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

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