Sunday, November 27, 2016

More Sad News

Jerry McDonnell (1945-2016)
 
I woke up Sunday morning, read the paper, and discovered the Eugene architecture community lost one of its elder statesmen last week. I’d been aware Jerry McDonnell was suffering from poor health but did not know how much his condition had deteriorated. He leaves behind a significant legacy, one for which everyone in our community is thankful. 

I always admired Jerry for his intelligence, acerbic wit, and dedication to his craft. He was one of the first local practitioners I came to know upon my return to Eugene in 1988. I immediately recognized his influence within the architectural community and his leadership as demonstrated by his service on behalf of both the AIA and CSI. 

The word of Jerry’s death at age 71 comes on the heels of the other sad news I recently reported. Perhaps it was fitting in my previous blog post that I chose to commemorate Benny Bartel’s life in part by including an image of the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. It was the Hult Center project that brought Jerry to Eugene 37 years ago, after which he established his practice in partnership with the late Gene Brockmeyer, later to become GMA Architects (now with Danny Klute and Joseph Moore at the helm). 

Here’s Jerry’s obituary as written in today’s Register-Guard: 

Gerald "Jerry" McDonnell (1945 – 2016)
Gerald (Jerry) McDonnell, died at home on November 21 after a prolonged battle with COPD. His wife, Margot, was by his side. 

Jerry was born in Flushing, New York on April 25, 1945. He was the only child of Gerald and Sheila, nee O'Donnell, who each emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the late 1920's. They later met and married in New York City. The family moved to Chicago in 1961. After completing high school, he enrolled in the newly-opened University of Illinois Chicago campus and graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1969. During five years of college he took part-time employment with architectural firms and completed his sixth year in Paris. 

Jerry was licensed in Illinois in 1971 and at the age of 26 became the youngest architect in Illinois that year. He moved to Denver with his first wife, who died in a car accident in 1974. He married Margot Mock in 1977. 

He worked for the New York firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Architects in Denver. He and Margot moved to Eugene with their newborn son in 1979, when Jerry accepted the construction administration position for the Eugene Performing Arts Center, which later became the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. 

Jerry and Margot decided to remain in Eugene where they raised their sons, Kevin born in 1979 and Colin born in 1981. Jerry opened his own architectural practice following completion of the Hult Center in 1982. During the span of his career, his firm designed many projects throughout Eugene. Jerry was most proud of the designs of the Cuthbert Amphitheatre and the Eugene Symphony orchestra shell for the Hult Center. He retired from active practice in 2013.  

From 1981-83 he was the first president for the newly formed board of the Eugene Ballet Company. He was an officer on the ladder of board roles of the local professional societies for the chapters of American Institute of Architects and the Construction Specifications Institute. He thoroughly enjoyed volunteering as a UO track official from 1983 to 2009, the last several years as head official for the long jump. 

Jerry is remembered as a loving father and grandfather, good friend, dedicated business partner and supporter of the arts. He is known for his sharp intellect, sharper wit and strong work ethic. He enjoyed camping with his young family, attending his sons' many sporting events, tackling numerous home improvement projects, playing racquetball, fishing on the McKenzie, visiting wineries in the Northwest and California and getting together with family and friends near and far. He made enduring friendships in Eugene and grew to love the community he found here. He continued to play poker with a group formed in 1982 and golfed every Friday with the same friends since 1986. 

In 1997, he traveled to Ireland with his wife and sons and visited his parents' homesteads in County Roscommon and County Donegal. Like many children of immigrants, and many in his generation, he made a remarkable journey, begun by his parents that spanned vast cultural and geographic territory. He was very proud of both his family and his heritage. 

He is survived by Margot, Kevin (Sarah Tesser), Colin (Samali Lubega) and two granddaughters, Caroline Ava and Natalie Cate. A memorial is planned for Monday, December 5th, in Studio One at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, at 4:00 p.m. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In Memoriam

The magnificent plaster work of the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, by Benny Bartel Plastering Company (photo source: http://planetden.com/nature/crown-pacific-eugene-oregon-process)

The Willamette Valley Chapter CSI family received sad news recently on two fronts. 
 
