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

No comments: