Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poticha, Robertson elevated to AIA Fellowship

It’s with great pleasure that I announce that two AIA-SWO members, Otto P. Poticha and James M. Robertson, have been elevated by the American Institute of Architects to its prestigious College of Fellows, an honor awarded to individuals who have made contributions of national significance to the profession. I’m especially thrilled by the news because I’ve known both of these deserving architects for many years, as each has served the roles of my teacher, mentor, professional colleague, and friend.

The Institute elevated a total of 134 architects to fellowship status. Of this number, only seven hail from the Northwest & Pacific Region, and Otto and Jim were the only Oregon recipients. Overall, there are fewer than 2,600 AIA members distinguished with the honor of fellowship out of a total membership of over 84,000. It is conferred on architects with at least 10 years of membership in the AIA who have made significant contributions in the following areas: the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession; the standards of architectural education, training, and practice; the building industry through leadership in the AIA and other related professional organizations; advancement of living standards of people through an improved environment; and to society through significant public service.

Otto P. Poticha, FAIA

Otto was elected to receive this honor because of his contributions to education in architecture. He taught, shared his wisdom with, and demanded excellence from literally thousands of students of architecture at the University of Oregon. He continues to challenge young minds to think broadly and independently, to take risks, and to learn by taking those risks. Otto is also notorious for simply being Otto: he has made an indelible mark here in Eugene by being our own architectural conscience. His teaching has long extended beyond the bounds of academia to inform and educate the public. He has never been reluctant to speak honestly and directly (some say bluntly) about the state of architecture and urban design in our community, often taking local architects to task if they produce particularly egregious or banal work.

James M. Robertson, FAIA, FCSI

Jim was elected to FAIA status primarily because of his leadership of a related organization, the Construction Specifications Institute. Through his exemplary leadership in CSI, Jim has helped to develop and promote international standards for design documentation and construction contract administration. These include CSI MasterFormat and contributions to CSI’s Manual of Practice, which is recognized as a leading resource for architects on the proper principles, techniques, and formats for writing and organizing specifications. In addition, Jim was appointed by the Governor to the Oregon Board of Architect Examiners, where he serves as its Chair. He also is a member of NCARB’s ARE Site Planning and Design subcommittee.

Otto and Jim, who are now entitled to use the designation "FAIA" following their names, will be invested in the College of Fellows at the 2010 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Miami on June 11.

Congratulations Otto and Jim on being elevated to fellowship! Let’s celebrate!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The Plaza Apartments, San Francisco, by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (2008). Photo by Tim Griffith.

2010 AIA-SWO Chapter President Michael Fifield’s goal during his term is to promote a greater discussion about the role of good design in our built environment. Toward this end, he has assembled an impressive series of monthly programs highlighting well-known and accomplished architects (all from outside our chapter area). As Michael wrote in his February’s President’s Message, the emphasis in 2010 will be on design issues, from larger urban and community design, to building design at various scales.

Our February chapter meeting featured William Leddy, FAIA. Mr. Leddy is one of the three principals of the eponymously named San Francisco firm Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (the others being Marsha Maytum, FAIA, and Richard Stacy, FAIA). He is a 1975 graduate of the University of Oregon, so this was a homecoming visit for him.

While I knew of LMSA, I must admit that I was not especially familiar with the firm’s designs (having previously only seen their AIA Honor Award-winning Plaza Apartments project in person when I visited San Francisco last year). I was pleasantly surprised throughout Leddy’s talk by the remarkable quality of LMSA’s body of work and perhaps even more so by its philosophical underpinnings.

The title of the presentation – Mission-Driven Design – fundamentally speaks to how LMSA addresses issues of environmental sustainability, social justice and cultural preservation with each of its projects. It is the firm’s belief that design in the 21st century must make the most with the least. The reality is that we must radically change the way our society lives, works, and builds to meet the pressing realities of global climate change and resource depletion. As Bill Leddy explained, architects have a critical role to play in this historic effort, utilizing the transformational power of design to help lead the way toward a sustainable and just future for all.

I was impressed by the modest, formally restrained, and yet richly detailed character of LMSA’s work that shined through on every PowerPoint slide. This is not an architecture of bravado or ego. It doesn’t posture or cry for attention. Instead, it luxuriates in craft, materiality, light, and the making of useful spaces. LMSA’s portfolio is also sensible and resource-efficient: a truly integrated approach to environmental sustainability is a hallmark of every LMSA project.

Nueva School Hillside Learning Complex by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (2008). Photo by Tim Griffith.

