Friday, April 24, 2009

Legislative Day 2009!

The Leadership by Design exhibit at the State Capitol Building

"Oregon should find ways to translate its reputation for sustainability into a key competitive advantage. A policy and regulatory framework that is both pro-business and pro-sustainability would be epic."

Dr. Michale Porter –from the Oregon Business Plan

Twelve AIA-SWO members joined dozens of other Oregon architects at the Leadership by Design event that took place at the State Capitol on April 23, 2009. The purpose of this legislative advocacy effort was to lobby our state senators and representatives in support of Senate Bill 448. AIA Oregon helped to craft this proposed high performance building legislation, which would require major state-owned facilities to be built and certified to green building standards adopted by the Department of Energy. The proposed bill has the unanimous support of the Senate Environment Committee and has been sent to the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction.

When looking at energy conservation and a sustainable future for the state of Oregon, energy use and alternative energy sources have been the focus. The environmental impact of the processes by which buildings are designed and constructed is often overlooked. The goal of SB 448 is to further the state’s efforts to be a national leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship on a broad front rather than focusing upon energy usage alone. The state recognizes its responsibility to implement and promote building practices that protect air, water, and other natural resources; reduce negative impacts upon native fish, wildlife, and natural resources; and minimize energy use. However, a current executive order to build to green standards based on LEED Silver guidelines is diluted and impermanent. The order does not require certification; it merely sets forth a benchmark agencies are asked to reach. SB 448 would rectify this shortcoming by moving toward the adoption of a nationally recognized green building standard.

Before visiting with our state senators and representatives, we gathered at the Mission Mill Museum in Salem to hear from a panel of three speakers:

David Van’t Hoff, sustainability advisor to Governor Ted Kulongoski, recounted the process by which SB 448 evolved from 2007 Senate Bill SB 576. This earlier bill failed to be passed into law because of concerns raised by the timber industry and related industry groups. David reported that SB 448 was fully vetted with these groups and thus is widely supported. Some of the visionary legislative concepts proposed by SB 576 were “watered down” but not to the point of ineffectiveness.

Sallie Schullinger-Krause of the Oregon Environmental Council encouraged us to stress to our lawmakers the importance of Oregon retaining its current position of leadership with sustainable design. Other states are passing similar legislation that places them in the forefront of green building efforts (for example, Maryland recently adopted into law very stringent greenhouse gas limitation mandates). Arguments against SB 448 are shortsighted and would ultimately cost our state in the future.

Dennis Wilde of Gerding Edlen Development shared his vision of a positive future. Dennis asserted that the future health of Oregon’s economy is dependent upon a healthy environment. The State’s leadership is essential to ensuring that a sustainable economy is within our grasp. The passage of SB 448 would be one step toward realizing this vision.

David Van't Hoff, Sallie Schullinger-Krause, and Dennis Wilde.

I joined with others from our group to visit with Ree Armitage, senior legislative aide for Representative Paul Holvey (Democrat-District 8), and Senator Bill Morrisette (Democrat-District 6). Generally, the response from all the state senators and representatives that members of our group visited suggests that we were “preaching to the choir.” However, there are other legislators who do harbor concerns about SB 448. The primary worry is that there would both be immediate expenditures and indeterminate, perhaps large, increases in future capital construction costs. AIA Oregon argues that these concerns should not be allowed to outweigh the potential long-term savings attributable to building green, the net employment benefits of a vibrant green materials industry, and the economic stimulus generated by the Business Energy Tax Credit.

Big thanks to AIA Oregon’s Government Relations Committee, AIA Oregon lobbyist Cindy Robert, and AIA Oregon Assistant Director Stuart Weir for organizing Leadership by Design. Kudos too, to the Sustainability Subcommittee (including AIA-SWO’s own Curt Wilson, Kelley Howell, and Scott Stolarczyk) for helping to draft the proposed legislation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Celebration garden trellis, HIV Alliance, by designBridge

Our April chapter meeting presented another opportunity to forge connections with the School of Architecture and Allied Arts at the University of Oregon. It was our pleasure to feature the leaders of designBridge, a student-run organization that links the school with the surrounding community by providing design-build services to clients. The focus of designBridge is to bring the resources and energy of students to community organizations that recognize the mutual benefits of providing students with an opportunity to “get their hands dirty” on real-world projects.

