Sunday, January 13, 2019

Dan Herbert, AIA (1927 – 2019)

Dan Herbert, AIA (1927-2019)

Eugene architect Dan Herbert, AIA, passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of ninety-one. Dan was highly-regarded as both an educator and a practitioner, and as his obituary below attests, he made his mark on many fronts. Without a doubt, he was one of our local profession’s most respected elder statesmen. I will always remember Dan first and foremost as being as kind and thoughtful a person you could ever hope to know.

I never experienced the privilege of taking a studio or class taught by Dan during my days as a student at the University of Oregon. If my memory serves me correctly, he did review several of my studio projects, including my design for an expansion of the McMinnville Public Library. Dan’s firm, Herbert and Keller, had recently designed the real-life project for the Library, so I certainly received the most qualified critique possible.

It wasn’t until I returned to Eugene in 1988 that I really got to know Dan better. He regularly attended AIA-Southwestern Oregon chapter meetings. Though soft-spoken, he enjoyed the company of his fellow architects. At those meetings, he and I would often talk about local developments, evidence of his ongoing professional engagement following retirement from full-time professional practice. He will certainly be missed by his professional colleagues.

McMinnville Library Addition (1982) by Herbert and Keller Architects (photo by M.O. Stevens [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)

Here is Dan’s obituary, as published on January 13 by the The Register-Guard:

*    *    *    *    *    *

Daniel Martin Herbert died suddenly at home at Cascade Manor as he rose to greet the New Year. He had been on hospice since October for congestive heart failure.

Dan was born in Chicago to Litta and Benjamin Herbert on July 15, 1927. His father died of a heart attack when Dan was five years old. He started working part-time at age eleven to supplement family income. Dan joined the navy in 1945 and consequently was able to attend college through the GI Bill. He graduated with a B.F.A from the University of Colorado in 1951, where he studied fine arts and mechanical engineering, and graduated from the University of Illinois with highest honors in 1954, earning a B.S. in Architectural Engineering.

Dan met Eleanor McCullough in 1949 at the University of Colorado. They were married in 1953. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2018. In 1954, they drove to Portland, Oregon to start work, Dan as an architect and Eleanor as a teacher. They moved to Eugene in 1954, where they worked and raised three children, Nan, Lauren, and James.

Dan worked in solo architectural practice or in partnership from 1958 to 1984, designing more than a hundred commercial and residential projects. He served as an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon School of Architecture, teaching design studios, computer-aided design, and advanced graphics. He wrote many articles for architectural journals and a book on graphic thinking in design. He received grants for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts and through the University of Oregon Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.


South Park Building (1975) by Herbert and Keller Architects (my photo)

Dan was also active in community affairs as a member and then president of the Lane Transit District Board, and as a member of the Eugene Renewal Advisory committee.

Much of Dan's professional and volunteer work focused on sustainability and environmentally responsible construction, city planning, and transportation. He also promoted living responsibly as an individual and as a family. Until his first heart attack at the age of 54, he commuted by bicycle. His children and grandchildren continue these traditions.

Dan had lifelong interests in reading, language, science, art, and construction. He continued his community engagement until the day before he died, leading reading group discussions, working on an exhibition of his most important architectural designs, and redesigning an entrance for his retirement community.

Dan modeled hard work, community service, and delight in the world. Eleanor, children Nan, Lauren and Jim, and grandchildren Philip, Kate, Forrest, Maia, Nicole, and Pauline have each been inspired by his life, and will carry forward his spirit and dedication.

Donations in his name can be made to The Brown Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory Fund, University of Oregon Foundation, or to the Cascade Manor Foundation. An exhibit of his most important drawings are currently on display at Cascade Manor. A celebration of his life will be held in the spring.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

AIA Oregon Eugene


As Frank Visconti, AIA noted in his end of year message on the aiaswo.org website, last week’s turning of the calendar heralded big changes for members of AIA-Southwestern Oregon. The results of last summer’s State Chapter Initiative election indicated overwhelming support among the entire AIA Oregon membership—AIA-SWO members included—to unite the state’s four separate chapters into a single statewide body. Among other things, this means “AIA-Southwestern Oregon” formally ceases to exist, instead becoming one of five AIA Oregon chapter “sections.” Officially, those of us who were AIA-SWO chapter members are now assigned as members of AIA Oregon, with voluntary membership in either the AIA Oregon Eugene or AIA Oregon Bend local sections. 