Benny Bartel, one of the chapter’s earliest members, passed away peacefully last month. Benny saw and enjoyed much over his almost century-long time on this earth. We will forever remember him for his noteworthy contributions to many significant projects in the Eugene-Springfield area. He made his mark in life; his legacy will remain with us for many years. 
 
Morgan Deines leaves us at far too young an age, the tragic victim of a senseless crime. Morgan’s dad, Tom, FCSI, CCCA, is a Construction Specifications Institute stalwart: past Institute Vice-President, past Northwest Region Director, and perennial member of the Institute’s Technical Committee. We mourn along with Tom, Tom’s wife Trixie, Morgan’s mother Sirrka, and all of Morgan’s other family and friends. Words alone cannot adequately express our sorrow and condolences. 
 
Following are the previously published obituaries for Benny and Morgan, which paint a picture of their lives for those who may not have enjoyed the honor of knowing them: 
 
Lewis Benjamin (Benny) Bartel (1919-2016)
Lewis Benjamin (Benny) Bartel passed away peacefully on October 16, 2016 at the age of 97. Benny was born April 15, 1919 to Dora and Leslie Brickler. Benny and his sister, Betty, were adopted by Alvin Bartel of Creswell. Benny graduated from Creswell High School in 1938 and attended Oregon State University. He married the love of his life, Marjorie (Callaway), in February of 1941. 
 
Benny served his country in World War II as an Army Combat Sergeant (27th Infantry Division) in the Pacific Theater on Okinawa and as part of the occupational forces in Japan. After WWII he located to Portland, OR and became a journeyman plasterer. 
 
In 1948 he returned to Eugene and started Benny Bartel Plastering Company. The company was instrumental in the construction of several notable projects around Eugene and Springfield such as Prince Lucien Campbell and dormitories at the University of Oregon and Oregon State campuses, Ya-Po-Ah Terrace and the Hult Center. 
 
Benny was active in several industry organizations as well as being a member of the Elks, Jaycees, Masons and Shriners. 
 
Benny is survived by his wife of 75 years, Marjorie, two sons, Gary (Yvonne) of Eugene and David (Carol) of Longmont, CO., brother Royce (Beth) of Creswell, grandsons, Scott (Marietta), Trevor (Tabitha) and Kyle, great grandsons, Jackson and Brooks. He was preceded in death by his sister, Betty Dunn, and grandson Donald Benjamin Bartel. 
 
Benny was interred with full military honors at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, OR. A memorial will be held in Benny’s honor at 2:00 PM on Thursday, December 1 at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 777 Coburg Road, Eugene (of which Benny was a founding member. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Shriners Hospital and the Eugene Mission. 
 
Benny Bartel was one of WVC/CSI's earliest members, founder of Eugene's premier plastering company, recipient of the SWO/AIA Craftsmanship award, father of WVC/CSI past president, Gary Bartel, and perhaps the nicest person one ever met. He was a very special person!” — Paul Edlund 
 
Morgan Pahkala Deines (1993 - 2016)
Morgan Pahkala Deines was called home to her heavenly father in the early morning hours of November 11, 2016. Morgan was only 23 years old, tragically taken from her loved ones far too early. She died from a gunshot wound from an unknown assailant. The investigation is ongoing. 
 
Morgan's maternal grandparents, Ernst Olavi "Ollie" Pahkala and Anna Marjatta Pahkala (both deceased), emigrated from Finland in 1954. Her paternal grandparents, Robert Deines of Russian heritage and Elizabeth Deines, who emigrated from Germany in 1956 are also both deceased. Morgan embraced her European heritage, especially the Finnish language, Finnish culinary delights and holiday celebrations. Morgan's middle name, "Pahkala" carried on her Finnish lineage. Morgan means, "Edge of the Sea.” 
 
Morgan was born July 7, 1993, in Eugene, Oregon. Even at an early age, she had a special gift of wanting to help others, adopting pets, and especially fighting for the underdog. Later in her life, she would continue to take the road less traveled. A gifted artist, she also enjoyed playing soccer, many years of youth basketball and bicycling. 
 
