Monday, May 3, 2010

A Trilogy Told in Two Parts

I’ll be attending the 2010 edition of the Oregon Design Conference later this week (May 6-8) at the Salishan Conference Center & Resort near Gleneden Beach. It’s no surprise to me that the conference promises again to be thought provoking and engaging. Thanks to the leadership of Bob Hastings, FAIA and Steve Thomson, AIA, ODC participants will explore the topic of design excellence.

What exactly is the meaning of design excellence and how do we expand upon it to improve Oregon’s built environment and the economic base upon which we all stand? What is the formula for a state of excellence?

The desired outcome is a framework for delivering design excellence in every Oregon community. As proposed by Don Stastny, FAIA, and the fledgling Center for Architecture board, it would be modeled after the design excellence program that Don helped author for the federal General Services Administration.

The ODC will be the forum for initial exploration of this concept, with further steps taken as the year unfolds. Its emphasis will be setting the stage, developing the potential for design excellence, and learning how to recognize it. The ODC will also explore application of a design excellence program at the state scale. The Portland Mayor’s Symposium, which, as of this writing is in the planning stage, will address the initiative at a city scale. The AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Annual Conference that my chapter, AIA-Southwestern Oregon, is hosting in Eugene this October will tackle design excellence at the regional scale and witness the rollout of the design excellence “toolkit.” Bookended by the ODC and our Region conference, the tripartite effort will together comprise, as AIA-SWO Executive Director Don Kahle quipped, a "Trilogy Told in Two Parts."

Leaders from both conferences collaborated early and deeply to form a coherence between the two events. Our state component, AIA Oregon, furnished AIA-SWO with a $10,000 grant as a way to express solidarity between the two conferences and return tangible benefits to its members, many of whom have struggled in this difficult economy. Accordingly, a $100 discount toward Region Conference registration fees is available to the first one hundred ODC attendees who register in advance while at Salishan this week. Any money not disbursed at the Oregon Design Conference will be offered to AIA-Oregon members who are either new to the profession or experiencing special hardships this year or last. Registrants can also choose to forego the $100 discount to which they are entitled. If they do, the money will be reinvested in providing scholarships to students from any of the five schools of architecture in our region, or it will be added to the hardship subsidy for Oregon AIA members.

For those who will be at Salishan this week but have not yet considered joining us at the Region Conference, here is a bunch of additional reasons why Eugene in October looks mighty attractive:

OREGON MYSTIQUE, FRONT & CENTER – We know that Oregon has a reputation and heritage of being forward-thinking. The 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference (October 13-16) will be an opportunity to show that spirit to colleagues from across the region.

UNIVERSITY CONNECTIONS – We plan to highlight the University of Oregon in several ways. We’re arranging alumni get-togethers, tours of signature buildings at the university (including the new Matthew Knight Arena and Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes), and time with professors and students. We’ll be spending almost all of Saturday, October 16 on campus. We timed the conference to fit the academic calendar.

18 CEUs, INCLUDING HSW & SD – Our conference planners were charged with making sure that every participant will have opportunity to receive all 18 learning units required for the year.

LEARN HOW YOU WISH – People learn in different ways, so we’ve fashioned our schedule to almost always have a distinguished speaker giving a lecture, an intriguing panel hosting a roundtable discussion, and a respected colleague giving a tour. You could do all tours, or all lectures, or all discussions. Your choice.

NOT JUST WHAT, BUT ALSO WHERE – We’ll be exploring the power of good design in the widest possible context – considering transportation, civic leadership, land-use planning, even the effect of natural disasters on place-making. We’ll be hearing from architects and deep thinkers. It will be a design conference.

ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY, EQUITY – We’re all just a little bit tired of the “green” bandwagon, because we’ve been thinking about these issues for so much longer than the general population. So we’re pushing beyond that concept, asking “what’s next?” Always with an eye on good design, we’ll be looking at genius loci and the vision of futurists. We’ve developed a program with balance and depth.

ATTRACTING YOUTH – We’re meeting in Eugene so we can mix it up with the students, but we’re doing more than that. We will extend scholarships to students across the region. We’ve invited ARE and IDP officials and we’re co-hosting a young leaders conference during the same time.

PUBLIC EVENTS – We wanted to be sure we share our message with non-architects who care (or want to learn to care) about good design. So we have public events planned for Friday evening and another for young professionals late night Friday.

THERE WILL BE CHANCES TO GET OUT OF TOWN – Friday, October 15 will be an opportunity to see impressive sights across the state. We’ll take buses to see Alvar Aalto’s Mount Angel Abbey Library, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House, and Independence Station (proclaimed the “world’s greenest building,” and designed by a team led by Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects).

BUT SPACE WILL BE LIMITED – We’re guaranteeing seats on those buses only through July. So tell everyone what we have planned and be sure to have them sign up before summer slips away.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of my colleagues from around the state at Salishan for the Oregon Design Conference. My hope is that they (and many others) will also join us here in Eugene this fall as the arc of our Trilogy Told in Two Parts is closed. Both events are set to attract not only architects, but also landscape architects, planners, legislators, and business representatives at the vanguard of design excellence. As Bob Hastings has noted, bringing people together to establish a common vision of a preferred future can empower whole communities, industries, and neighborhoods. Our role as design professionals is to help them along the path to that preferred future.

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