For those who haven’t yet seen it, here is Frank’s entire message: 

2019 will mark a unique milestone of the 66-year history of this thriving and exemplary chapter. Starting January, we will all be united as AIA Oregon chapter members. AIA Oregon will be a single 501(c)(6) and allow our chapter to shed its bureaucratic structure. Without the burden of the unnecessary and redundant corporate template, we can focus more directly on our members and programs. Our membership dues will no longer include local chapter fees and we won't have to use Robert's Rules of Order! We will continue our weekly e-newsletter (T@3), monthly presentations and events, design awards, People's Choice awards, continuing education programs, Design Spring, and CoLA. 

I will continue in my leadership role for another year as a director representing the Eugene Section of the Oregon AIA. Our current board members will continue to help put together all our current programs and we will continue to meet twice a month at the Octagon. As a director, I will be a voting member of the Oregon AIA board and will represent our Eugene Section members. You will all see a choice to join a local section on your membership renewals, so just check that off! Easy! 

We have 172 members who continue to renew their membership because there is value to this association. I’d like to ask that each one of you reach out and support our emerging professionals and encourage them to get licensed and be part of the AIA. At our Holiday Party several members approached me to ask if they can help more actively with the chapter (section) and the answer is always yes! We do have openings for the CoLA committee and for our other programs. We will be putting our 2019 schedule together before the end of year and we'll let you know what's coming up. I can't reiterate enough how helpful it is to participate in our committees, so please reach out if you want to volunteer. Thank you all for your continued membership. 

The reconstituted, single AIA Oregon chapter has a board of directors comprised of eleven directors, including the following: 
  • One director appointed for each voluntary section (five total), initially appointed by each disappearing corporation (chapter) 
  • Four executive officers (AIA Oregon’s current respective President, Past President (or President Elect), Secretary and Treasurer)
  • Two at-large directors appointed by the Board of Directors 
The Executive Committee will also include the AIA Oregon executive director, who will be a non-voting participant on the Board of Directors.

AIA Oregon has established the following internal voluntary local sections: 
  • AIA Oregon Portland 
  • AIA Oregon Salem 
  • AIA Oregon Eugene 
  • AIA Oregon Rogue Valley 
  • AIA Oregon Bend 
In addition to these sections, the new AIA Oregon chapter may establish other sections with the approval of the Institute Secretary. It’s worth noting that prior to the election, AIA Oregon was itself not a chapter; instead, it was a “council” of the four previous Oregon-based chapters (AIA Portland, AIA Salem, AIA Southwestern Oregon, and AIA Southern Oregon). 

As I mentioned at the top of this post, membership in a local section is voluntary and is not assigned by the Institute or by AIA Oregon. In accordance with the chapter’s articles of incorporation, local sections may not levy dues or assessments on their own behalf. On the other hand, AIA Oregon may allocate funds for specific use by a local section for its exclusive activities. 

One of the primary motivations for the Statewide Chapter Initiative was to better serve the members of the former AIA Salem and AIA Southern Oregon chapters. Because of their small size, these two chapters often lacked the financial resources necessary to provide equivalent access to the kinds of resources and programs enjoyed by the members of AIA Portland and the Willamette Valley-based members of AIA Southwestern Oregon. Because the smaller chapters had a limited pool of volunteers to draw from and inadequate funds to hire paid staff, much volunteer time was devoted to keeping each chapter a viable business entity (which is not typically what a volunteer would prefer to spend his or her time doing). The new statewide AIA Oregon chapter will provide a more efficient governance structure and assume a majority of administrative functions on behalf of the membership so that volunteers can focus upon those issues and programs of greatest interest to them. 

