Saturday, December 26, 2009

Who’s the Expert?

"I'll take the Architecture of Italian Rationalism for $200, Alex!"

The University of Oregon’s chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is pleased to announce that it will be hosting an Architecture Trivia Night on Thursday, January 14, 2010. Students, faculty, and local professionals will come together for a catered dinner followed by a Jeopardy!-style trivia game to determine “Who’s the Expert?”

I strongly encourage AIA-SWO members and other local design professionals to sponsor and participate in this event. Doing so will not only provide financial support for the AIAS but also give you a chance to connect with students at the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts in an entertaining and casual setting. Sponsorship will help the AIAS with the cost of catering services, equipment rentals, and prizes.

The AIAS has established a tiered sponsorship program for Architecture Trivia Night, ranging from Bronze (donation of prizes), through Silver (donation of $50-$149), Gold ($150-$249), Platinum ($250 or more), to Sustainable Partnership ($800). Donor recognition packages include seeing your company logo on prize packages, table top displays, or acknowledgement on the trivia game board or event poster.

Prizes can include but are not limited to gift certificates, architectural/art supplies, and internship or job shadow opportunities for five students or more. There will be a cash grand prize.

I will soon send an e-mail to all AIA-SWO members including the sponsorship form and more details about sponsorship benefits. All donations are tax deductible.

Architecture Trivia Night will take place at Lawrence Hall on the University of Oregon campus, starting with dinner at 6:00 PM and followed by the trivia game at 7:00 PM. For more information about this event including how you can be a sponsor, contact AIAS Events Committee member Andrea Mohr by e-mail at or by phone at (503) 740-8328.

I hope to see many AIA-SWO members on January 14 at Architecture Trivia Night. So put on your thinking caps and be there! I know that the AIAS would be very appreciative of your support and participation.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The 2009 AIA-SWO Holiday Party took place this past Wednesday at the Mid-Town Arts Center in Eugene. With the talented woodwind quintet “No Strings Attached” setting a festive mood, over fifty chapter members and friends crowded the MAC to enjoy each others’ company and a scrumptious selection of culinary delights prepared by Cornucopia Restaurant & Catering.(1) From what I could tell, everyone had a great time.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year. When else do people gather to reflect and savor a season as much as we do during the span between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day? We look forward to our seasonal traditions in part because they are comforting and strengthen the bonds of our community. They celebrate peace and nostalgia. The rituals of our holidays are meaningful and worthy of preservation.

From our chapter’s perspective, the party was a fitting conclusion to a year marked by membership growth, increased fellowship, and capacity-building, all in the face of a devastatingly severe economic downturn that might have suggested otherwise. I think it’s a testament to the value of AIA that 2009 proved to be such a watershed year. I’m confident that AIA-SWO will continue to grow, prosper, and be even more effective during 2010. The future looks bright.
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Our December program sponsor was Herman Miller, the international leader in ergonomic chair design. As I mentioned in my President’s Message, the company generously donated to our chapter one of its stylish and technologically sophisticated Setu office chairs. We sold the chair to the highest bidder in a silent auction at our holiday party. That person was a very happy Anne DeLaney, AIA, of Bergsund DeLaney Architecture & Planning, who looks forward to using the comfortable Setu chair for many years. Thank you Anne! Your contribution will help support AIA-SWO activities in 2010 that benefit all members.

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This month's winner of our chapter meeting raffle prize, which was a $25.00 gift certificate courtesy of The Green Store, was Anita Van Asperdt of LandCurrent Landscape Architecture. 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 February 2010 meeting for your next opportunity to win!

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The first AIA-SWO chapter meeting of 2010 will be our annual joint event with the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Join us on Thursday, January 28, 2010 for the BUILD 2010 Construction Conference. With the economic picture showing glimpses of hope, building professionals will gather at the Eugene Hilton Hotel & Conference Center for an afternoon of educational seminars, a construction product show, and an evening economic forecast featuring a keynote speech from leading Oregon economist John Mitchell.

