Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christmas in July? I wish . . .

Update 8-14-10: I feel good enough to return to work this next Monday. I've also started blogging again, finishing up a post ("A Stitch in Time") I started before I got sick.

Update 8-9-10: I have pneumonia but after nearly three weeks, I think I'm on the mend. I'm not back at work yet, but my coughing is subsiding, and the fever is gone. I'm on antibiotics and am using an inhaled corticosteroid medication to reduce inflammation in my lungs. At the moment, the worst part is the fatigue and tthe fact that I've lost ten pounds (six in the last week). Hopefully, I'll stop losing weight and regain my strength soon.

The precious few regular readers of my blog are probably wondering “why hasn’t he posted anything lately?” I wish I could blame my dearth of posts on a sudden, untapped giddiness over “Christmas in July,” that marketing ploy by national retailers to justify sales. Unfortunately, my absence is attributable to another summer anomaly: an unseasonal cold or flu.

This ain’t no cold. This must be a flu variant. I’ve been running a low-grade fever for days and it hasn’t broken yet. I have pounding headaches, and aches and pains in joints and muscles I’d forgotten I have. A nagging persistent cough has precluded restful sleep. I have absolutely no appetite. I'm no doctor, but not eating and not sleeping aren't parts of a normal prescription for recovery.

The bottom line is that I simply have not felt good enough to blog. I can't focus or concentrate. I’m staying home from work so that I don’t pass this along to others. My wife’s been a trouper for taking such good care of me.

A high school buddy of mine, Patrick Hannon, had little tolerance for my proclivity for constant complaining. In response to this he would undoubtedly proclaim “Another fine whine, Mr. Nishimura!” Yeah, but it makes me feel better.

I hope to soon be posting regularly again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

PK Park (photo courtesy of the Eugene Emeralds)

The weather was perfect, the company grand, and the backdrop sparkling. The 2010 edition of the AIA-SWO summer picnic this past Wednesday, July 14, took in America’s pastime at pristine PK Park, new home for the Eugene Emeralds baseball team.(1)

Like previous years, AIA-Southwestern Oregon invited related construction-industry organizations to join us at our annual picnic:
The event was a fun way for members of these different groups to get to know one another better. It also featured all the hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and baked beans you could eat, and a heck of a ballgame to boot (the Ems bested the Tri-City Dust Devils by a score of 3-1).

Pk Park - West Entrance (my photo)

A warm summer evening at the ballpark is the perfect setting for people of all ages to gather, meet, relax, and have fun. Baseball’s languorous pace (due in part to the sport’s unique absence of a running game clock) helps us to unwind, slow down, and soak in the atmosphere. Those who attended the 2010 AIA-SWO picnic reveled in the occasion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

PK Park - View from the concourse along the 1st base line (my photo)

PK Park
Named after uber-donor (and former University of Oregon athletic director) Pat Kilkenny, PK Park has 2,040 box seats with backs, a general admission bleacher section that holds 480, 53 ADA and companion seats, two picnic plazas, eight upper level luxury suites and a VIP lounge. Much of the seating is sheltered by a cantilevered roof above. PK Park also features a broad concourse that wraps the entire length of the seating bowl. The open concourse affords fans the opportunity to stay in touch with the action on the field as they mingle with friends or wait in line at one of the varied concession stands.

PK Park - View of the field from behind home plate (my photo)

The playing surface is a baseball-specific version of Field Turf, which allows play to occur when the field is wet, something natural grass cannot do.

While not overtly historicizing, PK Park’s architecture does reflect the vogue for new stadia that are reminiscent of the classic ballparks constructed during the early decades of the 20th century. It achieves this impression by using brick (actually tinted concrete masonry units), exposed steel painted deep green, and green seats. The field of play features angled outfield fences and quirky foul territory dimensions, also reminiscent of classic structures like Ebbets Field and Fenway Park that were shoehorned into the urban fabric. The overhanging luxury suites and press box further the allusion to the parks of baseball’s golden age.

Sluggo, the Eugene Emeralds mascot (my photo)

DLR Group’s sports facility design division was the architect for PK Park.(2)

As a venue for collegiate and minor league baseball, there’s no doubt that PK Park compares more than favorably against any other similarly-purposed facility in the country. DLR Group has done an admirable job. So why is the advent of PK Park bittersweet? It’s because its appearance likely signals the death knell for Eugene’s beloved Civic Stadium.

