Monday, August 25, 2008

19th Annual AIA-SWO People’s Choice Awards

Each year, the AIA/SWO sponsors the People’s Choice Awards, showcasing the design work of our membership. This program spotlights design excellence and demonstrates to the public what the architecture profession provides to enhance the built environment. The public is asked to vote for their favorite designs in several categories during the Eugene Celebration, occurring September 12 - September 14, 2008. The votes will be counted and winners announced at the September Chapter Meeting. The winners will also be announced in the AIA/SWO Register-Guard Insert to be published later in September.

Participation Benefits:
  • The public is provided with the opportunity to view your firm’s individual projects.

  • The picture and written description of the individual category winners are published in the AIA/SWO Register Guard Insert. A full-color version of the Register Guard Insert will also be posted on the Register Guard website for three additional months (through 12/31/08).
  • Boards will be displayed at Oveissi & Co. during the Eugene Celebration and at the Midtown Arts Center the week following. AIA/SWO is also pursuing other opportunities to display the boards throughout the month of September at different locations in Eugene. In addition, the exhibit will move to the Corvallis Public Library in November.

  • The picture and written description of all the winners will be posted on the AIA/SWO website.

  • The winners will be celebrated at the September AIA/SWO Chapter meeting and dinner.


  • For architecture and interiors, the entrant must be an architect, associate, or allied member of AIA/SWO. Landscape architecture projects may be submitted by AIA/SWO and ASLA members.

  • The entrant must have primary design responsibility.

  • Projects must be completed within the last (2) years.

  • Projects may be located anywhere in the world.

  • Projects cannot have been submitted any previous year.

Submission Requirements:

  • Each project submitted requires a separate entry form.

  • Intent to Enter forms are due September 6, 2008.

  • Entry fee for firms with 5 or fewer employees: $75 per submission (1), payable to AIA-Southwestern Oregon.

  • Entry fee for firms with more than 5 employees: $135 per submission (1), payable to AIA-Southwestern Oregon.

  • One rigid display board for each project entered. The board may not exceed 30”x 40” and must be capable of being stable and supported by easels provided by AIA/SWO.

  • Each submission must recognize all participants involved in the design process.
  • In addition to the project boards, entrants must provide a compact disk containing one digital photograph (JPEG or PDF) and a brief written description of the project (Microsoft Word or PDF). CDs will be accepted at the time of presentation board delivery.

Bring your submission(s) to the venue at Oveissi & Co, located at 1 East Broadway, by 2 pm on Friday, September 12.

Award categories:
  • Single-Family Residential

  • Multi-family Housing

  • Commercial Public/Institutional

  • Interiors

  • Residential Landscape

  • Multi-family Landscape

  • Commercial/Public/Institutional Landscape

Actual categories will be determined by the number of entries.

The Intent to Enter Form is available for downloading at the AIA/SWO web site.

If you have any questions regarding this year’s People’s Choice Award entry process, contact:

Shawn Jenkins
PIVOT Architecture
72 West Broadway
Eugene, Oregon 97401
541-342-1535 Fax

(1) If you purchased space in the AIASWO Register Guard Insert the entrance fee or a portion of the fee will be waived depending upon the amount of space purchased.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Our annual venture north to Corvallis for the August AIA-SWO chapter meeting was a real treat as we toured the recently completed Elements Building, designed by local firm Modern Organic Architecture (MOA) and built by T.Gerding Construction. Located in downtown Corvallis at 517 SW 2nd Street, the luxurious Elements Building comprises 27,500 square feet on six floors. The building’s first three floors are dedicated to 7Stones, a destination spa. The fourth floor features office space, and floors five and six house the Strega restaurant and bar. The project is in the process of becoming certified as one of the first buildings in the mid-Willamette valley to earn a LEED Silver rating.

The development is somewhat notorious for its extravagance: with a price tag of $20 million ($727/s.f.), opulence is expected and it is delivered in spades. The Elements Building might not raise eyebrows in New York City, but it certainly does in humble Corvallis, Oregon. The building’s owner, Deanna Carr, had the financial wherewithal to realize the project, and its popularity since its opening in April of this year is a testament to her faith in downtown Corvallis’s potential and the market that Strega and 7Stones caters to. It’s refreshing to see a project that allowed both the client and architects to indulge their dreams and lavish time and resources towards the shared goal of realizing the best possible facilities of their type.

AIA-SWO @ Strega Restaurant, 8-20-08

The AIA-SWO members in attendance began the evening with dinner at Strega on the fifth floor. In contrast to our regular chapter meetings, dinner was selected a la carte from the varied menu. The restaurant emphasizes the use of local, organic ingredients, served tapas style and artfully presented in a smart setting. The restaurant’s aesthetic, which contributes greatly to the dining experience, is modern, rich, refined, and fashionable without being faddish. It should wear well with time. Some of the more noteworthy design touches include the custom furnishings (designed by MOA), the creative use of LED and fiber optics lighting elements, and the carefully selected and arranged madrone tree branches that adorn the ceilings. Significant amenities for both the restaurant and the bar on the sixth floor are the retracting window walls and west-facing outdoor terraces, which provide unobstructed views of Corvallis, the Willamette valley, and Mary’s Peak – an impressive panorama to be enjoyed by Strega’s patrons.

