Saturday, April 11, 2015

Young Professionals Day at CONSTRUCT 2015

Cherise Schacter—CSI Portland President, Institute Certification Prep Committee Chair, and queen of the CSI Kraken—recently announced some exciting news: this year’s CONSTRUCT will include CSI’s first ever Young Professionals Day. Cherise will be leading the entire day and evening of events for this special event.
The Construction Specifications Institute hosts its annual convention each year at the CONSTRUCT Show. The 2015 edition takes place this coming September 30 through October 3 in St. Louis. CONSTRUCT will be the place to be for everyone and anyone involved with construction information. Those who attend will meet face-to-face with fellow industry professionals in a world that is increasingly virtual. They’ll find ample opportunities to look their fellow construction professionals in the eye, shake hands, trade business cards, learn from each other, and advance their careers. 
The first day of CONSTRUCT, September 30, is earmarked as Young Professionals Day. It promises to be an awesome way for students and young professionals to get hands-on mentoring from seasoned professionals and exposure to the things they should know to move their careers forward. CSI created the event specifically for students and young professionals beginning their career journeys. It will be especially beneficial to those attending CONSTRUCT for the first time. A full day has been planned to provide a positive, unique experience. 
For the extremely discounted rate of $70 (CSI members) or $75 (nonmembers), students and young professionals can attend all of CONSTRUCT. This incredible price includes: 
  • Wednesday, September 30: All activities on the YP Day agenda, including the evening’s Welcome Reception and Young Professionals Mixer 
  • Thursday, October 1 through Saturday, October. 3: The full array of education sessions(1), keynote addresses, entrance into the exhibit hall, game changer session, young professional scavenger hunt, and admittance to CSI Night Out.
Benefits of the special Young Professionals package include:
  • The best value available 
  • Connections with peers 
  • Connections with others who possess a wealth of experience to impart 
  • Participation in a technical tour created for students/young professionals only 
  • A Pecha Kucha boxed-lunch event 
  • An exclusive young professional/student exhibit hall scavenger hunt on Thursday, October 1 with a top prize of $200 cash.
All education sessions, including free exhibit hall education, provide AIA/CES learning units (HSW when applicable.) GBCI CE is provided for select presentations. 
Note: There are other ticketed events available at additional cost. Please see the CONSTRUCT website for the complete list of events during the show. 
Where else can you receive an educational experience geared specifically towards your career needs, for up to 4 days, for as little as $70? If you’re a young professional looking to grow professionally, CSI has designed Young Professionals Day for you. You deserve to be in St. Louis on September 30! 
CSI will open registration for CONSTRUCT in Mid-May. Be sure to register by September 4 to take advantage of this great offer. 
How to enroll: 
  • Click the Register Now button 
  • Choose the Young Professional/Student Full Package
Sorry, youngsters only: Eligibility is limited to those no more than 35 years old (Drat, I’m not young enough! Being an old guy sucks!). 

(1) See education sessions offered on Open the Schedule at a Glance.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