The establishment of the new AIA Oregon Bend Section should likewise benefit the burgeoning number of members located east of the Cascades. 

The articles of incorporation for AIA Oregon govern the local sections. Each section is free to adopt supplemental and supporting policies and procedures that define leadership roles, terms of office, section procedures, and operational guidelines provided such items are in accordance with the Articles and Bylaws and are approved by the AIA Oregon Board of Directors. Formal leaders of each local section will include, as a minimum, a section director who is a member of the AIA Oregon Board of Directors. A section may create other formal leadership roles consistent with their procedures and operational guidelines. 

I’m looking forward to seeing how this momentous transition plays out during the coming years. I’m sure there will be a few bumps along the road but I’m confident moving to a single statewide chapter will ultimately prove to be the right move, with enhanced benefits for all AIA Oregon members.

A final aside: I originally named my blog SW Oregon Architect because it was my position as president-elect for AIA Southwestern Oregon way back in 2008 that prompted its debut. Since then, the blog title and my subsequent Twitter handle (@sworegonarch) have assumed lives of their own, very much independent from their AIA-SWO roots. Despite the dissolution of AIA Southwestern Oregon, I plan to stay with the SW Oregon Architect title and my Twitter identity as they are, and continue to report on AIA news of importance to the former members of AIA Southwestern Oregon.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Looking Beyond 2019 (Way, Way Beyond)


Earthrise, by NASA/Bill Anders

A problem with New Year resolutions is their typically limited outlook. On a personal level, annual self-reflection and recalibration can be helpful but what we all need is an appreciation for the long view, one measured well beyond the bounds of a single circuit about the sun. Human shortsightedness is at the root of many of our woes, so expanding our panorama to encompass a vastly broader horizon should be an essential part of our yearly resolve to make changes for the better. 

Speaking of a broad horizon, this past Christmas Eve marked the 50th anniversary of the iconic photograph of a distant Earth taken from lunar orbit by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders. I’m old enough to remember the Apollo 8 mission well and how monumentally significant that single photo would prove to be.(1) The Earthrise image spurred the environmental movement by vividly depicting how tiny and fragile our planet is against the backdrop of an infinitely vast and dark universe. Everybody immediately realized one and all share the same “little boat floating in space” and that humanity’s fate is hitched to that lonely boat. 

Author and architect Lance Hosey wrote a piece for Treehugger.com acknowledging the anniversary of Bill Anders’ Earthrise photo but also suggesting its outsized impact upon our attitudes toward our planet has actually undermined the very movement it launched. In his view, Earth is now too often perceived as an object, every place on it a mere point on a globe, each one like the other. Consequently, he asserts, we speak of the “environment” in the singular rather than as an endlessly diverse variety of extant landscapes and ecologies. 

I agree with Lance but also disagree at the same time. I believe the value of the Earthrise photo is unassailable and essential to comprehending how tenuous the dynamical system that sustains the planet’s biosphere is. 

As Lance contends, while a planetary perspective does serve a purpose, we must reestablish our loyalty to the land and not lose our appreciation for the diversity of cultures, the individuality of place, and the singularity of settings. Architects excel when this appreciation is applied to their work. Enhancing a sense of place—imparting a physical, emotional, and spiritual connectedness to specific settings—is vital to celebrating the infinite diversity of immersive experiences possible and the multiplicity of world views that uniquely exist on our small, blue planet. 

But that serves my point: To the best of our current knowledge, the entirety of Earth is implausibly unique. Life elsewhere in the universe may be exceedingly rare, the varying and dynamic conditions required to support it requiring circumstances balanced precipitously between order and chaos. Earth may be more special than a strictly Copernican view of our universe would hold. Count me among those who are proponents of an anthropic principle that suggests we exist in an extremely privileged position—one humanity must acknowledge if there is any hope of preserving it. An ability to appreciate our cosmic context is crucial to understanding the specifics of any earthbound place and time. 

