Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reverse Crit

Gabe Greiner of 2Form Architecture presents the A&K Development project

This past Monday, representatives from three AIA-SWO firms presented projects in progress for the 2009 Reverse Crit at Lawrence Hall on the University of Oregon campus. The event provided architecture students with the opportunity to turn the table on AIA-SWO professionals and comment on real-world projects (as opposed to the usual scenario where it is the students whose work is being reviewed and scrutinized). Organized by AIA-SWO Associate Director Mariko Blessing, Assoc. AIA, and members of the University of Oregon American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), the Reverse Crit was an unqualified success. Students not only provided the professionals with constructive feedback regarding the design of the projects, but also discussed the differences between academic design studios and professional practice.

The AIA-SWO firms that participated in the Reverse Crit and their projects were:

2Form Architecture – A & K Development Company, and The Anthony (Richard Shugar, AIA; Gabe Greiner, AIA; and Michael Soraci, Assoc. AIA)

Michael Soraci and Richard Shugar discuss The Anthony

Nir Pearlson, Architect – Imagine Graphics Expansion (Nir Pearlson, AIA; Roger Ota, Assoc. AIA; and Scott Larsen)

Nir Pearlson points to a feature of the Imagine Graphics Expansion

Rowell Brokaw Architects – The Silverton Senior Center (Kaarin Knudson, Assoc. AIA)

Kaarin Knudson explains the design of the Silverton Senior Center

These up-and-coming firms are among AIA-SWO’s best and brightest. The three offices have collected a lion’s share of recent AIA-SWO Design Awards, People’s Choice Awards, and accolades in the local press. They selected projects for presentation at the Reverse Crit that were well-suited to the occasion, all at a stage in the design process when the broadest range of design issues is actively being addressed.

Thanks to Mariko for championing the resurrection of the Reverse Crit, and to Nicholas Lopez and his colleagues at AIAS for handling the event’s logistics and inviting the student participants.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 2009 AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The February AIA-SWO chapter meeting featured a dynamic presentation by Greg Hansen, LC, IESNA, LEEDTM AP, of Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers (BHE), about the latest trends in sustainable architectural lighting. Greg and I have worked together on numerous Robertson/Sherwood/Architects projects(1) since he first became BHE’s principal lighting designer, so it was a treat to see him outside the context of our everyday professional connection. In addition to being an outstanding lighting design consultant, Greg is a first-rate educator, having taught lighting design at Lane Community College’s Energy Management Program since 1994.

Greg’s talk was entitled “Trends in Sustainable Lighting – 2009,” but could as easily been dubbed “The Six Ages of Light.” He recalled the history of artificial illumination, and its continued evolution ever since Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan independently developed the incandescent light bulb in the mid-nineteenth century. According to Greg, the six ages of light have unfolded as follows:

The First Age of Light – 1881: The Age of Necessity – Lamps are purely pragmatic; they are used to simply dispel the darkness.

The Second Age of Light – 1940: The Age of Abundance, wherein lighting design consists of determining the desired level of illumination, selecting luminaires that will produce that level, calculating the number required, and laying them out for uniformity of illumination.

The Third Age of Light – 1960’s: The Age of Refinement – Lighting solutions are driven by factors other than quantity of light. New light sources become popular, and new professionals enter the lighting design field. Between 1940 and 1965, the use of all lamp types increased over 16 times.

The Fourth Age of Light – 1974: The Age of Production versus Consumption. The production perspective is about power and its distribution and the impact upon lamp selection; the consumption approach starts with the physiology and psychology of the observer.

The Fifth Age of Light – from the mid-80s to the early ‘90s: Exploiting the potential of electronic ballasts; increasing lighting energy efficiency and government support for development, evaluation, and introduction of electronic ballasts into the U.S. market.

The Sixth Age of Light – Now! Continuing code changes, reducing lighting power densities, increased requirements for automatic lighting controls, and concerns about night light pollution. Sustainable lighting principles are now the rule of the day.

Beyond the history lesson, Greg addressed such topics as the basis for recommended illuminance levels, how energy code and other legislation is impacting lighting applications, and the current trends in lighting technologies (light emitting diodes are not yet the panacea that some would have us believe). He listed concerns now common to all good lighting design, including the quality of the luminous infrastructure, health benefits, productivity, and reducing human impacts and the carbon footprint. Greg also described a new, free digital design tool called “SkyCalc®,” which helps determine optimal natural skylight design. SkyCalc takes into account U.S. climate zones, has built-in lighting calculators for energy cost analysis (accounting for heating, cooling, lighting, energy rates, occupancy and use), and makes skylight sizing quick and easy.

Altogether, Greg provided an illuminating (pardon the pun) overview of the constantly evolving field of lighting design. Thank you Greg!

(1) These projects include the Eugene Public Library (main branch), Springfield Justice Center, and the Corvallis Clinic Surgery Center.

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This month's winner of our chapter meeting raffle prize, which is a $50.00 gift certificate courtesy of Down to Earth Home Garden & Gifts store, is Rick Satre, principal of Satre Associates. Remember, your first raffle ticket is free with your paid dinner and additional tickets are only $2 each. However, you can’t win if you don’t attend, so join us at our next meeting!

