Bud Clark Commons—whose day center and shelter have served thousands of homeless Portlanders and others in the year since it opened—feels like a rarity in the world of government-built social services buildings in that it's not a miserable, cramped place to do business. On the outside, it fits well against Portland's skyline, and inside it's warmly decorated, innovatively green, and light-filled.

Late yesterday, word emerged that the building's design, by Holst Architecture, had won this year's "Creating Community Connections" award from the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The jury comments sum up one of the reasons why the building (which wasn't cheap, at $47 million) has been so successful, urging other cities to follow Portland's example:

The architect is really trying to say something here, and it is inspiring. The way the shelter addresses the street and the commons—it creates a place of invitation and dignity in a warm, lively kind of way. It invites a wider idea of constructive citizenry.

This building is more than an institution. Considering the homelessness initiative — most homeless projects seem institutionalized and one dimensional, but this is not stigmatized, it is thoughtful and brings a new way of thinking about how these facilities should be done. It is a gorgeous project. This approach should be imitated.

The Commons previously won regional design awards last year.