Whither Civic Stadium?
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be good again.”

Field of Dreams (1989) – Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones)

Ty Cobb & "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (1914)

More so perhaps than any other spectator sport, fans of baseball passionately revere its history, rituals, and traditions. It may be because the game harkens back to simpler times when traditions mattered, when everyone knew right from wrong, and the good guys always won. Perhaps it’s because it stirs childhood memories of sons playing catch with their fathers. Or possibly because the more society changes, the more baseball reassuringly stays the same. Baseball’s glorious nostalgia is its most valuable currency.

Prior to the 2010 season, the Emeralds called Civic Stadium in south Eugene the team’s home. Generations of fans watched games from the facility’s wooden grandstand, originally constructed in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. According to Emeralds president Bob Beban, the move to PK Park was precipitated by the increasingly poor conditions at Civic Stadium. At the time of the decision, he cited a litany of major issues with the old ballpark, including a poor irrigation system, broken seats and an unreliable power supply.

Civic Stadium’s owner, Eugene School District 4J, has declared the stadium to be “surplus property” to be disposed of at its discretion. The school district does not have the funds to renovate Civic.

A local community group, Save Civic Stadium, developed its own vision to save the stadium. It hired G2 Strategic, a sports consulting firm, who proposed saving Civic Stadium and developing the surrounding site so that it can host an economically viable mix of events to serve youth and the community at large.

G2’s report recommends that Civic Stadium be rehabilitated and converted from a baseball stadium into a multipurpose venue anchored by a professional soccer team that would be funded by a local private investment group. The renovation of the stadium itself would be publicly financed.
This is a photo taken of Civic Stadium on 7/14...Civic Stadium (Image via Wikipedia)

District 4J intends to issue a Request for Proposals this fall, inviting interested parties to describe their plans for the property and offer a purchase price (or suggest terms of a long-term lease or property trade). G2’s vision for Civic Stadium may only be one of several schemes that 4J will ultimately consider. If the school board selects a proposal to approve, the district will move forward with negotiating a sale, lease or trade.

Regardless if Civic Stadium survives in one form or another, its life as a minor league professional baseball park has ended. This is a shame.

Civic Stadium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, primarily in recognition of its rarity as a surviving example of a once common style of timber-framed ballpark rather than the merits of its architecture.(3) What makes Civic irreplaceable isn’t its design but instead the memories that were formed there.

PK Park vs. Civic Stadium: An Assessment
My initial impressions of PK Park are that it is a modern, functional, and attractive facility. I only hesitate to proclaim that the Ducks and the Emeralds have hit a home run (pardon the pun) with PK Park because I cannot avoid comparing it to Civic Stadium.

As decrepit and deficient as Civic Stadium was (is), it nevertheless had several things going for it. One was its setting in south Eugene, nestled against College Hill, its grandstand oriented past the outfield toward the southeast hills. During evening games, the setting of the sun against those hills was truly magical. Another was the smell of the freshly cut grass, as quintessential to the baseball experience as the crack of wooden bats and the seventh inning stretch. Civic Stadium’s large sections of bench seating also fostered a more relaxed attitude toward how families and friends interacted in the grandstand than is now possible at PK Park.

Coupled with its timber construction and long history, these and other factors endowed Civic Stadium with great appeal. Unfortunately, such charm cannot be fabricated from whole cloth. PK Park skirts the perils of historic pastiche, but just barely. Only time will tell if the community will embrace the new building. It will take the passage of many years for PK Park to acquire an engaging patina to rival that which Civic Stadium enjoyed.

(1) Of course, PK Park was purpose-built for use by the resurrected University of Oregon Ducks baseball team, which resumed PAC-10 play in 2009. As such, the stadium’s design was tailored to the college game and not entirely for professional, minor league standards. For example, the stadium presently lacks a visitors’ locker room, a deficiency that will be remedied by future facility upgrades.

(2) Prior to retaining DLR Group, the University of Oregon originally commissioned my firm, Robertson/Sherwood/Architects, and Cameron McCarthy Gilbert & Scheibe Landscape Architects to develop a master plan for the new stadium. We tested alternative configurations for the ballpark, and executed the first phase of PK Park’s development (the design of the field of play).