Morgan loved the water and swimming, but she loved changes in climate even more which led her to enroll in Atmospheric Science at Oregon State University. Nothing would excite her more than a loud clap of thunder and lightning, the warning of an upcoming storm, or news of hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. 
 
Prior to OSU, Morgan graduated from South Eugene International High School in 2011 where she volunteered at FOOD for Lane County. Later she joined her mother in Tacoma, Washington. She loved attending live concerts including indie artists, pop, and hip hop. Her favorite movie was Titanic. She loved cooking shows, flip flops, dipping sauces, pho, Café Yumm! and color books. 
 
She loved anything related to the ocean, especially beach combing at the Oregon Coast, bodysurfing the waves in Maui, watching sea turtles or simply meditating at the waterfront near Ruston Point in Tacoma. She and her dad once swam with the dolphins in San Diego and she met Keiko the Killer Whale, face-to-face, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Morgan's last home overlooked the Foss Waterway of Commencement Bay.
 
As a child, she collected rocks and gems that included an actual meteorite and a rock from the Washington Monument. As a young girl, she collected American Girl Dolls and Beanie Babies with her mother. She vacationed in Hawaii, Mexico, and San Diego several times and went on three cruises. She visited the White House in April 2001 before the world changed on 9/11, walked the Mall in Washington DC, and visited several Smithsonian Museums and Arlington National Cemetery. She also visited Chicago's Natural History Museum to see Sue the T- Rex. 

She visited Disneyland, Disneyworld, SeaWorld, and the San Diego Zoo. She attended several PAC-12 football bowl games with her father as well as an NCAA Sweet 16 basketball championship. She was a girl scout, a dancer, and a volunteer. 
 
Her friends enjoyed her outgoing personality and generous, caring attitude. People would make note of her cheerful disposition, her long blonde curly hair, long natural eyelashes and beautiful smile, which could light up any room. To her parents' chagrin, Morgan enjoyed her many piercings and tattoos. Although Morgan attended OSU, she considered herself a Duck. She attended her first University of Oregon football game at the age of two and every year thereafter. Up until her death, she remained a diehard Duck fan. Most importantly, Morgan was baptized at Grace Lutheran Church and believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
 
Her remains will be spread in the ocean that she so loved, where she will be able to continue to be a free spirit for eternity. 
 
She is survived by her father, Tom Deines and his wife, Trixie, of Cottage Grove, Oregon and her mother, Sirkka-Liisa Pahkala and her husband, Derrick Henderson, of Tacoma, Washington; aunts and uncles include Eira and Dennis Stevens (Morgan's Godparents) of Scappoose, Oregon; Anneli Burgess and Carl Long of Beaverton, Oregon; Paula and Paul May of Turlock, California; Jeanette and Richard Naylor of Union City, California; George and Vera Deines of Forest Grove, Oregon, and a multitude of cousins as well as her pets whom she loved dearly. 
 
A celebration of life ceremony will be held at Calvary Open Bible Church, 1116 Centennial Blvd, Springfield, OR, January 8, 2017 from 3 to 6 pm. All family and friends who knew and loved Morgan are invited to join us. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to FOOD for Lane County or Greenhill Humane Society, causes that she cared about passionately.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

2016 People’s Choice Award Winners

Each year, the American Institute of Architects, Southwestern Oregon Chapter (AIA-SWO), in collaboration with the Willamette Valley Section of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), sponsors the People’s Choice Awards for Architecture. These awards aim to educate and inspire our fellow citizens by showcasing architecture, interiors, and landscape architecture projects created within the Southwestern Oregon Chapter area by AIA or ASLA members. The program demonstrates to the public the role of the architectural profession in enhancing the built environment by showcasing the talents of AIA-SWO and ASLA members. 
 
This year’s edition marked the 27th year of the AIA-SWO People's Choice Awards, drawing 26 entrants across 8 categories. Presentation boards for the projects were displayed throughout the month of October in the Broadway Commerce Center lobby in downtown Eugene, debuting during October’s First Friday Art Walk. Balloting occurred both in person and also online via AIA-SWO’s website. 
 