John Reynolds Sustainability Symposium

John Reynolds, FAIA is well-known to readers of SW Oregon Architect as a pioneer in the teaching of sustainable design principles. He has taught design and environmental control systems at the University of Oregon since 1967, where today he holds the position of Professor Emeritus. Elected to the Eugene Water and Electric Board in 1972, his energy policy interests continue today as an Energy Trust of Oregon Board member. John’s many honors include ACSA Distinguished Professor, elevation to Fellowship in both the AIA and American Solar Energy Society, and the James Haecker Award for Distinguished Leadership in Architectural Research. He is co-author of the 6th through 11th editions of Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (John Wiley & Sons) and Courtyards: Aesthetic, Social, and Thermal Delight
John is pleased to invite everyone interested in sustainable design to attend the inaugural John Reynolds Sustainability Symposium. This special event will bring internationally renowned practitioners, researchers, and thought-leaders to the University of Oregon this May for lectures, panel discussions, networking, and sharing. The symposium will attract, inform, and inspire professionals, faculty members, students, alumni, and friends as they interact with individuals on the leading edge of sustainable design, policy, teaching, and research. 
The full-day symposium—to take place on Sunday, May 17 at the Ford Alumni Center—will honor John’s decades of contributions to sustainable design and energy policy. Speakers will include Denis Hayes, Jason McLennan, Ed Mazria, Mick Pearce, Margie Harris, Jean Carroon, as well as John himself. I expect the program to be nothing less than an inspirational call to arms for those passionate about designing for resilience in the face of a rapidly changing climate. 
A Speakers’ Dinner will precede the symposium on Saturday evening, May 16. The dinner will feature talks by John and the other presenters, faculty members, event sponsors, and members of the University or Oregon leadership. 
Proceeds from the symposium will be directed to the John S. Reynolds Architecture Symposium Fund established at the University of Oregon Foundation. The fund will support future symposia that focus on issues, problems, advances, technologies, practices, and other topics that pertain to sustainability in architecture teaching, research, practice, policy, and community activity. 
The Department of Architecture and the School of Architecture and Allied Arts is producing the event with the generous support of sponsors and contributors including: 
  • Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB)
  • International Living Future Institute (ILFI)
  • The Van Evera and Janet M. Bailey Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation
  • Energy Trust of Oregon
  • Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
  • Opsis Architecture
  • Phyllis R. Naylor
Visit the John Reynolds Sustainability Symposium webpage for the full schedule of events and additional information

Intrigued? If so, attend the symposium and help make the day a special tribute to John and for the lasting benefit of the Department of Architecture. 

John Reynolds Sustainability Symposium 

Speakers’ Dinner: Saturday, May 16, 2015
Symposium: Sunday, May 17, 2015 

Speakers’ Dinner: Global Scholars Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene
Symposium: Ford Alumni Center, University of Oregon, Eugene 

Speakers’ Dinner: $100; Symposium: $150 (includes breakfast, luncheon, and reception)

Tickets can be purchased online or by phone order at 541-346-4363

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Architecture is Awesome #8: Transitions

A transition space: Entry porch, Ajanta Caves, India

This is another in my series of posts inspired by 1000 Awesome Things, the Webby Award winning blog written by Neil Pasricha. The series is my meditation on the awesome reasons why I was and continue to be attracted to the art of architecture. 
Life, and the act of being in this world(1), is nothing if not about transitions. In life, we are born, grow up, go to school, graduate, embark upon a career, get married, raise a family, retire, and live out our years. Transitions can be welcome turning points, mileposts, or markers along our life’s path. Sadly, they can also be unpleasant events (health crises, divorce, losing a job or loved one), which provoke acute anxiety and stress. Every transition focuses our attention upon the moment at hand and the possibilities, potential, and opportunities it presents. Each one heightens our awareness of who and where we are in time and space. 
Transitions in architecture—like those in life—can be momentous and ripe with possibilities. Poorly conceived, they can induce apprehension, uncertainty, or withdrawal. Orchestrating how people move through, occupy, and appreciate spaces that connect, separate, and differentiate is something architects do. Mastering the design of transitional spaces is a key to developing vivid and life-affirming architecture. 
Spatial transitions occur everywhere. Entries, thresholds, paths, courtyards, edges, thick walls, and stairs are all examples of architectural transitions. Old-fashioned porches, which provide a comfortable way for people to be both private and sociable at once, are another. People pass through transitions, meander along their sides, or linger within them. They are both places to be and experiences in time. 
Transitions can also be implied (rather than literal), and marked by the absence of structure or exactness. For example, the Japanese concept of Ma (), loosely translated as “interval,” regards transitions as the meaningful and ambiguous gaps between spatial or temporal things rather than those things themselves. 
Transitions frequently occupy spaces that are otherwise residual, leftover, or in-between. They buffer, join, or separate. They define and clarify. Transitions can consist of layers, creating a here, there, and beyond. They often correspond to opposite conditions (inside vs. outside, above vs. below, public vs. private). Their symbolic and aesthetic value is immense; their potential to convey meaning unlimited. 
We can design transitional spaces to be more significant by incorporating opportunities for vicarious experience through detached participation. We can do this by allowing users to preview, slowly reveal themselves, and gradually commit to participation if they choose. We can enhance transitional spaces by making connections to surrounding phenomena so that users do not feel isolated or out of touch. 
All transitions are richer when designers take the time to consider them well. Our duty as architects is to ensure that we do so. Fundamentally, transitions are about possibilities, choices, and turning points. We celebrate life’s milestones through ceremony and ritual. Let’s also celebrate the AWESOME potential of architectural transitions by always making the most of them. 