Students volunteer their time and energy to designBridge. While academic credit is now available for participating (this wasn’t originally the case), the students have found that their efforts are rewarded in many other ways that are beyond measure. They engage in teamwork and experience firsthand the processes necessary to transform ideas from paper to reality. They also discover that mastering architecture and building is like studying a new language: the best way to learn is to be immersed in the process. designBridge offers that immersive experience.

The students seek projects and clients that share their commitment to sustainable design and green building practices. Current projects include the Moss Street Childcare play structure, the Roosevelt Middle School bicycle shelter, and a celebration garden for the HIV Alliance. Every designBridge project begins during the Fall academic quarter with the pre-design phase, followed in the Winter term by the designBridge studio. Projects may proceed to completion during the Spring, when the students get the chance to actually build some of their designs. Each project has a UO faculty member, a project manager, and depending on the size may include both a design leader and a build leader to make sure the project meets the client’s goals.

designBridge is a means to fill the gap between the students’ academic experience and future in the profession. It has attracted some of the best and brightest of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, becoming an effective training ground for student leadership. It has also fulfilled a need for pro-bono community design services; the organizations that designBridge has assisted have in return contributed to the shaping of the future of our profession. An additional dividend is a broader appreciation by the members of these client groups for the value of applying solid design processes and principles to even the humblest of projects.

Student Director Sylvan Cambier led the designBridge presentation. Sylvan asserted that because architecture encompasses so much knowledge, opportunities to pass along that knowledge from generation to generation must not be lost. designBridge is one such opportunity, and AIA-SWO members can contribute to the evolution and transference of professional wisdom via design reviews and mentorship. By making connection such as this, we help to ensure that our profession will remain vital for years to come.

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The May AIA-SWO chapter program will feature a presentation by Lisa Petterson, associate with SERA Architects in Portland and project manager for the Living Building Financial Study. Lisa will introduce the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the next big goal beyond LEED® (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) Platinum. She will explain implications of the recently completed Financial Study and discuss how the Oregon Sustainability Center, a high rise office building in Portland, is striving to meet the Living Building Challenge. A former Southwestern Oregon chapter member, Lisa worked with Poticha Architects prior to moving to Portland.

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Our May AIA-SWO program sponsor will be the PPI Group, who offers a wide array of professional services to serve your CAD needs. The PPI Group is constantly talking with architects and provides a direct line to the latest information and enhancements coming out of Autodesk. PPI’s post-purchase support programs deliver value beyond the initial software purchase. PPI’s expert team can recommend the best tools to help a firm achieve its business objectives as efficiently and profitably as possible.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Where the Revolution Began

Photo by Joseph Readdy on Flickr

Portland writer/editor Randy Gragg will speak about the influential work of Lawrence and Anna Halprin at 6:00 PM on Thursday, April 23, in Room 115 of Lawrence Hall on the University of Oregon campus. Gragg's talk, entitled Where the Revolution Began: Lawrence and Anna Halprin and the Reinvention of Public Space, is sponsored by the UO Department of Landscape Architecture.

Between 1963 and 1970, Lawrence Halprin designed a series of fountain plazas in downtown Portland, Oregon that forever changed the design of public spaces in the U.S. Merging water, sculpture and theater, they provided something rarely seen since the renaissance: urban places for civic play. Randy Gragg will explore both the designs' origins in the era's activist politics and in the highly experimental danceworks of Halprin's wife, choreographer Anna Halprin. He will also present excerpts from a series of recent performances that, in the same radical spirit of the Halprins, used dance and music to foster the plazas' preservation.