The 2016 People’s Choice Award winners are:
 
Commercial: Coburg Medical - TBG Architects + Planners
 
Interiors: Howard Elementary School - PIVOT Architecture
 
Landscape: Courtyard Revival - Stangeland & Associates
 
Public / Institutional: Serenity Lane - TBG Architects + Planners
 
Multi-Family Housing: Boat House Apartments - Dustrud Architecture
 
Single Family Residential: Push Pull House - Speranza Architecture + Urban Design
 
Unbuilt: DEN Tiny House at Emerald Village - envelop design | architecture + interiors
 
Student: Clean Air - Elizabeth Poston, Chaz Kern, Darek Rayle 
 
Ancillary to the People’s Choice Awards is the Colleague’s Choice program. The Colleague’s Choice vote is meant to be a fun way for our AIA-SWO and ASLA members to weigh in on the question of which of their peers’ projects are most worthy of recognition. Here’s the listing of the Colleague’s Choice winners: 
 
Eugene City Hall - Rowell Brokaw Architects
 
Howard Elementary School - PIVOT Architecture
 
 
Thanks to the members of the People’s Choice Awards committee, who contributed so much toward the success of the program!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

AuthentiCITY

 
The University of Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) recently issued the following letter seeking financial support for its hosting of AIAS’s annual west quandrant conference, which will occur next spring: 

We of the University of Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students are writing you to ask for your assistance. Every year, each quadrant of the United States selects one school to host a spring conference. We are honored as a school and professional organization to have been voted to host this conference in Portland, Oregon this coming spring. Our West Quad Conference, “AuthentiCITY,” will expose students to the educational opportunities of this dynamic and progressive city. We feel that this opportunity will strengthen our organization as we work hard to provide a high-quality conference for our school, our state, and our region. Our goal is to facilitate a dialogue between students and professionals that dissects challenging issues and looks to the architects and architecture of Portland for guidance. This conference is invaluable to us as an opportunity to create a network among the future generation of architects. 

This year, we intend not only to host the West Quad Conference but also to help students attend the national conference called Forum in December. We are striving to raise enough funds to attain both goals, and your support in our endeavors for West Quad is vital. UO AIAS has organized a budget for the 2017 West Quad conference of $10,000. We are hoping that you can support the efforts of our AIAS chapter with a donation of $100, $250, $500, or $1000 to guarantee the success of the West Quad Conference and to help students attend Forum. Your donation would be tax deductible, and a detailed budget will be available upon request. Furthermore, those that donate $500 or more will receive 2-4 tickets to attend the “AuthentiCITY” conference, which will contribute to continuing education credits. A breakdown of price options and benefits is listed below. Afterward, we will be sure to follow up with an account of the exciting things we accomplish through planning and attending these conferences. 

Please return your donations to: 

AIAS University of Oregon
1206 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
Office: 210 Lawrence Hall 

Thank you for your investment in our education and the future of architecture.

Respectfully and with gratitude,

AIAS University of Oregon 

Chelsey Luiz
AIAS Chapter President
chelseyl@uoregon.edu 

Ryan Al-Shamma
West Quad Conference Co-Chair
ralscham@uoregon.edu 

Jacque Greazzo
West Quad Conference Co-Chair
jgreazzo@uoregon.edu 


Sponsorship Levels
West Quad | Portland, Oregon

Bronze Sponsor - $100
  • Name listed on sponsor list in Conference Publication
Silver Sponsor - $250
  • Name listed on sponsor list in Conference Publication
  • Quarter page ad space in Conference Publication
  • 2 Conference Tickets
Gold Sponsor - $500
  • Name listed on sponsor list in Conference Publication
  • Half page ad space in Conference Publication
  • 3-5 minute sponsor spotlight before a major conference event
  • Name on conference website
  • 2 Conference Tickets
Platinum Sponsor - $1,000
  • Name listed on sponsor list in Conference Publication
  • Full page ad space in Conference Publication
  • 3-5 minute sponsor spotlight before a major conference event
  • Named as sponsor for main conference event
  • Name on conference website
  • Name on banner at registration table
  • 4 Conference Tickets

Sunday, November 6, 2016

2017 CSI Certification Classes

 
For the 35th consecutive year, the Construction Specifications Institute –Willamette Valley Chapter (CSI-WVC) is pleased to offer a series of classes on Construction Contract Documents in addition to another set covering Construction Contract Administration. While the principal purpose of the courses is to assist those planning to take one or more of the CSI-sponsored certification examinations, they’re also beneficial to anyone in the AEC industry seeking foundational training in the preparation and use of construction documents. Additionally, the classes can be of significant value to architectural interns and to the firms for whom they work, as well as very helpful to those preparing to take the State Architectural Licensing Exams. 
 