Next Architecture is Awesome: #9: Windows   

(1)   Precisely in the Heideggerian sense.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Comprehensive Theory Base for Architecture

Portland Japanese Garden (my photo)
I’ve remarked before about how timeless so many of the essays on architecture written by Bill Kleinsasser are. The following piece, which Bill wrote in 1968, is no exception. In it, he looks to systems theory as an approach to design and problem-solving. Design is nothing if not an exercise in organizing complexity. Bill recognized this decades before the application of systems and complexity theory to architecture became fashionable in some circles. 
At this juncture in my professional life, I’ve accumulated enough experience and wisdom to increasingly appreciate the breadth and comprehensiveness of the theory base for architecture Bill taught generations of students. It continues to be my honor to share his words with readers of SW Oregon Architect. 
A Definition of Design
Design can be defined as the process used to search for the order of systems. In the design of buildings and places for people, the systems are those environmental elements and frameworks which the designer and others have determined to be necessary and appropriate for the situation. They should not only support use but also evoke human response and involvement. They should provide multiple meaning. 
First, some thoughts about systems: A system is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole, i.e. a particular unit formed by the special relationships among a group of items or subsystems. If one item is removed or changed, or a new item introduced, the whole is changed. Each item within a system is affected by all the other items; conversely, every new or changed item affects the entire system. And since systems are always parts of larger systems, the structure of any system is affected by the larger system of which it is a part. Therefore, no system can be correctly analyzed or designed without consideration of the larger systems of which it is a part, as well as and at the same time the sub-systems of which it is made up. 
The systems that concern us as architects are those which accommodate the needs of people and embody the ways in which people relate to and depend upon their surroundings. 
Many human characteristics and conditions are related to this. People have predictable size and shape, sensitivity and responsiveness, biological structure, patterns of movement and activity, need for engagement or involvement, need for diversity of experience and self-identity, and the ability to change with changed position and accumulated experience. When people with all of these characteristics and conditions come together with that which exists and that which tends to exist (whether man-made or natural, place or institution), there is an implicit order-pattern which suggests that buildings and places for people should be made in ways that respect this order-pattern, rather than in ways that are casual or arbitrary (no matter how innovative). In this sense, buildings and places for people can be thought of as being generated by forces. 
It is possible to note several things about these forces:  

  • They are both operational (having to do with actions, equipment, and quantities) and experiential (having to do with perception and comprehension)
  • They affect both the inside of what we make and the outside, since both comprise our environment
  • They are based upon specific conditions (differences among people, actions, and needs) and upon general conditions (things people share)
  • They are based both upon things that change and upon things that do not change
  • Sometimes they seem to be inevitable and forced upon us
  • Frequently, they are anything but inevitable and require much hypothesizing, testing, adjusting, and retesting
  • They act simultaneously and with changing strength
  • Being complex and never obvious, they us constantly to judge (an act which can be either informed or naïve)

Given that design is a matter of using our judgment to resolve a myriad of complex forces, we should use both intuitive judgment and intellectual judgment, i.e. we should feel and think. 

Given that we try to resolve forces that are interacting simultaneously, we should avoid linear or additive decision-making processes and strive instead to study complex, multileveled interactions. 

Given that the more we know about systems the more complex they become, we should use processes that cause our comprehensions to grow as the projects grow. 

Given that in the course of design we must rehearse and judge reality through media, we should understand the capabilities and limitations of those media so that we will not be victimized by them or unable to read them. 