An excellent example is the Nueva School Hillside Learning Complex, part of an established private K-8 school located in Hillsborough, CA. The project provides a variety of innovative educational environments that connects students and faculty to the natural world around them, including a green roof that replicates a native California grassland.(1) Its design promotes environmental stewardship and lifelong learning on a daily basis. The project was able to exceed the 2030 Challenge and reduces site energy use by at least 65% below the national average for schools.

However, the Nueva School project is not “in your face” with its greenness. Bill Leddy laments the bifurcation that is all too common in architecture today: there are brilliantly green yet ugly buildings on the one hand, and “cool-looking” buildings that pay lip-service at best to sustainability on the other. Achieving LEED certification is great but does that mean we should excuse designs that are deficient in most other respects? Designing architecture sustainably is about more than simply racking up LEED points. Good architecture transcends the list.

Michael J. Homer Science & Student Life Center, by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (2009). Photo by Tim Griffith.

I was not alone in being impressed with William Leddy’s program. Another AIA-SWO past-president, Art Paz, AIA remarked afterward that:

“. . . The mission-driven design presentation by William Leddy was truly special and first class. Leddy's project variety illustrated the importance of the floor plan and how its clear expression of integrity may be found in the elements of the envelope and their spatial arrangement. He also championed the huge importance in a post-carbon world of integrating a (sustainable) design approach into all phases of design and construction and that the 2030 Challenge will demand extraordinary focus to achieve. It was a good night for architecture.”

It was a joy to hear from a talented architect whose work is a reflection of a design philosophy that is as congruent as I can imagine with my own. My hope is that I can likewise participate in projects that attain the level of overall excellence displayed in so many respects by those designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects. This was a great program.

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William Leddy set a high bar for presenters at our monthly chapter meetings. Don’t miss any of the other speakers lined up for this year by Michael Fifield. Still to come are Corey Martin of PATH Architecture, Kevin Cavanaugh of TENPOD Development, Architect/developer Jonathan Segal, FAIA, James Timberlake, FAIA, of Kieren Timberlake, and ZGF’s Gene Sandoval, Assoc. AIA (who will host a tour of the new Jaqua Center on the UO campus).

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February Program Sponsor
This month's AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting was proudly sponsored by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC). OTREC supports innovations in sustainable transportation through Advanced Technology, Integration of Land Use and Transportation, and Healthy Communities. OTREC is a National University Transportation Center created by Congress in 2005 and is a partnership between Portland State University, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

(1) The 10,000 s.f. green roof provides habitat for native birds and insects, including the endangered Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Presentation by Eden Brukman

The Cascadia Region Green Building Council promotes the design, construction and operation of buildings in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live, work and learn. The Eugene Branch of Cascadia hosts monthly lunchtime presentations and quarterly evening events on emerging green building issues. These events are designed to provide networking and educational opportunities for members and industry professionals in the greater Eugene area.

This month’s presentation features Eden Brukman, Vice President of the International Living Building Institute and the Research Director for the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. An architect and sustainable building advisor, she has focused her career on incorporating socially and environmentally responsible strategies into design and construction. Since 1996, her work has included research and implementation of sustainable policies, particularly related to building certification and the specification of appropriate building materials. Eden has consulted on dozens of green building projects nationally and internationally, authored articles for periodicals, and lectured at conferences, universities and professional development programs. She now dedicates her time to the development and international deployment of the Living Building Challenge.

Eden will speak on the topic of the Living Building Challenge and why now is the right time for a world of living buildings, sites, and communities. She will describe the seven performance areas of the Living Building Challenge: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity & Beauty. She will ask us to:
  • Imagine a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower – a building informed by its bio-region’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.
  • Imagine a city block or a college campus sharing resources from building to building, growing food, and functioning without a dependency on fossil fuel-based transportation.
  • Imagine true sustainability in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities – Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Benign™.
Date: Thursday, February 18th

Location: Davis’ Restaurant & Bar, 94 West Broadway, Eugene, OR 97401

Time: 5:30p.m.—7:30p.m. 

Cost: Cascadia members: Free. Bring your Cascadia passport to receive a stamp. Non-members: $5.00.
Full-time students: Free

RSVP to:  Jenna Garmon, phone: 541-682-5541; email:

Parking downtown is limited. Please bike, walk, bus or carpool.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Carpe Diem

AIA Oregon lobbyist Cindy Robert relayed some sobering statistics to me about the recession and its impact upon the architectural profession in the U.S. According to the December 2009 release from the U.S. Department of Labor, 50,000 jobs have been lost at architecture firms since the recession began. This means that employment in architecture has dropped 23% from its high point during the summer of 2008, far outpacing the losses suffered in other industries.

This is payroll losses only, and includes all positions at architecture firms, not just architects. It does not adjust for underemployed architects (if you are on the payroll, you are counted), architects who have taken salary cuts, or those that have taken furloughs or other unpaid leave.