BUILD 2010 will begin with a product show and free educational workshops on a variety of construction-related topics from 2:00– 5:30 PM. You’ll find a full list of topics and continuing education credit information on CSI’s website. The social hour begins at 5:30 PM, with dinner following at 6:30 PM; the program will start at 7:00 PM. The cost for dinner is $25 and reservations are required. If you are interested in attending please contact Tana Baker at (541) 687-9445 or by e-mail at

(1) I’m very appreciative of how understanding and accommodating Cornucopia’s owner, Alison Albrecht, was when faced with the challenge of serving food to many more people than she was asked to plan for. At the time of our RSVP cutoff, we had twenty-four confirmed respondents. Over fifty showed up at the party. Come on people! Send in your RSVP on time. It’s a matter of courtesy and respect to our caterer, and greatly assists with event planning. An accurate headcount is the best guarantee we have of ensuring that everyone gets their fill and is able to enjoy the full variety of food provided.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I-5 Willamette River Bridge Open House

Rendering of proposed I-5 Willamette River Bridge

I am privileged to serve as a member of the Design Enhancement Panel (DEP) for the new I-5 Willamette River Bridge replacement project in Eugene-Springfield. My involvement is a direct outcome of the “Whilamut Passage” design workshops that AIA-SWO produced last February.

The Design Enhancement Panel’s role is to ensure that aesthetic design details for the new Willamette River Bridge and surrounding area are interpreted in a cohesive way. The DEP also advises the bridge designers (OBEC Consulting Engineers) on matters of aesthetics, which included the selection of three Art & Design Teams (ADT). Each of the ADT is responsible for development of concepts based on the DEP’s interpretation of the overall design theme.

As I wrote previously, the February workshops revealed that the project is about a confluence of many things. There are layers of history, varying physical strata in three dimensions and more, multiple scales, intersections of paths of travel, motion, time, and relativity. The project is about telling the story about a place that is richer than any one of us imagined prior to our being involved with the project. We learned that there need not be a singular, iconic feature. We concluded that we should not winnow the ideas developed in the workshops to too small a number.

The money identified by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as the premium available to tell the story is being distributed appropriately to three separate “bundles” to ensure that the complete outline of the narrative is legible. Each of the three ADT is responsible for one of the bundles:

Bundle 1: Above-Deck Elements
ADT: Lando & Associates with Buster Simpson

Bundle 2: South Bank
ADT: Greenworks pc

Bundle 3: North Bank & Whilamut Natural Area
ADT: Litus LLC

ODOT has challenged the ADTs with lofty expectations, limited resources, and a demanding timeline. Building upon the results of the AIA-SWO charrette, the teams are reconciling art as structure for the landscape, and the use of landscape as part of the art. They are struggling with how to celebrate what was there before and how to create a framework to tell the “Whilamut Passage” story. The ADT have been communicating with a broad spectrum of project stakeholders, which includes ODOT, the cities of Eugene and Springfield, the Citizen’s Advisory Group, the Whilamut Natural Area’s Citizen’s Planning Committee, and local neighborhood associations. The ADT are also working collaboratively with one another, exploring the spatial and temporal intersections between the bundles.

ODOT wants everyone’s opinion about the design enhancement concepts. Accordingly, it is hosting a public open house for the I-5 Willamette River Bridge replacement project from 5 PM to 7 PM Tuesday, December 15, at the Eugene Water and Electric Board headquarters at 500 East 4th Avenue in Eugene.(1)

The public is invited to drop in anytime during the open house to learn more about the bridge replacement project and review and comment on the preliminary design work by the ADTs.(2) The public can also learn more about the construction schedule and the innovative work done so far. ODOT is also seeking information from anyone about the historic Eugene millrace, including photographs, documents, or oral history to share with the project team. This information will assist the Bundle 2 designers, Greenworks, with its development of the proposed riverside interpretive center on the south bank.

Along with the other members of the Design Enhancement Panel, I will be on hand to answer questions about the project. I look forward to seeing all of you at the open house.

(1) Persons who need special accommodation at the open house should call Suzanne Roberts at (503) 471-6824.

(2) ODOT will also post the initial ADT design concepts for the project bundles on its project Web site. People who are unable to attend the December 15 open house will be able to comment online between December 15 and 17.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beyond EEP

The next Eugene Emerging Professionals (EEP) meeting will take place this coming Tuesday, December 8 beginning at 5:45 PM. Plan to be at 2fORM's office, located at 121 Lawrence Street in Eugene. There will be pizza and drinks. (Please inform Mariko Blessing or Gabe Greiner if you plan to attend so that they can order enough pizza. Also, bring a few bucks for the pizza – and a few more if you want beer. Sends RSVPs to or

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting the group hopes to have a name other than EEP, which it considers too Eugene-centric. Right now the top contenders are:
  • OSNAP (which stands for the Oregon Society of Novice Architecture & design Professionals; or is it the Oregon Southwest region Network of Architecture and design Professionals, or maybe the O...Social Network....A...Posse?)
  • LEAP (does it need to stand for something? Perhaps not. Lane county Emerging Architecture and design Professionals)
  • (20) New Designers
  • Design Thread (there is some concern that this is too similar to the UO’s Design Bridge)
  • Design Spring (there is some concern that this is too similar to the UO’s Design Bridge)
  • Springboard
  • Momentum
The meeting will start with a fifteen minute discussion to introduce any brilliant new names everyone might have come up with since the last EEP meeting and discuss any concerns people have with any of the names. Following the discussion there will be a vote on the group’s name and then a design charrette for a logo. Bring your ideas!