The evening classes begin in early January and continue weekly through the first part of March.

Click on the following link to navigate to the CCCA/CDT/CCS Seminars page and locate detailed information about the classes, dates, fees, and registration:

http://willamettevalley.csinet.org/Get-Involved/CCCA-CDT-CCS-Seminars

For the second year in row, the venue for both classes will be Eugene Mindworks, located at 207 East 5th Avenue in Eugene. 
 
Both courses can help students develop a conceptual understanding of the entire construction process, and concrete skills in: 
  • Construction documentation development and administration 
  • Specification writing and enforcement 
  • Product research and sourcing 
  • Communication with the design and contracting teams
The Construction Documents program provides a comprehensive overview for anyone who writes, interprets, enforces, or manages construction documents. Being able to understand and interpret written construction documents helps architects, contractors, contract administrators, material suppliers, and manufacturers' representatives perform their jobs more effectively. Understanding the roles and relationships of all participants improves communication among all members of the construction team. The Construction Contract Administration course goes further to emphasize the specific knowledge and skills necessary to administer and enforce construction contract documentation. While not necessary, some students may find it helpful to have completed the Construction Documents course before taking the Construction Contract Administration program. 

As mentioned above, both classes serve as excellent means to prepare for CSI’s certification exams. Certification as a Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) means you have demonstrated ability to prepare, use, and interpret construction documents. CDT certification is a prerequisite to CSI’s advanced certifications, which include Certified Construction Specifier (CCS), Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA), and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR). 

CSI offers its certification examinations twice annually, in the spring and the fall. Taking the 2017 Willamette Valley Chapters classes this winter would set you up nicely to register for the spring set of exams. 

By taking either of the classes, architects can earn up to 20 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours to apply toward maintaining Oregon State Board of Architect Examiners professional licensure; AIA Members can earn up 20 Continuing Education Learning Units (LU) which CSI will report directly to AIA/CES. 

I’ll once again be one of the instructors, along with Linn West, Larry Banks, Jerry Boucock, Tom Deines, Brian Hamilton, Jon Texter, and Jim Chaney. The eight of us bring three centuries of cumulative professional experience to the table, which means we have stories aplenty to share with our students. Notwithstanding that it also means we’re old(!), the curriculum for the classes is up-to-date and as relevant as ever to the challenging realities of today’s construction industry. 

Hundreds of local AEC professionals have already benefitted immeasurably by taking one or both CSI certification classes. Do the same and you’ll learn about the importance of clear, concise, correct, and complete construction documents, and more fully understand how projects unfold from conception to delivery. Best of all, you’ll advance your career prospects and become a highly valued member of any project team.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Objectives

 Balliol College Dining Hall, Oxford (Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Bill Kleinsasser wanted to outline a theory base for architecture that would help make the built environment better. He knew design is an integrative act of great complexity, requiring the development of an appropriate organizational structure unique to every new project. In many respects, his incessant rewriting and editing of his self-published textbook Synthesis served as an apt metaphor for this process. He was never satisfied with his text; as with architecture, he sought an organizational structure for Synthesis that was as unified, eloquent, and complete as possible. 
 
In the following excerpt from the preface to his fifth edition of Synthesis, Bill defined eight objectives for the design of good places. In my opinion, the definition of these objectives (and their attendant elaboration in Synthesis 5) represent the acme of Bill’s pursuit of a concise and comprehensive design philosophy. His later redrafts of Synthesis never again so elegantly achieved the same degree of clarity and completeness, and indeed appear wanting by comparison. 
 