Many express concerns that these job losses may be permanent, that there may not be a sustained economic rebound for years to come. If these concerns are realized, we risk losing an entire generation of architects to other careers. The irony is that this would occur at a time when I believe the expertise, skills, and perspective of architects will be needed most.

As I wrote in one of my AIA-SWO President’s Messages last summer, the deep recession is compelling us to rethink how we do things as a society. We’re being awakened to a new paradigm, where profligate consumption is being replaced by prudent conservation. I'm optimistic because our communities are recognizing the value of creative and visionary thinking during challenging times. Our profession is likewise being driven toward models of practice that emphasize adaptability, new technologies, and lean operation. The opportunities will be there for those architects who seize the day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

James V. Bernhard, AIA Emeritus – 1927-2010

Paul Edlund, AIA, FCSI sent me an e-mail with the sad news that James V. Bernhard, AIA Emeritus passed away in his sleep on Monday, February 8, 2010. Jim was 82 years old.

Jim Bernhard was president of AIA-Southwestern Oregon in 1969. He was also a founding member of the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), and was that organization’s second president in 1966.

Jim and Paul were life-long personal friends. They attended grammar school and high school together, and both enlisted in the Navy during WWII. They also pursued the same career path, studying architecture at the University of Oregon, graduating in the early 1950s.

Jim's first construction industry employment was as a cost estimator and project coordinator for the John Steinmuller Construction Co. After a few years, Jim returned to his first love: architecture. He built a career with WEGroup Architects & Planners, eventually rising to partner in the firm. He served in that role for many years.

When my wife and I settled in Eugene in 1988, Jim was one of the first architects I spoke with about employment prospects at that time. He steered me in the direction of Robertson/Sherwood/Architects, where I have been ever since. I would come to know Jim better through our mutual involvement with both AIA and CSI, during conversations at monthly chapter meetings.

Following his retirement a few years ago, Jim suffered a stroke, which undoubtedly shortened his life. He’ll be missed by his peers and colleagues, who are certain to remember his stately composure and professional leadership.

A memorial Mass for Jim will occur at 11:30 AM on Saturday, February 13, at St. Jude Catholic Church in Eugene.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Design as Inspiration, Engagement, and Collaboration

Paul Dustrud, Don Kahle, Gabe Greiner, and Shawn Jenkins, flank Peter DeFazio, U.S. Representative, 4th Congressional District, Oregon.

The 2010 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference just concluded its three-day run (February 3-5) in our nation’s capitol. Unlike the past two Grassroots conferences in 2008 and 2009, I did not attend this year. Instead, I passed the torch to a new cohort of AIA-SWO chapter leaders: Paul Dustrud, AIA-SWO 2010 President-Elect; Gabe Greiner, co-founder and chair of DesignSpring (the AIA-SWO emerging professionals group); and Shawn Jenkins, AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Associate Director. Paul, Gabe, and Shawn were accompanied in Washington, D.C. by AIA-SWO’s indefatigable executive director, Don Kahle.

The 2010 Grassroots theme was Design as Inspiration, Engagement, and Collaboration. Inspiration was the Day 1 mantra, with a program that fired up the conference attendees. Day 2 was all about Engagement: AIA architects from around the country stormed Capitol Hill to advocate for policies and legislation that will position our profession as an indispensible resource enabling the U.S. to remain a global leader. Collaboration was the hallmark of the conference’s final day, as attendees came together to tap into the critical mass of knowledge, creativity, and passion that define the Institute’s Grassroots leadership.

Paul e-mailed me the photo above of the AIA-SWO contingent during its “Day-on-the-Hill” visit with Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). AIA members at every Grassroots Conference head to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to communicate the importance of the AIA issues agenda. The AIA’s blueprint for economic recovery aims to rebuild and renew through common-sense policies that not only create jobs, but lay the foundation for long-term prosperity. The five AIA planks to help rebuild and renew our nation in 2010 are as follows:
Our AIA-SWO Grassroots team also presented one of the Leadership and Knowledge workshops at the conference. Entitled Seizing the Moment: Growing During a Downturn, the workshop discussed strategies for membership growth and retention during the current economic recession based upon the AIA-SWO experience. Our chapter outperformed nearly every other AIA component in the country by significantly increasing our membership numbers during 2009. We accomplished this by viewing the sluggish economy as an opportunity and using the sense of urgency to strengthen the position of architects in the marketplace and focusing on innovative and creative programs.

I have no doubt that Paul, Gabe, Shawn, and Don represented our chapter well and had a great time in D.C. I’m looking forward to speaking with them soon about their experiences and to learn about what our chapter can do to be of even better service and value to our membership.