Given that the significance of what we do is linked inescapably to human desires and needs, we should have precise understanding of those desires and needs. We need to know how to add to the experience of living, increase man’s psychological stature, heighten the action of ordinary life, and make built homecoming. We need to know the ranges of choices that are necessary in a place, or the right degree of freedom to choose, or the structure that will successfully establish the choices. To gain these understandings, we might have to seek aid from other areas of study, might we not? 



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Craftsmanship Awards Summer 2015

File:Landauer I 038 v.jpg
Medieval Stonemason
Did you know that the Craftsmanship Awards were the first initiative of our chapter when it was chartered in 1952?  
Chapter volunteers are needed to help with the planning, jurying, and implementation of this year’s AIA-SWO Craftsmanship Awards Program. On hiatus since last held in 2011, this important chapter program recognizes the individual craftsmen and craftswomen that turn our design inspirations into reality. 
If you would like to help make this program a success please contact Bill Seider as soon as possible to join the planning committee. This is a great opportunity for both emerging and seasoned professionals in our Chapter to get involved.
The Craftsmanship Awards Program is scheduled for this June and as in the past, will showcase achievements that exemplify excellence in the construction industry. 
Start thinking about nominations--professionals in the construction industry, from the cost estimator, to the fine cabinet maker, to the job site superintendent worthy of this recognition--especially if they have consistently taken that extra step to ensure a finely crafted building. In order to make this year’s program a success we need all of the AIA-SWO members to consider making nominations for this award. We encourage each of you to think back on your successful projects. Who were the members on the construction team that demonstrated exceptional craftsmanship and should be recognized for their fine work? By our recognition we encourage others to do the same. Look for nomination information to be available in April. Contact Bill Seider with any questions or comments.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day

Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton, by Étienne-Louis Boullée
Today—March 14—is Pi Day, and an extra special one to boot. Waxing lyrically in the Register-Guard, reporter Mark Baker encouraged readers to make the most of the celebration of circles because today’s Pi Day is extra special.

Why? Mark explained how taking pi out to nine decimal places and converting it to a date and time, you come up with March 14, 2015 at 9:26 and 53 seconds. 3.141592653. The next one like it won’t happen again for 100 years. Of course, as an irrational number, pi does not possess a finite decimal representation, (1) so Pi Day is really just a celebration of the constant’s first few significant digits. Heck, some math geeks even celebrate Pi Approximation Day (July 22, since the fraction 22/7 is a common approximation of pi). No matter, Pi Day is a day to celebrate the transcendent, fantastic, and infinitely perfect: the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, true no matter what size the circle is. 
Temple of Heaven, Beijing
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
As geometric motifs, circles or spheres have long fascinated architects. The circle is a universal symbol, alternately suggesting wholeness, timelessness, the infinite, the sun, and the cycle of life. It has no beginning or end. At the same time, the circle is a symbol of completion, boundary, and enclosure. Its antithesis is the square, which signifies materiality and the earthbound. 
Pantheon, Rome
 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Humans have employed the powerful symbolism of the circle to great effect for millennia. The builders of circular or spherical buildings chose their shape to emphasize their importance or meaning. This was true whether the structure was modest in size and intent (as with a small home) or an immense and imposing edifice (as exemplified by some of history’s grandest structures). 
Donato Bramante’s Tempietto, Rome
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Because of their complete symmetry, round buildings form powerful centers, coercing other buildings and even the landscape to genuflect toward them. Like the sun, they possess substantial gravity, warping the fabric of spacetime. Circular buildings are special because they represent heavenly perfection. Indeed, architects have consciously used the geometry to connote the cosmos. 
Yurt, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park (my photo)
Being a geeky architect, I’m marking Pi Day by celebrating the round, the globular, the spherical, and the rotund buildings we admire. I’ve gathered here pictures of just a few. They’re all special because their designers made them so. 
Pi Day is also a good excuse to celebrate with something else circular, perhaps a certain fruit-filled round pastry, warm from the oven. Yum. 