Some long for humankind to become an interplanetary species. To me that dream has always been tinged with a shade of resignation regarding Earth’s destiny. Elon Musk’s justification for pursuing a goal of building civilizations in space is his belief in the need to “preserve the light of consciousness” because “it is unknown whether we are the only civilization alive in the observable universe, but any chance that we are is added impetus for extending life beyond Earth.” Such reasoning betrays a fatalistic attitude—a certainty about the inevitability of a tragic fate for our planet. Among other things, we would lose a fundamental aspect of our identity should we abandon our planet for another home. It’s precisely because we and Earth are so unique that fighting for our preservation and the “singularity of settings” here is so important. 

My wife and I recently engaged in a debate about this topic. Why expend precious “treasure and oil” on space exploration, she argued, when those same resources might be applied to solving earthly problems? Shouldn’t Elon Musk (SpaceX), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), and the others direct more of their wealth toward combating climate change, hunger, disease, homelessness, species loss, and despair? Of course, these concerns deserve everyone’s attention and substantial investment. As I wrote previously, there will always exist needs that trump others. Money isn’t the point. What should be important is our innate desire to invest energy and potential in the exploration of the unknown, in pursuits that enlist the power of our imaginations. Our sense of awe, wonder, and curiosity are central to who we are as human beings. 

If architects are to remain relevant in the decades to come, they’ll need to think big, look over the immediate horizon, and consider what it means fundamentally to dwell upon the earth. It will be their responsibility to wonder and explore, if not the larger universe, the nearer spaces closer to home they can control. Like space scientists, they will need to enlist and exercise human curiosity for the sake of a future that can be better for theirs and future generations. 

Each of us may resolve to exercise more, eat healthily, or spend more time with family and friends in the new year. For 2019, I encourage all of you to also look beyond your immediate concerns and take the long view. If we all do this, the odds of safeguarding livability aboard the third rock from the sun will be improved by many orders of magnitude.  


(1)  Like many young people during the 1960s, I was enthralled by the race to space between the Soviet Union and the U.S. and idolized the courageous cosmonauts and astronauts. I dreamed of becoming an astronaut myself, settling instead upon a decidedly terrestrial career as an architect. Even today, I can name the crew members for nearly every one of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions without having to rely upon Google. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Have you Signed Up for the 2019 CSI Certification Classes Yet?


The 2019 editions of the Construction Specifications Institute-Willamette Valley Chapter certification classes are rapidly approaching. As I described previously, while the principal purpose of the courses is to assist those planning to take one or more of the CSI-sponsored certification examinations(1), they’re also beneficial to anyone in the AEC industry seeking foundational training in the preparation and use of construction documents.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Knowledge provides a competitive edge. Architecture and construction are increasingly dependent upon the effective conveyance of design intent. They are likewise dependent upon the clear definition of project responsibilities and roles detailed by the forms of agreement most widely used in construction projects. It’s important and necessary for everyone—owners, architects, engineers, specifiers, general contractors, subcontractors, construction materials suppliers, and others—to understand project delivery options, standard forms of agreement, means for organizing drawings and specifications, etc. 

Knowledgeable employers highly value those who understand the language of construction, its underlying principles and terminology, and the critical relationships between all the participants in any design and construction undertaking. Employees who thoroughly understand this language not only survive but are more likely to thrive. They are the winners in today’s challenging and constantly changing environment. 

So, if you haven’t already done so, sign up now for either the Construction Documents or the Construction Contract Administration series of classes, both of which start in January. The early bird rates for the registration fees may no longer be available but the classes are truly a bargain at any price.

Construction Contract Documents (CDT) Classes:

Construction Contract Administration (CCA) Classes: https://app.box.com/s/xf9sa4zrzgopmses7xgev3qeunx4uwkj

If you have any questions, please call me at 541-342-8077 or send me an email at rnishimura@robertsonsherwood.com.  

(1) The CDT will be offered at testing sites in the United States and Canada for Spring 2019.

