Friday, October 16, 2009

2009 Design Awards

Guests gather prior to the 2009 Design Awards Banquet

Our October AIA-SWO chapter meeting on Saturday, October 10 featured a special banquet and presentation of the 2009 Design Awards. The turnout was fantastic: 100 people showed up at the Downtown Athletic Club in Eugene to enjoy the evening’s proceedings and share in celebrating design excellence. The large attendance was in part attributable to the pent-up demand for an awards program since we last held one in 2005, and also because we once again partnered with the AIA-Southern Oregon chapter, which was well-represented at the event. Twenty-one different firms submitted thirty-five projects for consideration by our distinguished jury; eight projects received awards in the Honor, Merit, Citation, and Innovation categories.

As previously announced, the Design Awards Committee (more specifically, Michael Fifield) had assembled a jury that was truly of national, and even international, stature – one that would compare more than favorably with any other design awards jury at any level in recent years:

All three architects are universally respected for their design abilities, all having received widespread recognition for the sustained quality of their work over many years.

Unfortunately, David Lake was not able to make it to Eugene because all flights out of San Antonio on Friday were grounded by a severe electrical storm. His planned lecture at the University of Oregon was cancelled. Adding further to David’s frustration, Plan B – communicating with Laura and Bob by means of the Internet – also fell through because the Lake/Flato office servers were fried. We do appreciate everything David did in an attempt to participate and look forward to the possibility of seeing him in Oregon sometime in the near future.

In David’s absence, Laura and Bob ably shouldered their duties as jurors. Both Laura and Bob noted during their opening remarks at the banquet that agreement came easily on the projects they ultimately selected to give awards to. This was no doubt attributable to their mutual appreciation for design solutions that are thoughtful, site-responsive, well-detailed, and exhibit an economy of means.

Robert Hull, FAIA, and Laura Hartman, AIA

They noted that a number of projects submitted tended toward being too complex, to the detriment of their overall composition (there were a few “roof control issues” as Bob put it). More is not necessarily better; buildings can be calm, simple, and straightforward. Laura and Bob also saw through the heavy rhetoric found within some written project descriptions. It’s definitely better to get to the point and clearly convey your intended message without “over-texting.” Those projects whose presentations allowed Laura and Bob to immediately see the essence of the design problem and its solution were most successful.

Overall, Laura and Bob were impressed by the quality of the work submitted by AIA-SWO and AIA-SO firms. Laura spoke about the richness and breadth of building types represented by the entries, which she found inspiring and hopeful. All of those who submitted projects for consideration this year should be proud. The following are the 2009 AIA-Southwestern Oregon & AIA-Southern Oregon Design Awards recipients, accompanied by snippets of Laura and Bob’s comments:

Innovation Award:

State Office Building Remodel – PIVOT Architecture

  • Architects recognized that existing building had validity
  • Straightforward, elegant solution
  • "Traditional innovation"


Crescent Village East & West – Rowell Brokaw Architects

  • Restrained, sensible, very well done (especially for a project of this type)
  • Demonstrated understanding of scale and urban-ness
  • Beautiful in-between spaces

Arlie & Company Corporate Office – Rowell Brokaw Architects

  • Worked well with daylight
  • A place where you'd want to work
  • An inventive use of materials
  • A good example of modernist design

Merit Awards:

Bus Rapid Transit EmX Stations – PIVOT Architecture

  • Kit-of-parts deal w/specific conditions at each station
  • Efficiency of fabrication: one component used in different ways
  • An industrial design piece in the urban environment

Minimal Live/Work Studio – Fifield Architecture + Urban Design

  • Modest, spare
  • Everything counts
  • A beautiful little project

LTD Gateway Station – Rowell Brokaw Architects

  • A system and a kit of parts
  • Components adjust for different functions
  • Project connects the street and shopping mall through the sea of parking

Honor Awards:

Richard E. Wildish Community Theater – Poticha Architects

  • Extremely inventive
  • Tiered floor rises to become canopy
  • Works well inside and out
  • Speaks subtly to tradition in a valid way

Springfield Prototype Schools: Maple and Thurston – Mahlum in association with Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc

  • A really beautiful project
  • Distilled, simple, not overly structured
  • A wonderful plan that keys outdoor spaces with indoor ones
  • Architects really knew what they were doing

In my opinion, the Design Awards banquet was, so far, the high-water mark of the 2009 AIA-SWO calendar. When we look back upon the year, we’ll recognize that everything that we’ve done has ultimately been with the goal of raising the bar. Toward this end, making design a regular topic of discussion has been a standing goal. We will promote the results of the program, furthering our efforts to be regarded as the credible voice for architecture in the public eye.

Design Awards Banquet Video:
The Eugene Register-Guard did film live streaming video of the Awards banquet. Regrettably, the URL for the video was not correctly publicized prior to the event. Therefore, few people, if anyone at all, watched it live online (I had believed that the Register-Guard was going to provide an easy-to-find link on its website). As I write this, you can watch the video at (once there, click on the “ON DEMAND” button and select the 51:20 minute clip at the top of the list). We’ll soon post the video to the AIA-SWO website as well.

The success of this year’s design awards program would not have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors. If you have the opportunity, please be sure to thank our sponsors and learn more about the products and services they offer.

Emerald Level:

  • Dea-Mor (with Solatube and Kalwall)

Jade Level:

  • Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers
  • Herman Miller
  • KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • Oregon Helical Piers


  • Bell Hardware
  • Boise Cascade
  • Builders Electric
  • Interior Technologies
  • Lee Construction
  • Marquess & Associates, Consulting Engineers
  • Mid-Valley Glass & Millwork
  • Norman Distribution Inc.
  • Office World
  • Precision Engineering
  • Twin Rivers Plumbing

Finally, thanks to the members of the Design Awards Committee and the other volunteers who gave so freely of their time and energy:

  • Linn West – Chair
  • Michael Fifield
  • Bruce Richey
  • Renee Benoit
  • Don Kahle
  • Kent Affolter
  • Bryan Donovan
  • David Jones
  • Gabe Greiner
  • Dustin J.I. Capri
  • Amanda Rea
  • Richard Shugar

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