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The March AIA-SWO chapter meeting will feature a presentation on the subject of Sustainable Urban Regions by Robert Young, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy & Management (PPPM) at the University of Oregon. Professor Young’s research and teaching interests focus on environmental and economic policy and planning, specifically the role that governance networks can have in advancing the development of more sustainable urban regions. He will touch upon environmental policy and planning history, and discuss innovations in urban environmental theory and implementation from the 19th century to the present day. Professor Young has served as Director of Planning of the City of Philadelphia Recycling Office, and as head of the New Jersey Office of Sustainable Development. Our meeting will take place on March 18th at The Actors Cabaret in downtown Eugene; the social hour begins at 5:30.

The March AIA-SWO program sponsors will be BANG Office Interiors and DIRTT Environmental Solutions (“Doing It Right This Time”). BANG is committed to helping its customers build beautiful, dynamic, and most of all, green working environments. BANG has unmatched experience in helping clients and designers realize modular, reusable, and recyclable interiors. DIRTT manufactures movable wall systems that are pre-engineered, pre-manufactured, and horizontally support new and legacy furniture and storage. They virtually eliminate construction waste and any future renovation waste – no demolition, dumping, procuring, or rebuilding. The results are dramatic and meaningful for the environment and the bottom line. Thanks to BANG and DIRTT for being the AIA-SWO sponsors for March!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Round and Round the Block

Railroad Square Master Plan, Santa Rosa, CA by Solomon E.T.C.

The University of Oregon’s Department of Architecture is pleased to announce that California architect and urban designer Daniel Solomon, FAIA, one of the nation's leading spokespersons for improving the quality of affordable housing, will speak both in Portland and in Eugene.

Solomon will deliver his lecture, Round and Round the Block, on Thursday, February 19 at the White Stag Building event room at UO in Portland located at 70 N.W. Couch Street. His talk begins at 7:30 p.m. and a pre-event reception will be held at 6:15 p.m. on floor 4R. Solomon will lecture again on Friday, February 20 at 6:00 p.m. at Gerlinger Lounge, 1468 University Street at the University of Oregon. Both lectures are free and open to the public.

Solomon is an architect and urban designer whose 35-year career combines achievements in professional practice with academic pursuits of teaching and writing. Residential architecture and the interaction between housing and urban design have been the main focus of his work; however, he has also expanded into large-scale urban planning, regulatory structures that govern urban design, and residential, commercial and institutional architecture. He is the founder and principal of Solomon E.T.C., a Wallace Roberts and Todd Company.

One AIA CES learning unit is available to AIA-SWO members who attend either of the two lectures.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Genealogy of Influence

Image courtesy of Genealogy of Influence(1). Click to enlarge.

I’ll be fifty years old in April. As my birthday nears, I’ll no doubt take stock of myself, reflect upon what I’ve experienced in my life, be thankful for all that I have learned, and appreciate the good people that it has been my privilege to know.

It is generally regarded as axiomatic that an architect often does not produce his or her best work before the age of fifty -- Louis Kahn is frequently cited as the classic case in point. It wasn’t until the completion of the Yale University Art Gallery in 1953 when Kahn was fifty-two that his highly personal and poetic design philosophy was first fulfilled. I take comfort in this and look forward to the prospect of continued improvement as an architect even though over thirty years of formal education and professional practice in architecture have already passed me by. Architecture is truly a life’s pursuit.

Arriving at this milestone is also an occasion to consider those individuals who were most influential in shaping my core values regarding architecture and urban design. Over the course of the next few months, I'll write about a few of these influences. Some are the usual suspects, the “hero” architects who have also inspired many others both through their work and their force of personality. Others are lesser known, but have equally affected my thinking about architecture. Altogether, the list might seem puzzlingly eclectic(2), but I’ve realized that there is much to be gained from diverse perspectives. Dogmatic thinking has not served our profession well in the past, and I’ve grown wary of anyone who subscribes to a design doctrine that is close-minded(3). It's best to assimilate, to synthesize, and to regard all influences with a grain of salt.

Here is my list:
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Arthur Erickson
  • Le Corbusier
  • Robert Venturi
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Louis Kahn
  • William Kleinsasser
  • Peter Eisenman
  • Christopher Alexander
  • Lawrence Halprin
  • Charles W. Moore
  • Alvar Aalto
  • Christian Norberg-Schulz
  • Antoine Predock
  • Bing Thom
Who are your architectural influences?

(1) This post owes its title to the Genealogy of Influence, which is a web-based project, started in 2005, that documents influences among people through history. It was developed by Mike Love, who is associated with the Institute for the Future, an independent, nonprofit research group whose core work is identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society. The people in the influence domain are called Influence Nodes, as they have influenced or been influenced by other Influence Nodes. An influence connection from Person A to Person B indicates Person A significantly influenced Person B in the area of their life work. A peer relationship indicates that two Influence Nodes were peers or collaborators – that they each had influence on each others' work. To some extent, it is a subjective decision whether or not an influence is significant or reciprocal.

(2) Architectural historians or critics would consider the design philosophies held by some of my influences to be diametrically opposed. On the other hand, all of them made their mark in the twentieth century, all are/were male, and all are/were Western-centric in upbringing and outlook – so the list is by no means as diverse as it could and should be. This reflects the bias of my education and who had already made or was making his mark as my explorations in architecture began in the 1970s. I hope to rectify this shortcoming in the years to come.
Note that the absence from my list of some of today's more progressive and talented architects does not mean that I do not include them among those whose work I now admire most. This list is an accounting of the designers and theorists that, for better or worse, were most influential in shaping my view of architecture.

(3) Of course, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Christopher Alexander, with their outsized egos, are not famously known for having been tolerant of views that opposed their own.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

President's Message - February 2009

The deepening recession has adversely affected architects throughout Oregon, and the prospects for recovery are uncertain at best. It's not surprising that recent headlines have been dominated by news about the massive federal stimulus package that is intended to revitalize the nation's economy. The Obama administration targeted a significant portion of the funding package toward infrastructure improvements, with much of that focused upon jumpstarting efforts to "green" our cities. President Obama is determined to shape a bold agenda for the future, one more open than ever to the vision and skills architects possess. Our profession cannot allow this opportunity to demonstrate leadership to simply pass by; accordingly, the American Institute of Architects has aggressively promoted its new "Rebuild and Renew" blueprint for federal investment in the country's built environment.

Architects are displaying significant leadership by influencing public policy to support such goals as developing a more sustainable economy and built environment. I just returned from Washington, DC, where I attended the 2009 AIA Grassroots Leadership & Legislative Conference. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this annual event, a primary purpose is to advocate for AIA's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the theme of the conference was "Vision, Influence, and Action" or "VIA-AIA." While in the nation's capital, AIA members from all corners of the country took action by exercising our influence and engaging in the political process.

The timing of this year's Grassroots conference could not have been more propitious. While the House approved the economic recovery package prior to our day on the Hill, the Senate would not debate, massage, and ultimately forward its version of the bill until after we visited with senators and/or their staff. I had appointments at the offices of Senator Ron Wyden, in addition to Congressional representatives Peter DeFazio (4th District) and Kurt Schrader (5th District). It was rewarding to see that the nation's elected representatives truly value the opportunity to hear from architects, and that the AIA is a credible voice in Washington. AIA architects lobbied not only for inclusion of key aspects of the "Rebuild and Renew" plan in the stimulus bill, but also for elimination of the retainage withheld on fees for professional services on federal contracts, and for new healthcare legislation as well.

Ultimately, our efforts were not enough to dissuade the Senate from removing of billions of dollars from the stimulus bill that were earmarked for upgrading America's schools and "greening" federal buildings to meet 21st century standards. Although this is truly disappointing, we were able to deliver our message to the nation's legislators, in person and via countless letters and e-mails. We were listened to. We demonstrated leadership by advancing an agenda on issues of importance to our profession, the nation, and ultimately, the planet. While in Washington, we did all that we could to help shape the news of the day. We acted as citizen architects in the fullest sense of the term. I feel privileged to have participated in this process on your behalf as president of AIA-Southwestern Oregon.

Advocacy on behalf of the profession is one of the core services offered by the AIA. If you ever wonder if you are receiving dividends from your membership in the organization, remember that the AIA is working on all fronts to shape legislation that will directly help you, your practice, and your community.

Despite the present hardships faced by many firms, it is ironically the magnitude of this downturn that has afforded us an opportunity to enhance the public's perception of our profession. We have a platform because more and more people are becoming attuned to the very issues that concern us most. This will benefit all architects. This is a crucial moment where our expertise and ability to shape an agenda for the future of our communities is eagerly being sought. This has become our time to shine as leaders.

Randy Nishimura, AIA
2009 President, AIA-Southwestern Oregon

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Image courtesy

One of the blogs that I follow regularly is BLDG BLOG, which is written by Dwell Magazine Senior Editor Geoff Manaugh. I don’t want to make a habit of cloning another blogger’s writings, but Manaugh’s recent post entitled “The BLDGBLOG as a Series of Word-Frequency Clouds” intrigued me too much. He describes Wordle, which is an online toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. As the Wordle site explains, the clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The size of a word in the visualization is proportional to the number of times the word appears in the input text.

I had to try it myself, and so I inputted the text from all of my “talkitecture” posts. The result (image above) shouldn’t have been surprising to me – “architecture” and “design” are two of the most prominent words – but it sure was fun to try. As Geoff Manaugh says on his blog, Wordle is “like Rorschach literature, literary cobwebs from which you can pick and choose new meanings.”

Wordle is the brainchild of Jonathan Feinberg, who is a software engineer with IBM’s Collaborative User Experience group. He created Wordle as a personal project with IBM’s approval.

If you’re someone like me who is easily amused by gadgets like Wordle, check it out and enjoy the software’s ability to reveal uncommon dimensions of your writing.