Stair & water feature, Strega Restaurant

Following dinner, Bill Ryals of MOA and Kristen Anderson of Emerald Forest Architecture (Kristen worked with MOA on the project) led our tour of the 7Stones spa. 7Stones is a multi-room “holistic healing center,” complete with sweeping walls of recycled glass tile, reclaimed wood ceilings, artful water features on every floor, and adjustable LED lighting to set the mood for treatments. Services include massage, acupuncture, facials, hair care, and hand and foot therapies. A strong theme of earth-friendliness pervades the spa. The best adjective to describe 7Stones is “tranquil.”

7Stones Spa

Bill Ryals commented upon the challenges posed when cost is not an issue. For owner Deanna Carr the expectation was perfection: everything down to the smallest of details of design and execution had to be perfect. For example, MOA prepared multiple, full-sized mockups for the custom-designed furniture in an effort to ensure that everything worked out just right. Likewise, T.Gerding Construction and its subcontractors executed the project on a cost-plus basis, which left little room for excuses if anything failed to meet the agreed-to expectations. Consequently, the craftsmanship is excellent, and all of the trades involved deserve praise for the demonstrated care and attention to detail.

Jonathan Stafford makes a point in the 7Stones Herbal Medicinary

Another challenge faced by MOA was fitting the desired functional program on the limited downtown site. Height limitations necessitated a tight and efficient arrangement of spaces, as well as a city-approved encroachment of the fifth-floor terrace into the public right-of-way. Despite the overhanging terrace and the structure’s six-story height, the Elements Building does not overwhelm its neighbors or the streetscape. Its scale (and that of the Renaissance Riverfront condominium building immediately to its east) seems appropriate and responsive to the immediate context. The Elements Building will no doubt prompt further upscale development in downtown Corvallis, which already boasts a more robust retail environment and active streetscape than downtown Eugene. Such additional development will increase density and contribute to the varied mix of uses found there, including housing, retail space, offices, and government services, ensuring the continued vitality and success of the downtown.

Bill Ryals, Modern Organic Architecture

The Elements Building has set a very high bar for mixed-use downtown development in Corvallis. Regardless of the budget that we may have to work with, Eugene developers and architects can look to the success of the Elements Building and apply lessons that may be learned from it to the design of our own mixed-use, downtown projects.

Postscript: The Corvallis Gazette-Times reported on January 20, 2009 that 7Stones, the opulent day spa in the Elements Building downtown has closed. In some respects, this news is not a surprise given the current state of the economy and the fact that the LEED Silver-rated Elements Building was three years and $16 million over budget. Strega, the restaurant atop the building, remains open. Ironically, 7Stones was nominated as Business of the Year for the 2009 Celebrate Corvallis awards.

-RMN 1-24-09

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The 2008 Craftsmanship Awards

The Southwestern Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-SWO) is seeking nominations for its biennial Craftsmanship Awards program. The goal of the program is to bring public recognition to those individuals in the construction industry that, because of superior craftsmanship and effort, deserve such an honor.

Anyone (not just AIA-SWO members) can nominate a worthy tradesperson for work of any scale or type related to the creation, execution and craftsmanship of outstanding construction details - ones that stand alone or that reinforce an overall building concept in an exceptional way. A panel of architects that are members of the AIA-SWO will provide the judging.

Nomination is easy and there is no nomination fee associated. Simply download the nomination form at the AIA-SWO web site, fill it in, and then fax it to (541) 485-2478, or mail or drop the form off at:

AIA-Southwestern Oregon
Mid-Town Arts Center
1590 Willamette Street, Suite 210
Eugene, Oregon 97401

The deadline to receive nominations is Wednesday, September 10, 2008. Winners will be honored at the AIA-SWO Awards Banquet on Wednesday eve, September 17.

Questions? Phone: (541) 485-2278 / Fax: (541) 485-2478 /

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How Buildings Learn

I just finished reading Stewart Brand’s book How Buildings Learn.(1) I’d been familiar with the book for some time – it was first published in 1994 – but only now got around to reading it. As an architect, I found the book enjoyable and chock full of common-sense insights about how buildings can be adapted to meet changing needs when they are constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants. Brand argues that architects typically design solely for the building’s original intentions and are consequently disappointed when it assumes a life of its own. The fact is architects should accept the inevitability of change and refinement, and design in such a way that buildings can be gracefully adapted to different purposes. Brand believes that architects must mature from being artists of space to become “artists of time.”

Stewart Brand is best known as the creator of The Whole Earth Catalog but ultimately may be most influential for cofounding the Long Now Foundation, which is dedicated to encouraging long-term thinking. Along these lines, How Buildings Learn explains how buildings can work with time rather than against it. Brand advocates the use of scenario planning rather than functional programming alone. The vice of programming is that it over-responds to the immediate needs of the initial users, resulting in buildings that are less adaptable to unforeseen future conditions. Programming converges on a single path – an optimal solution. Conversely, the essence of scenario planning is divergence: It is a future-oriented process of analysis and decision that relies upon the development of multiple “plot lines” based upon both reliable certainties (such as the aging of baby boomers) and crucial uncertainties (such as the possible advent of emergent machine intelligence).