Thesis:
Good places provide supportive conditions and important opportunities for people. Whether large or small, public or private, inside or outside, they provide settings that are precise, generous, and evocative—liberating and inspiring as well as accommodating. Good places embody much and their design is always based upon much; they are the result of an inclusive integration, a synthesis of many essential concerns: 
 
As architects, we are expected to make places that are: 
  • Immediately useful and accommodating 
  • Lastingly useful and opportunity-rich 
  • Responsive to place and setting 
  • Informed regarding historical precedent and imagery 
  • Well-built and internally coordinated 
  • Well-served and controllable 
  • Lucid 
  • Alive 
Accomplishing this is difficult. Much must be considered. Much understood, and much synthesized. Much imagination and good judgment used along the way. 
 
It is helpful in this effort to convert the qualities above into eight discrete objectives. They can then be studied and developed, responded to in our projects, returned to again and again as a theory base, and changed when necessary. Briefly stated, the objectives are to: 
 
Support Purposes and Activities:
Accommodate the regularly occurring activities made explicit by the building program and by the requirements of first users. 
 
Establish Longevity:
Establish spatial conditions that offer more than what is required by first users and first uses; that is, to make places that will remain useful and meaningful over time. 
 
Respond to Place:
Achieve connection, particularity, orientation, physical continuity, and appropriateness vis-à-vis setting. 
 
Maintain Historical Continuity:
Unite many ideas, times, places, and people by appropriately using known principles of design, new principles of design, and imagery. 
 
Integrate Construction:
Select and design systems of construction that will appropriately define required spaces without waste or confusion. 
 
Integrate Services and Environmental Controls:
Select and design environmental control and other systems that will appropriately serve required spaces without waste or confusion. 
 
Achieve Clarity:
Achieve unity, differentiation of parts, and full design synthesis. 
 
Establish Vitality:
Make places that are evocative, memorable, eloquent, and alive. 
 
The objectives ae expressed as design actions so that response to them is immediately implied. They must be interpreted and used in ways that are appropriate to the design situation. If this is done, they will provide insight and stimulate new thought, but not diminish the pleasure and the necessity of imaginative, creative design exploration. 
 
It is also helpful to divide the act of design/synthesis into two parts: 
  1. Determine an appropriate organizational structure; that is, to determine a basic theme or direction that appropriately orders all parts. If this structure is comprehensive, it must be based upon all of the objectives. 
  2. Develop the structure; that is, to actually establish the opportunities and qualities called for by the project (again, all eight objectives should be used).
It is essential in this to realize that appropriate organizational structure cannot be determined simply by acts of personal expression alone. As a synthesis of many factors, it becomes clear slowly and after great effort on the part of the designer. Emerging first as a feeling, it must be tested and developed. Once determined as the correct organization principle, it may be followed and reinforced. If used well, it will lead to an appropriate, unified, and eloquent real place.

WK/1983

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Community Consensus and Design Excellence

A traditional Eugene neighborhood (photo by Chris Pietsch from the City of Eugene's Community Design Handbook)
 
Note: The following is my contribution to this year's AIA-Southwestern Oregon Design Annual (Register-Guard special insert), to be published next month.
 
The theme of the Design Annual you’re reading is Forward Motion. The articles gathered here reflect the perspectives of just some of the architects who are your neighbors in the community. These insights variously address how we should plan for growth and change, which issues are most worthy of prioritization, which strategies might help us resolve the inflexibility of competing points of view, and what our shared vision for a Eugene of tomorrow should be. The implicit premise is you can entrust architects with illuminating the way toward a collective, promising future. After all, given their education and skill set, aren’t architects best equipped to catalyze the positive changes we all want in the design of our built environment? 

The reality is nothing is so simple that a single profession, regardless of background or stature, will have all the answers. While architects may frequently be of one mind when it comes to complex issues related to design and planning, it’s also true their opinions are occasionally as divergent and varied as they all are as individuals. Architects don’t always speak with one voice. 

In the case of what needs to be done to preserve and improve upon what makes Eugene so desirable, architects cannot exclusively claim the righteous high ground or a monopoly on opinions. It’s taken time, but as a profession, they have learned to listen, to consider humility a virtue, and to avoid repeating past mistakes. Architects recognize that accord with those from outside their bubble on issues of public concern is hard won but worth pursuing. 

