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

1 comment:

JoLee said...

The restaurant is wonderful. Looking forward to experiencing 7 stones.
Am blown away by the architecture & decor. What an outstanding job... Congratulations to ALL involved. I just want to sit there till I fall out of the chair.