I was first introduced to the use of scenario planning as a tool for use by architects during my 1980s graduate work at UCLA; it would become a focus of my studies there under the rubric of “imaging the future.” Some of the scenario planning concepts and methods presented to me include:

  • extrapolation, time-series, and trends
  • model building
  • simulations, games, and role-playing
  • scenario construction
  • contextual mapping
  • relevance trees and prescriptive futurizing
  • the dynamics of choice and decision making

I didn’t find some of the more statistical or rigid methods of forecasting very appealing because they were too technical for my liking. However, all are available in the scenario planning tool kit to help facilitate the formation of plot lines or narratives that generate images of possible futures. The notion of images is particularly useful because what architects do is largely visual. An architect often prepares elaborate renderings and models of a proposed development for viewing by the client prior to its construction. Because they are not static, scenarios are an especially powerful means to represent future possibilities. Images developed using forecasting techniques can extend and complement the traditional methods of representing a proposed building, both immediately upon its completion as well as after many years of adaption and refinement. Scenario planning is useful to architecture precisely because buildings are inherently contingent and sensitively dependent on complex environmental conditions. In addition to the three dimensions of space, buildings also occupy the fourth dimension of time.

It’s axiomatic that the work of an architect should be future-oriented. A typical building stands for many years(2): it will influence and be influenced by a physical, social, and cultural context throughout its useful life. What is not so evident is that its longevity or value is in many ways proportionate to the architect’s ability to imagine the future life of the building. The strength of How Buildings Learn is the persuasiveness of Brand’s thesis that every building is a never-finished, dynamic product. Rather than be too easily seduced by the ideal of perfection and blinded to the reality of change as a constant, we need to design buildings without arrogance. We need to design buildings that are flexible and adaptive to change over time.

(1) BBC TV produced a 6-part, three-hour television series version of How Buildings Learn in 1997. Historic note: This was one of the first completely digital television productions, shot and edited digitally.

(2) Note that the “greenest” building is one that never has to be torn down and replaced because it remains perpetually useful.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Shape of America

AFA #1: Empire State Building

AIA-SWO members may not be aware of Shape of America, which is a series of videos produced by the AIA presenting some of the 150 buildings chosen by a poll of the public to a list of America’s Favorite Architecture (AFA). The AIA prepared the AFA list as part of Institute's sesquicentennial celebration in 2007. It puzzled and irked many architects and architectural historians (1), who lamented the omission of a number of the most historically significant and meritorious buildings in favor of the “architectural equivalent of comfort food.” According to the critics, the AIA failed to foster a greater understanding of American architecture by deputizing the public with the task of selecting and ranking the buildings on the AFA list.

Despite the criticism of the AFA list and how it was arrived at, the Shape of America videos are interesting and well-produced; they’re worth a look. The following is the AIA’s press release announcing the web-based movie series:

WASHINGTON, July 17 – Like any good novel or play immortalized on film, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) takes a page out of Hollywood's playbook. The AIA announces Shape of America -- a series of web-based short movies starring some of the 150 structures chosen by the public for the America's Favorite Architecture (AFA) list created last year.

The web-based film series is designed to expand the public dialogue about architecture and how it impacts our lives, that began with the published survey results of the AFA list in February 2007. Shape of America is designed to be interactive. Visitors are encouraged to learn, discover, and share feedback and experiences online at

From The Empire State Building (AFA #1), to Fenway Park (AFA #113), each Shape of America movie highlights one structure from the AFA list and provides a retrospective look at it through fun and engaging stories edited into a stimulating video. In each episode, AIA architects share their opinions, insights and personal stories about architectural masterworks and encourage public discussion of the buildings and their opinion of the architecture.

"These exciting Shape of America videos captivate even the casual architecture fan, and highlight the impact architects have had in developing timeless structures for the public to enjoy throughout America's history," says Elizabeth Chu Richter, Chairwoman, Shape of America Committee, FAIA.

"Shape of America puts a human face to architecture and helps viewers understand how good architecture is created and the importance of design and sustainability in our communities," says Christine McEntee, AIA Executive Vice President/CEO. "We hope this series captures the shared vision, interest, and passion between AIA architects and the public regarding architecture and how these structures play a dominant role within the communities in which we live, work and play."

The Shape of America launches with seven episodes, each featuring engaging discussions about the structures that shape our communities, from guests such as former AIA president RK Stewart, FAIA, and Topaz Medallion winner Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, and others.

The first AFA structures featured in the web-based film series include the Empire State Building; Boston's Fenway Park; Washington, DC's National Air and Space Museum; and Chicago's Tribune Tower, with more episodes to be produced as an ongoing series.

The Shape of America web site features guest commentary, a forward to a friend option, public ratings of each building and a vote for the next structure to be featured.

(1) A couple of critiques of the America’s Favorite Architecture poll process and its results may be found here and here.