Coincidentally, the program for the December meeting of our colleagues with the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (WVC/CSI) is entitled “CSI’s Future: The Emerging Professional.” It will hopefully be an interesting presentation and may help the provisionally-named EEP figure out what CSI has to offer emerging professionals. The CSI meeting will occur December 10, 2009. The social hour begins at 5:30; dinner is at 6:30, and the program starts at 7:00. The cost for this meeting is $25 ($10 for students). Please RSVP by noon Monday, December 7 to

For more information about the activities of our local emerging professionals group, contact:

Mariko Blessing, Designer
Associate A.I.A., LEED Accredited Professional

2fORM Architecture
121 Lawrence Street
Eugene, OR 97401
t: 541.342.5777
f: 541.342.6128

Saturday, December 5, 2009

President’s Message – December 2009

Me at the I-5 Bridge charrette, one of the many AIA-SWO chapter events during 2009 (Erik Bishoff photo)

It’s hard to believe that almost an entire year has gone by since I first stepped into the position of AIA-Southwestern Oregon president. 2009, we hardly knew ye.

I’m pleased by all that our chapter has accomplished during the past twelve months. By my measure, we effectively upheld the American Institute of Architects Strategic Plan by increasing membership value, being the authoritative source, optimizing organizational performance, and serving as the credible voice for the profession. We laid a strong foundation for the future by more actively engaging emerging professionals and strengthening ties with the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts. We also stepped up our plans to host the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference.

Ironically, the downturn in the economy may be a reason why our chapter has enjoyed a good measure of its success this year. The value of the AIA is most apparent during times when work is scarce and the challenges are sharply drawn. More of you have attended our monthly chapter meetings than ever before. Participation in our various committees has increased. The AIA-SWO chapter finances are sound. Most notably, our membership roll is larger today than it was when we entered 2009.

Our chapter’s achievements have not gone unnoticed: the Institute has asked AIA-SWO to deliver a presentation at the 2010 AIA Grassroots and Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. about how we managed to increase our membership (during a time when most every other AIA component was down in numbers) while also boosting participation and non-dues revenue. Our executive director, Don Kahle, will lead the AIA-SWO contingent to Washington next February. This group will include Paul Dustrud, AIA (2010 president-elect), Gabe Greiner, AIA (the recipient of a Northwest & Pacific Region “scholarship” to attend Grassroots), and Shawn Jenkins, Associate AIA (who is embarking upon a two-year term as the Region Associate Director). I know they’ll represent our chapter well before this national audience.

Certainly, a big reason for our success in 2009 has been the time and energy volunteered so generously by the members of the AIA-SWO board of directors and our various chapter committees. While there were many who made significant contributions this year, I’d like to recognize a few individuals in particular:

Mariko Blessing, Associate AIA: In her own quiet way, Mariko rallied our local emerging professionals so that they’re now more active than ever before. It’s essential to the long-term success of our profession and AIA-SWO that we engage our future leaders and nurture their development. Mariko helped orchestrate the many intern tours of projects under construction, administered the IDP library, and co-produced the UO Reverse Crit. Along with Gabe Greiner, AIA, Mariko formally organized the emerging professionals (EP) group. The EP will figure prominently at the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference, where it will host a “Pecha Kucha” night that’s sure to be a hit.

John Lawless, AIA: A leader among (old) leaders, John championed the AIA-SWO Past Presidents Committee as a reservoir of wisdom, intelligence, and experience in the service of our community. Toward this end, he sought to generate real dialogue among AIA-SWO members about issues of topical importance, such as Eugene Planning Commission representation, infill compatibility, access management, and opportunity siting. For John, what’s at stake is AIA-SWO’s voice: its tone, authority, impact, and credibility. Under his guidance, we have an emerging “think tank.” The next step will be to broaden the conversation and the audience.

Lana Sadler, AIA: Most AIA-SWO members are probably unfamiliar with the effort required to secure AIA Continuing Education System endorsement for the programs we offer at our monthly chapter meetings, educational seminars, and design charrettes. Lana has cheerfully taken on this challenge. For every course we offer, she compiles and submits the learning objectives, and satisfies the other criteria required for AIA-CES sanction. This effort is not insubstantial as the approval process is much more complex than it was just a few years ago. Without Lana’s diligence we could not have delivered the convenient, high quality, continuing education opportunities we did during 2009.