Building consensus is challenging, particularly in the arena of environmental and public policy. The process exposes rifts between competing interests, while also highlighting the diversity of those interests and the groups involved. Whether they understand it or not, the parties affected are interdependent, which is why it is difficult and ineffective for these groups to attempt solving controversial problems on their own. Those problems are often immeasurably complex, so much so that people are fooling themselves if they believe solutions are easy to come by because they never are. This is the reason why it sometimes seems miraculous when consensus is achieved. 

A significant planning success story, one built upon community education, collaboration, and consensus, is Envision Eugene. The seven pillars of Envision Eugene reflect the values of the community and are the foundation for the City of Eugene’s present and future policies, guidelines, and actions related to development of the urban environment. The seven pillars are: 
  1. Provide ample ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES for all community members 
  2. Provide HOUSING AFFORDABLE to all income levels 
  3. Plan for CLIMATE CHANGE and ENERGY RESILIENCY 
  4. Promote COMPACT URBAN DEVELOPMENT and EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS 
  5. Protect, repair and enhance NEIGHBORHOOD LIVABILITY 
  6. Protect, restore and enhance NATURAL RESOURCES 
  7. Provide for ADAPTABLE, FLEXIBLE and COLLABORATIVE implementation
It’s probably safe to say most AIA-Southwestern Oregon members agree with how each of the pillars is framed, and with how the city proposes to balance them while accommodating the jobs, homes, parks, and schools we’ll need as Eugene grows. The seven pillars appeal to universal values and beliefs; they’re motherhood statements few people would disagree with. That they likely mirror the thoughts and opinions of local architects should come as no surprise. 

Community involvement has been an important part of the Envision Eugene project from the beginning. The City’s website details how extensive the community involvement process was and continues to be. Architects have participated as equal partners with their fellow citizens directly on various committees or resource groups, and provided review and input during the many public outreach opportunities.

The bottom line is a shared vision of the city’s future exists in the form of Envision Eugene. It isn’t one architects (or even the city’s planning staff) formulated by themselves. A wide spectrum of the community expressed views that were commonly held by many. It only took Envision Eugene to bring those views together and give them shape. 

Allowing that Envision Eugene already establishes a foundation upon which to build a better future, how can architects best leverage their talent, experience, and wisdom as a force for positive change? In my opinion, architects should focus upon what they (we) do best. They (we) need to emphasize the importance of design excellence

Architects have an obligation to influence the community dialogue about how Eugene will look and feel tomorrow. This dialogue is necessary irrespective of Envision Eugene’s seven pillars. It is necessary to augment and give flesh to the principles the pillars espouse. 

But what is design excellence, and who should be its arbiters? 

Architects must emphasize the underlying principles that foster good design; it isn’t enough for architects to simply paint a pretty picture of what could be. The principles underlying design excellence should be the building blocks for codified urban design guidelines and standards. The city’s Community Design Handbook is a baby step in this direction. 

Architects can illustrate strategies for bringing our streets to life, creating successful public spaces, and strengthening neighborhood character. They can explain the importance of working with nature by designing for climate and resiliency, celebrating important natural features, and enhancing the regional habitat network. They can describe why it is important to evoke a sense of place and work with the genius loci by embracing Eugene’s most successful patterns. They certainly can emphasize that design excellence is a means to achieve a desirable urban density because not all density is created equal. The key to buy-in by Eugeneans is enhancing their appreciation for the benefits of good urban form and compact growth. 

The place where urban planning and design excellence meet is not at an edge; instead, there is an overlap that is substantial and growing. Architects understand that planning alone—conducted in the absence of an understanding of its physical consequences—is insufficient to foster a beautiful, sustainable, and livable city. It should be our goal to nurture a culture of design excellence in which citizens equate the quality of the built environment with the quality of their lives. This culture would embrace ingenuity, artistry, and the ineffable properties we immediately recognize as design genius. Ideally, we will see our neighbors demand, value, and appreciate design excellence. If this happens, architects will have contributed in a way only architects can, to truly important and significant effect. 

Looking forward, the pledge of AIA-SWO members is to further ongoing dialogue about critical topics associated with the built environment. If our participation constructively supports enlightened policy-making and greater public appreciation for the value of good design, we’ll have done our job well.