Gragg is a writer, editor, and organizer who has worked in the Northwest for the past 25 years. Most recently he developed and is now editing a new magazine called Portland Spaces, a home design magazine about all the places we call home, from the house to the neighborhood, workplace and city as a whole.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

President’s Message – April 2009

Something that architects are clearly good at is the ability to see the big picture while assimilating and synthesizing many issues at once. We too often take this facility for granted, which is why it’s always good to be reminded on occasion that we do possess skills that are unique and valued. A case in point is the recent Whilamut Passage (I-5 Willamette River Bridge) design charrette.

The Oregon Department of Transportation understood the value that AIA architects could add to the process of designing a signature I-5 crossing for the Willamette River. ODOT sought AIA-SWO’s assistance to rally diverse interests and backgrounds around the common goal of a “signature” bridge. We were charged with considering the project's many complex and sometimes conflicting issues such that the bridge could become part of a multi-faceted and richly layered place. I’m happy to report that we rose to the challenge and that the results were both surprising and satisfying. Check out my April 2, 2009 blog post for an account of how we designed the charrette process (actually comprised of two workshops conducted on consecutive Saturdays in February), as well as a brief description of the themes that emerged. In addition, the Whilamut Passage Design Workshop presentation can be found on the AIA-SWO website, downloadable in either pdf or html format. The process continues, as the charrette results are currently being translated into a master plan that will enhance the “genius loci” of the Whilamut Passage. The new crossing will most decidedly not be a merely unremarkable and utilitarian interstate highway bridge. Kudos to ODOT, AIA-SWO Executive Director Don Kahle, and the members of the charrette steering committee for orchestrating a masterful process of discovery and design.

Design charrettes play to our strengths: we architects are a dynamic bunch, capable of mobilizing the power of collaboration to solve complex problems, capture the imagination, and translate fanciful ideas to actionable concepts. The AIA-SWO offers public entities like ODOT an effective tool for engaging a broad spectrum of stakeholders. It’s clear that the community values our contributions. Our work is raising the level of public awareness regarding the importance of architecture and the design of the built environment. The charrettes have only been some of our most visible and successful efforts in this regard. Stay tuned for news about a couple more charrette opportunities in 2009 as AIA-SWO will: 1) address the prospects of the redevelopment of the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s riverfront property, and 2) test the City of Eugene’s proposed form-based code for the Walnut Station section of Franklin Boulevard.

Leadership by Design – April 23, 2009
This is another reminder about Leadership by Design following on heels of my March message. If you haven’t already made plans to do so, join architects from all corners of Oregon at the State Capitol on Thursday, April 23rd for this legislative day event.

As I announced in March, AIA Oregon has proposed High Performance Building legislation that would require certain State buildings meet Department of Energy adopted green building design standards and to be certified at the highest standard a 20-year life cycle cost analysis merits. Our goal is to promote this legislation and maintain Oregon as a leader in sustainable, high-performance buildings. AIA Oregon is organizing everything including bus transportation for us from Eugene to Salem, lunch, coaching, and talking points for meeting with legislators. Online registration to participate in the event is available on the AIA Oregon website at the following link:

Participants will earn 2 AIA Learning Units.

The schedule for April 23rd is as follows:

11:00 am: buses caravan to Salem from Eugene
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Lunch, training and plenary speakers at Mission Mill Museum
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm: Legislative visits and possible public hearing
4:00 pm: buses return to Eugene

Please join your fellow AIA-Southwestern architects, interns, and students in Salem for this important advocacy effort.

Randy Nishimura, AIA
2009 President, AIA-Southwestern Oregon

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Japanese American Internment Remembered

The School of Architecture and Allied Arts at the University of Oregon is hosting the Joel Yamauchi Lecture Series on the subject of remembering the Japanese-American internment experience during World War Two. In particular, the series will examine the social and cultural implications of the Japanese American internment as it affected the Pacific Northwest.(1) The lectures are free and members of the general public are welcome.

