Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Heart of the Valley

AIA-SWO Executive Director Don Kahle and I drove north on Monday for a lunch meeting with about a dozen of our professional colleagues whose offices are in Corvallis. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss ways in which AIA-SWO could better fulfill the objectives of the Institute on their behalf. The discussion was very productive and an important step towards ensuring that the unique interests and concerns of Corvallis architects are regularly brought to the attention of the AIA-SWO board.

The following were some of the concerns expressed by the Corvallis group:
  • The chapter is too Eugene-centric.

  • The distance to Eugene makes it inconvenient to attend regular chapter meetings.

  • Carpooling to Eugene would be great, but organizing the carpool takes time and effort. AIA-SWO could help by setting up a Google Mail group that would provide Corvallis members with a way to conveniently indicate their interest in carpooling to Eugene for a chapter meeting.

  • The City of Corvallis’ new land use code requirements may be overly prescriptive, limiting architectural inventiveness. Can AIA-SWO take a position, lending its weight and authority to the subject?

  • There is a need to motivate greater engagement by Corvallis architects in AIA-SWO activities.

The following is a list of possible activities that the group felt would be of benefit to them:

  • Formally organize the Corvallis AIA members as a section of the chapter. The AIA-SWO bylaws state that the chapter may establish a section with the approval of the Institute Secretary. Members in a geographic area within the chapter territory may petition the Board to form a section.

  • Produce “webinars” that would allow members outside the Eugene/Springfield area to participate in AIA-SWO seminars in real time without having to drive an hour south down I-5 or Highway 99 and back.

  • Organize tours of local projects (Linn, Benton counties) under construction, similar to the intern tours provided in Eugene/Springfield.

The following were suggested ways to raise the profile/stature of Corvallis architects:

  • Organize a design competition that is focused on an issue or project specific to Corvallis.

  • Organize a design charette for the City of Corvallis that the City would sponsor and support financially. The Eugene experience is that a charette is most effective if the final product doesn’t simply end up sitting on a shelf gathering dust. SWO-AIA’s Franklin Corridor AIA150 project has been recognized by AIA National as a case study in creative community planning. It attracted significant community interest and local media attention. Some of the benefits after several charettes are that the City of Eugene now welcomes and seeks the energy and talent of AIA-SWO members in organizing and facilitating these events, offering generous financial support. The biggest benefit may be the increasing public perception that architects are the “voice of collaboration” in the community.

  • Host an AIA-SWO booth at da Vinci Days (July 18-20), which, as the “crossroads of art, science, and technology,” would be an ideal venue to promote what it is that architects do. Sustainable design could be the theme. It would be great to feature technology such as the prototype for the Helix Urban Turbine produced by Oregon Wind Corporation, talk about energy conservation and other green building strategies, all while educating the community about what it is that architects do. Don Kahle has an established relationship with da Vinci Days and will check into whether or not it may be too late to sign up for this year’s festival.

  • Establish an “Architects in Schools” program with the Corvallis School District.

  • Enlist Corvallis architects in the planning and organization of the 2010 Northwest & Pacific Region Conference.

  • Identify “wild ideas” that would catch the local media’s attention while promoting and advancing an appreciation for the importance of architectural design services.

  • Provide a display of the People’s Choice Awards entries at the Corvallis Public Library, where the best work of AIA-SWO member firms can be enjoyed by the public. People’s Choice entries from outside of the Eugene/Springfield area have always been welcome. The program has always been intended to showcase all AIA-SWO members’ work, regardless of location. The projects do not have to be only those that can be visited in person by the public.

  • Encourage Corvallis architects to submit entries to the 2009 AIA-SWO Design Awards program. This is a juried design program. It’s my understanding that only those projects that are selected for honors at the chapter level are eligible for the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Awards program.

  • Help organize an Oregon entrant for the Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C. involving a combined University of Oregon and Oregon State University team. The teams for the 2009 Solar Decathlon have already been selected, so the next opportunity would occur in 2011.

CH2M Hill hosted our get-together and provided a delicious Chinese buffet meal for our lunch. Special thanks to Michael Schweizer, AIA of CH2M Hill for organizing the meeting and inviting Don and me.

Our annual AIA-SWO chapter meeting in Corvallis is coming up in August. Plans for the meeting topic and venue have yet to be finalized, but I’m certain that the program will be highly interesting and educational. I strongly encourage all of our Eugene/Springfield members to make the drive north on August 20th to enjoy the fellowship of our Corvallis brothers and sisters. We have much to share and learn from each other.

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