CCCA, CCS, and CCPR will take a hiatus to undergo critical program research and exam review.  Plan now to sit for the Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA), Certified Construction Specifier (CCS) and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR) with revised exams during the Fall 2019 testing cycle. For more info and testing dates, see https://www.csiresources.org/certification/csi-certification.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Beautiful Sound

The Cascade Chorus

A December tradition for me and my wife is to attend the Cascade Chorus’ annual Holiday Concert. The Cascade Chorus is a performing group based in Eugene specializing in the a cappella barbershop sound. We never fail to enjoy the concert as it reliably transports us on a nostalgic trip back to the simpler times of our youth, providing a soul-satisfying dose of seasonal cheer and reverence as each choral group offers their take on a variety of old holiday standards. 

A definite highlight of the 2+ hour concert was a performance by the Oregon Young Men’s Ensemble. The group is comprised of talented high-schoolers who clearly love and appreciate the rich history of choral music. Their renditions of a traditional Hebraic chant and Ave Maria (in Latin) were inspiringly beautiful and otherworldly, so much so that my wife was moved to tears. No doubt, the sympathetic acoustic properties of space in which the concert occurred contributed immeasurably toward its unqualified success. Unquestionably, the architecture mattered to the performances. 

This year’s edition of the Holiday Concert took place at the Eugene Church of Christ, within the church’s roomy sanctuary. I am not a member of the congregation, so I wasn’t previously familiar with the facility. Charitably speaking, the sanctuary is nondescript, not unlike several others I have been in of similar vintage (my guess is the building dates from the 1960s or 70s). These spaces often feature rectangular plans, with a simple, gabled volume oriented lengthwise, framed by glued-laminated arches. The interior surfaces of the sanctuary at the Eugene Church of Christ are mostly reflective: painted gypsum board or plaster, brick, or wood. What surprised me was how, despite the relative absence of acoustically absorbent materials (other than the members of the audience and the upholstered chairs they sat on), the choral performances were clear and warm, with just the right balance of direct and reflected sound. The venue proved ideal for both the ethereal voices of the Oregon Young Men’s Ensemble and the barbershop stylings of the Cascade Chorus and the other groups. 

The behavior of sound in architectural spaces should be predictable, and yet some of the most extravagant performance venues in recent memory have been notorious for their poor acoustical performance, among them the opera hall at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall. With the enlistment of the best experts and the lavish expenditure of capital construction funds, how does this happen? Contrast the performance of those venues with as humble a facility as the sanctuary of the Eugene Church of Christ and you’re left to ask whether the field of architectural acoustics may be more akin to alchemy than science. 

Perhaps there is no categorical means to declare one space as truly superior to another when it comes to what performers and audience members consider to be the best acoustics. Simply put, people are not all the same. Human preferences differ. That said, it may be no coincidence that many of the concert halls considered to be the best in the world are of the “shoebox” configuration that is shared by the Eugene Church of Christ sanctuary. There’s something about their basic shape and proportions that must be consistent with the pleasant rendering of instruments’ sounds and voices and how we hear them. 

What I don’t understand is why many consider loud noise and excessive reverberance somehow desirable for some interiors, particularly popular restaurants and public houses. The aural assault these spaces unleash on my ears is often unbearable. Speech is frequently unintelligible, so I often feign listening during conversations. Open kitchens are the worst, with all their clanging and banging of pots and utensils. Why did this ever become a thing? Give me quiet serenity over a raucous din any day. 

As an architect, particularly one who has been in the profession for so many years and who has worked on a variety of project types, I should possess a more solid grasp of the fundamental principles of architectural acoustics. The truth is I don’t. In practice, my office relies upon the services of architectural acoustics consultants (such as Creative Acoustics Northwest, Inc.) to ensure our designs perform as intended. The field of architectural acoustics is well established, but for every nine parts of it that are grounded in science, it’s clear one significant part derives from inspired artistry. It is in the application of this artistry that the best consultants earn their keep. 

A cappella singing may not be your cup of tea, but if it is, I highly recommend you attend an event featuring the Cascade Chorus or the Oregon Young Men’s Ensemble. They truly make music for your ears.