Linn West, AIA: Linn was Mr. Everything for our 2009 Design Awards program, a veritable dynamo as committee chair, job captain, event planner, salesman, chauffer, chief cook, and bottle washer. He marshaled the staff at Affolter, West & Jones Architects/Planners to line up our generous Design Awards sponsors, shepherded the Downtown Athletic Club dinner crew, and served as concierge for our distinguished jurors. I’m grateful for all that he did to make the program the great success that it was. I also look forward to Linn doing the same for our production of the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Design Awards in 2010.

Thanks to Mariko, John, Lana, Linn, and all the other AIA-SWO volunteers for their invaluable contributions during 2009!

AIA-SWO Chapter Dues Discount
Did you know that our chapter allows its full and Associate members to discount their local portion of AIA dues by fifty percent? Here’s the deal: simply mark on your 2010 renewal form “VOLUNTEER” and reduce the local portion of your payment by half. Unfortunately you must renew by mail to receive the discount. Our chapter is ahead of the curve with this innovative program; the AIA hasn’t yet incorporated this option for its on-line renewals.

If you agree to lend us some of your time and energy, we’ll find an opportunity that suits your skills and schedule. 2010 will be a busy year for us. We anticipate at least one design charrette, along with our usual presence at the Eugene Celebration and other initiatives that raise design awareness and excellence in our community. Of course, we’ll welcome all the help we can get for the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference, which will take place here in Eugene, October 13-16.

We started this tiered dues structure a few years ago and it has helped instill our chapter with a vibrancy that adds value to AIA membership for everyone, regardless of the amount you pay. We try to make sure every assignment we give to members is meaningful and enjoyable. Whether you pay the full amount, or offer your time in return for a discount, we’ll use what you give to make our profession more visible, viable, and valuable to our community.

A special note to Associate members: We especially want our emerging professionals to be involved and to feel welcome. To counteract any financial pressures you may be facing, we’ll send you coupons for two regular chapter meeting dinners (worth $10 each) if you return your renewal by January 15, 2010. The board of directors approved this special investment in Associate members for the year ahead.

Please consider availing yourself of the dues discount and volunteering some of your time to AIA-SWO activities. Not only will you save yourself some change, you’ll also contribute to furthering the success of our chapter. There are numerous committees that would welcome your participation. The areas of focus include the following:
  • 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference
  • Educational seminars
  • Local affairs (as spearheaded by the AIA-SWO Past Presidents)
  • Membership
  • Monthly programs
  • People’s Choice awards
  • Register-Guard insert
  • Residential architecture (the Congress Of Residential Architecture)
  • Walnut Station charrette

If you are interested in participating in one of our committees, please feel free to contact me or any of the 2010 AIA-SWO board members. You will also find sign-up sheets for the committees at our December holiday party.

AIA-SWO Holiday Party
Speaking of our holiday party, the 2009 edition will take place on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at the Mid-Town Arts Center. The festivities will begin at 5:30. There’ll be plenty of tasty food, libations, entertainment, and warm company to enjoy. Look for your e-mailed invitation to the party and RSVP to be sure you don’t miss this special event. Bring your good cheer and have a jolly time!

The Setu Chair

Our December AIA-SWO program sponsor is Herman Miller, the international leader in ergonomic chair design. The company has generously donated to our chapter one of its new Setu office chairs. The Setu only comes with one adjustment (height) as it features an innovative Kinematic Spine that allows it to naturally flex and bend with your every movement without any knob tweaking. The kinematic spine works together with a Lyris seating suspension material that conforms to your body’s contours while providing aeration and minimizing heat build-up. The donated chair (list price: $750) will become the property of the highest bidder in a silent auction at our Holiday Party. Proceeds from the auction will support AIA-SWO activities that benefit all members.

This is my last AIA-SWO President’s Message, but I will continue to comment on chapter activities on my SW Oregon Architect blog. You can find it at

As of January 1, Michael Fifield, AIA will be your new AIA-SWO president. I have no doubt that Michael will do a tremendous job on behalf of our chapter. He is intent on realizing a vision wherein the AIA-SWO comes to mind first when people seek expertise about the future of the built environment in our chapter area. His agenda includes the promotion of “smart growth” strategies and actively partnering with local government agencies to advance meaningful solutions to urban design dilemmas. He is a forward-looking activist, an academic and a practitioner, and a proponent for expanding the public dialogue about architecture. With Michael at the helm, I expect AIA-SWO to thrive in 2010.

Randy Nishimura, AIA
2009 President, AIA-Southwestern Oregon