The late Joel Yamauchi graduated from the UO Department of Architecture in 1973. Along with thousands of other Japanese Americans from Oregon, in 1942 Yamauchi’s parents, older brother and grandfather were sent to Minidoka internment camp in Idaho as 'enemy aliens.' His father, George Yamauchi, was one of the many young Japanese Americans who actually enlisted in the U.S. military while being held in internment, and fought in Europe in the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, still the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history.

The schedule of events and speakers is as follows:


Wednesday, April 8, at 6 p.m., Room 177 Lawrence Hall
Tetsuden Kashima, Professor of American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington

Wednesday, April 15, at 6 p.m., Room 177 Lawrence Hall
Peggy Nagae, lead attorney on the Minoru Yasui vs. United States court case, former Assistant Dean, University of Oregon Law School, Principal, Peggy Nagae Consulting


Wednesday, May 6, at 6 p.m., Room 177 Lawrence Hall
Panel Discussion involving Henry Sakamoto, Alice Sumida, George Azumano and Kennie Namba, three former University of Oregon students and a veteran of the all-Japanese 442nd Infantry Regiment, all interned at Minidoka, Idaho.


Wednesday, June 3, at 7 p.m., Room 177 Lawrence Hall
Wendy Janssen, Superintendent, National Park Service, Minidoka National Historic Site

(1) Like the United States, Canada also evacuated persons of Japanese descent away from the Pacific coast. My father and his family spent the war years in an internment camp in the interior of British Columbia, far from their home in Vancouver. They were not allowed to return to Vancouver until 1949, four years after the end of the war.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whilamut Passage Charrette

Below you a river / About to be crossed /
Around you a moment / Not to be lost

Every once in a while, we need to be reminded about how powerful the process of design is and how rich it can be when inspiration comes from many corners. As a participant in the recently completed I-5 Willamette River Bridge Design Workshops, I found an abundance of evidence that creative minds can do wonders when working together to confront the most daunting of design challenges.

The design of a new I-5 bridge to cross the Willamette River between Eugene and Springfield has not been without controversy. The manner by which the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) arrived at the “deck-arch” configuration last summer was roundly decried at the time and raised questions about the transparency of ODOT’s decision-making related to the design. ODOT was not insensitive to these concerns and believed that a redoubled effort to ensure that the new bridge would achieve “signature” stature was necessary. This was where AIA-SWO entered the picture.

ODOT and its bridge design team (led by OBEC Consulting Engineers with Jiri Strasky) asked our chapter to organize a charrette with the goal of identifying strategies that could help make the new bridge the memorable crossing it deserves to be. At the same time, ODOT was in discussions with Douglas Beauchamp, Executive Director for the Lane Arts Council, about how the work of local artists might also help in this regard. Then, as AIA-SWO Executive Director Don Kahle recounted in his February 20, 2009, column in the Register-Guard, “something unique happened.” ODOT saw the wisdom of synergy, of a combined undertaking that would result in a sum that is greater than what might have been produced by separate efforts. Architects and artists would work together, and so would landscape architects, engineers, naturalists, parks administrators, and historians. Representatives for the Kalapuya tribes – the original residents of the Willamette Valley – would also participate; so too would ODOT staff.

The AIA-SWO Design Workshop Steering Committee, led by Eric Gunderson, was charged with planning the charrette. Design is both a process and a product, and we paid ample attention to the matter of process when organizing what ultimately became a series of two workshops on consecutive Saturdays in February. Spreading the effort over two workshops separated by a week proved to be a stroke of genius – there would be a period for the germination of the ideas planted on the first Saturday. Carefully selecting the charrette participants and ensuring that a correct mixture of disciplines would occupy each of the teams/tables were likewise keys to the success of the workshops.(1)

Charette participants gather in the Atrium Building in downtown Eugene

It was a treat to collaborate with such a diverse group of creative individuals, building communities across the tables. The diversity led to the creation of strong visions for a bridge that will be experienced at many scales. Discussions quickly focused upon the desire to create something memorable and to offer a depth of experience as one crosses the span or visits the river and spaces beneath and around the bridge. The artists did not want to simply treat surfaces, but contribute to the making of places. They observed that the scope of the project is thrilling; subtlety may be lost at the scale of the bridge and yet could have a sublime power where the pace is slower and the river sets the mood.