(1)  According to Wikipedia, supercomputers have extended the decimal representation of pi to over 13.3 trillion digits.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Case Study - Part 7: Denouement

Courtyard view of House B, The Lodge (all photos by Leif Photography Studio)
This is the seventh and final post of a series dedicated to a case study of a single project—the VA Roseburg Healthcare System Community Living Center (CLC) Expansion— designed by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects. Click on “A Case Study” in the Labels list at right for the full series. 
I initiated the Case Study series in January of 2012 but the story actually dates back an additional two years to early 2010 when the VA selected Robertson/ Sherwood/Architects to design a new home for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at the VA Roseburg (Oregon) Medical Center
Nobody expected the project would take more than five full years to reach completion. After all, it was not particularly large or complex; a challenge, yes, but one everyone fully expected to successfully complete within a couple of years. As I’ve recounted in previous posts, numerous twists and turns in the story are to blame for its protracted genesis. Regardless, the strands of the plot never unraveled and today the Community Living Center Expansion project at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Roseburg, OR is welcoming its first residents.  

Living Room, Unit A
As I wrote in Part 2 of this series, our design marked a paradigm shift away from achieving machine-like efficiency and maximum staff convenience toward a patient-centric care model. We’re hopeful the experienced staff will embrace this cultural transformation and function effectively within their new environment. Some may initially resist the change, but with time we expect all will appreciate the value of providing those in their care with as dignified, de-institutionalized, and life-enhancing a home as possible.
I’ve no doubt the patients will take to their new quarters well. Despite their diminished abilities, they can still find pleasure and experience satisfaction. The effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease do not remove the ability to appreciate, respond to, and experience feelings such as anger, fear, joy, love, or sadness. Those afflicted are individuals who deserve to be treated with respect, integrity, compassion, and concern for their privacy and safety. We designed the CLC Expansion with these considerations in mind. 
Typical patient bedroom & bathroom
To enhance their quality of life, people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment require appropriate social and physical support. This remains true as their disease progresses. The latest research regarding Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias highlights the importance of good design as a treatment factor. Good architecture has the power to provide a highly supportive environment, one that is life-enhancing as well as functionally adaptive.  
Kitchen, Unit B
We definitely wanted to help preserve the quality of life for each resident as long as possible. Our design provides a range of opportunities for the occupants, both inside and out. These are appropriate, stimulating, and experientially supportive places full of diversity and choice. They provide options for imprinting and personalization. At the same time, we focused on creating calm, coherent spaces conducive to the patients’ limited cognitive maps. If research on the topic is any indication, we expect our design will also improve their lives when measured in terms of fewer injuries, less medication required, less sleep disturbances, and reduced wandering.
Dining Room, Unit A
Home is a place of dignity and respect, and the setting most favorable to preserving the patients’ sense of self as their disease inevitably worsens. This is especially important for those who may live out their remaining days in the facility. The comfort, happiness, and dignity of the residents are especially important to their families, who may harbor feelings of guilt for no longer being able to care for their loved ones in their own homes.  
View from the southeast

Along with my colleagues Jim Robertson, FAIA, FCSI, and Jenni Rogers, Assoc. AIA, I attended the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony this past February 3rd. It was tremendously gratifying to overhear many positive remarks, particularly from the family members. We’re honored to have helped the VA create a home for those who served their country and now require compassionate care in return. Our duty as architects was to provide these men (and a growing number of female veterans in the future) with as supportive, respectful, non-institutional, and rich a setting as possible in which to live their remaining days. Seeing the finished product, I believe we hit the mark.

That being said, none of us will be able to declare the CLC Expansion (christened “The Lodge” by the VA) a success until at least one and perhaps several more years have passed. It will take time before everyone with a stake in the project can fairly assess its true merit. There are many chapters left to be written in this story, and it will be the caregivers and patients who work and live in “The Lodge” who will write them. As it should be for everybody who cares about a good book, we won’t close the cover on this one quite yet.