecture. The firm, based out of Portland, is multifaceted and stretches beyond modern architecture and across disciplines. By collaborating with local architects, contractors, fabricators, artisans, and artists, DAO Architecture is showcasing the artistic potential of collaborative and symbiotic working relationships across disciplines.

“Our collaborators’ considerable aesthetic sensibilities and fabrication expertise add meaning, depth, and optimism to living spaces while enhancing our knowledge of architectural possibilities."

DAO Architecture: Their Story

DAO Architecture was founded in 2004 by Joann Dao Le (featured below). Following the acquisition of her Master’s in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, Joann Dao Le founded her own multi-disciplinary firm in Portland with the intention of designing a more sustainable, beautiful, and engaging city. Dao Architecture focuses on creating innovative, technically advanced, and distinctive spaces and structures.

All of their projects are anchored around sustainability, construction technology, local history, and timelessness. Projects include educational art facilities, community and cultural centers, restaurants, agricultural structures, multi-block urban designs, feasibility studies, houses and housing, and public art installations.

Joann Dao Le, Founding Principal

Joann Dao Le was born and raised in Vietnam and immigrated to Wisconsin in 1972. She ties her personal history and local Portland history in each of her projects, with an appreciation for modern design and a nod to the past. She describes that living and studying in various Asian, European, and Middle-Eastern countries have inspired a “broad spatial and cultural perspective to DAO’s local and regional architectural solutions.”

David Horsley, Principal

DAO Architecture’s Principal, David Horsley is the foundation behind the firm’s sustainability pursuits. He began his career with the achievement of a Bachelor’s in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Master’s of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, where he met Joann Dao Le. Horsley’s extensive experience in sustainable architecture and urban design review panels has resulted in environmentally sensitive design solutions across Portland.

The DAO Architecture team includes renowned architects and designers, recruited from across the globe:


  • Dan Foeller
  • Sander Kohler
  • Mart Schaefer
  • Dave Thruston


  • Zoe Xuanyi Lou
  • Daniel Stone
  • Reid Wiley
  • Logan Winstead

Significant Projects

DAO Architecture is multifaceted, to say the least– its portfolio of projects spans commercial builds, residential, urban design, and functional art pieces. Just for you, I handpicked DAO Architecture’s most compelling, remarkable projects across these five categories. I hope you find yourself as inspired by these exceptional designs as I am!

Residential – Irvington Residence

The DAO team reconceptualized this extremely compact two-story house in Irvington. The house itself is only 13’ wide and 950 square feet, but systematically accommodates a living room, double-height dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a ground-floor patio, and a second-story deck. Project architects describe their strategy as “an exercise in restraint, efficiency, and simplicity while maximizing opportunities for light and views. The interiors are bathed in natural light achieved by floor openings, large central skylight, and interior windows, making the house feel considerably more spacious.”

All materials used in this project were low-cost and sustainable, including metal paneling, and cumulus wood used throughout the home. Cumuru is such a strong material, that no environmentally harmful chemicals are needed for preservation! Additional sustainability features include:
  • Highly insulated skylight.
  • High-efficiency mechanical systems and lighting.
  • Ceiling fans coupled with interior and exterior operable windows for optimal ventilation.
  • Drip landscape irrigation.
  • White membrane roofing.
  • Bamboo flooring and cabinetry.

Residential – Sunnyside Renovation

This mid-century style home was originally built in 1950 and commissioned to DAO for renovation and construction of two additional bedrooms, an art studio, and an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for rent. The home's original floorplan still remains, but interior spaces were opened up, including a double-height dining room, enlarged library and sitting room, and a three-story switchback staircase. “The design emphasis was on simple detailing and modest materials, achieving a modern aesthetic of interior spaces characterized by openness and daylight.”

Commercial – Pho Van Remodel

The Southeast location of Pho Van is family owned and well-loved by the community. DAO took special care to renovate the restaurant while honoring the traditional and original features of the building. The DAO team used daylighting techniques including additional windows and wooden grillwork to cast midday shadows.

They describe the project inspiration as an indoor garden and courtyard: “the ‘garden’ area of open tables lit by large skylights. Intimate banquette seating surrounds the courtyard; wood-grille partitions provide simultaneous privacy and openness.”

Urban Design – Steel Bridge Skatepark Development

Portland has been supporting recreational and professional skaters since the 1980s when local skaters first started pouring concrete under the Burnside Bridge. This dynamic community has only continued to grow in the last 40 years, prompting the Portland City Council to establish official plans for skateparks around the city. DAO was commissioned to design a downtown skatepark along the western foot of the Steel Bridge. The development is teardrop-shaped with swapping walls and swales.

The park is designed to meld into the urban landscape of downtown, “weaving together skatable and non-skatable fingers of terrain. These intertwined, traversing fingers create a public realm that’s dynamic and challenging for skaters, yet contains safe havens for pedestrians and spectators, thus blurring the line between a traditional, segregated skatepark and an urban plaza.”

Art, Education, and Cultural Projects – Colonel Summers Park Pavilion Gates

The DAO Architecture team gave Colonel Summers Park in the Buckman Neighborhood a well-deserved makeover. The historic brick picnic pavilion now includes operable gates, which include the picnic shelter from seasonal rain while keeping it “spatially transparent.” The midday sun creates enchanting shadows through laser-cut steel doors and archways. Designers describe the laser-cut designs as inspired by “the natural setting and neighborhood activities within and surrounding the Park.

The ’Sylvan Gates tracery depicts a woodland setting with an underlying structure of tree canopies, branches, and foliage. An assortment of animals, insects, fungi, and other woodland characters and motifs are overlaid to create a rich and varied composition of solid and void, opacity and transparency.”

Pictured: DAO Architecture and Construction Team Members

Selected above were only five out of 89 total projects completed by the DAO Architecture firm. View DAO’s complete project list here, and their 33 featured projects in their online portfolio here. For now, the Portland community (myself included) waits patiently for the next brilliant DAO project. It was recently announced that Design Advice has commissioned DAO Architecture for the construction and design of the Lincoln Court condo complex, including a mix of townhouses and flats. Lincoln Court will include eight total units and a joined commercial space, arranged around a central courtyard.

Pictured: Lincoln Court

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