The charrette dynamic - engaging creative minds

While the dynamics of the various teams resulted in multiple outcomes, several themes emerged:

  • Doing more with less – employing a light touch
  • Weaving space and time, the organic and inorganic
  • Identifying crossings, transitions, gateways, nexus
  • Introducing cadence, rhythm, and undulation
  • Directing the One-Minute Movie
  • Assembling parts into a whole – a narrative
  • Crafting an experience: fleeting, recurring, and pondering
Giving themes expression

The means by which these themes might find expression as “actionable” design items included:
  • Tracing the arches of the span with fiber-optic lights
  • Amplifying the spatial qualities of the immediate geography
  • Planting a camas meadow – generating a burst of color to mark the passage of time
  • Detailing the sound walls thematically using pattern, texture, and color
  • Placing “footprints” in the landscape as tracers of natural and historic pathways
  • Respecting the inherent elegance of Jiri Strasky’s design for the bridge

Sound walls: abstracted basalt outcroppings

I think many of us came to the conclusion that the deck-arch configuration may in fact be the most appropriate for our I-5 bridge, and not the “through-arch” design that was originally favored. One reason for the appeal of the through-arch design was the fact that above-deck elements integral to the bridge structure would prominently announce the crossing of the Willamette River to motorists traveling along I-5. The results of the charrette suggest that there may be other equally effective, albeit subtle, means to achieve this effect. The immediate landscape offers much that is unique and distinctive – the “pinch” of Judkins Point as I-5 and Franklin Boulevard converge around it, the open vista across the meadow of Alton Baker Park toward the west and north, the cluster of cottonwoods and other riparian vegetation – that together signal the presence of the river. The place is also about much more than crossing the river at 60 miles per hour. Although the bridge is the central feature, the sense of place is also derived from the variety of natural and man-made features, and the stories of the people who have passed through the area.

Kalapuya elder Esther Stutzman tells a story

The range of the creative output pleasantly surprised many of the participants. Don Kahle observed that when creative people are surprised by what they have done, it’s a good thing. ODOT Project Manager Dick Upton expressed his appreciation for everyone’s efforts and enthusiasm for the process. Many of the ideas may indeed move toward reality.

While the charrette itself is now history, substantial work remains to be completed. This will involve distilling the results and mapping out the actionable items that together will make the project truly remarkable. The charrette has shown us that the “Whilamut Passage”(2) project is about a confluence of many things that will reveal themselves. There are layers of history, varying physical strata in three dimensions and more, multiple scales, intersections of paths of travel, motion, time, and relativity. It is about telling a story about a place that is richer than any one of us imagined prior to the workshops. To me, this means that there need not be a singular, iconic feature. We should not winnow the ideas developed in the workshops to too small a number. The money identified by ODOT as the premium available to tell the story will need to be distributed appropriately to ensure that the complete outline of the narrative is legible.

Eric Gunderson and John Rose

Thank you to all of the participants who gave the design workshops the gift of their talent and valuable time. Thanks too, to Megan Banks of the Lane Council of Governments, Larry Fox of OBEC, Douglas Beauchamp, Don Kahle, Eric Gunderson, and the other members of the Steering Committee. Most important, kudos to ODOT for its commitment to building a beautiful and meaningful new I-5 bridge over the Willamette River. Without its support and resources, we would not have brought together such an inspired and diverse group of people for two special days to work toward this shared goal.

(1) By necessity, this limited the number of AIA-SWO members who took part, but there are two additional charrettes in 2009 to look forward to for those of you who feel you missed out this time.

(2) “Whilamut” is a word derived from the Kalapuya language that means “where the river ripples and runs fast.”