(3) Natalie Perrin, at the time a graduate student at the University of Oregon, prepared the application for Civic Stadium’s listing on the National Register in 2008.
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Design Awards

Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse, 2009 Honor Winner - Architects: DLR Group & Morphosis (photo by M.O. Stevens)

The American Institute of Architects Northwest & Pacific Region produces a Design Awards program each year. Its goal is to honor excellence in architectural design and to recognize the architects, clients, and consultants who work together to achieve design excellence.

This year’s Region Awards program is special because AIA-Southwestern Oregon is playing host. The assembly of the jury and its judging of the entries, as well as the presentation of the awards at the Region Awards Banquet, will all be part of the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference, October 13-16, here in Eugene.

Interested? Here are the details:

2010 Jury
AIA-SWO has assembled a jury of esteemed architects, whose firms are the recipient of numerous past design awards themselves:
Eligible entries shall have won a design award in a professional juried awards program sponsored by a Chapter (state or local) in the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region. A project that receives an AIA National award is eligible, regardless if it won a Chapter award.

Projects must have received an award between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2009 to be eligible. Projects must have been completed at the time the qualifying award was issued.

Planning projects, pre-design or other projects for which construction was not complete at the time of the award are not eligible.

Any member in a local chapter of the Region that has not had an awards program of its own in more than 2 years may enter the Region program. The project must have been completed between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2009 to be eligible.

A qualifying award must be the result of a jury of professional peers and issued in a chapter’s award program. Awards co-sponsored by an AIA Chapter with another organization or entity are eligible, provided they meet the jury and date criteria.

Awards that are not eligible include those voted on by internet polls, polls of the broader membership, or issued by a single person. Examples of award that would not qualify include: People’s Choice Award, Mayor’s Award, Legacy Awards, Presidential Citations, etc.

Awards issued by AIA Chapters outside of the region, other than the AIA National Component, are not eligible; even if the award is given to a member within the region.

Intent to Enter
If you would like to submit an entry, download an "intent to enter letter" by clicking here.

The deadline for intent to enter letters and entry fees is Monday, August 16, 2010. Faxed or emailed letters, with check or credit card payment to follow, are acceptable. The entry fee is $165 per project.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Oregon Bach Festival offer for AIA-SWO Members

German conductor and composer Felix Mendelssoh...Felix Mendelssohn (image via Wikipedia)

The Oregon Bach Festival has a special offer for AIA-Southwestern Oregon members (and followers of SW Oregon Architect!). It’s an exclusive discount for tickets to the 2010 season’s final concert, Elijah, a biblical composition by Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was a showman of a composer, and his oratorio brims with all the glory and intensity of his best symphonic writing.

The performance takes place on Sunday, July 11 at 3 pm in Eugene’s Hult Center for the Performing Arts Silva Concert Hall. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience plenty of Old Testament drama as conductor Helmuth Rilling, the amazing Thomas Quasthoff, and the full choir and orchestra showcase their talents.

The 2010 Bach Festival is on track to break a sales record. It would be great to see the Hult Center packed.

To get the special 30% discount, simply use the password CHARIOT when purchasing your tickets to the show (either online or at the Hult Center ticket office).

Here is the link to send with complete details: http://wp.me/pRJFy-c0

Hurry! The offer ends this Friday, July 9, when the box office closes.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

A Museum for Corvallis

The new Benton County Historical Society Museum will allow the Society to exhibit its diverse cultural and natural history collections, connect with a broader audience, and bring new life to a streetscape of shops, residences and historic buildings. (Unless noted otherwise, all images by Allied Works Architecture from the Benton County Historical Society & Museum website).

Museums are full of life! Despite old stereotypes to the contrary, museums are living, breathing institutions that evolve on a daily basis. The Benton County Historical Society & Museum is a case in point: In 2008, the BCHS acquired the Horner Collection from Oregon State University, a truly remarkable treasure trove of significant artifacts.

However, like the fascinating attic full of wonderful objects we explored as children in our grandparents’ house, the Horner Collection is largely hidden away. The majority of the artifacts is not on public display at the BCHS’ current home in the 1867 Philomath College Building, (restored and converted to use as a museum in 1980); rather, the bulk of the collection is housed next door in a spacious storage and curatorial facility. Only limited public access to the storage building’s contents is possible.

The need for additional display space is clear to the Historical Society, and it has embarked upon an ambitious campaign to build a new museum in downtown Corvallis. A new building will ensure that the artifacts in the Horner Collection are shared with as many Benton County residents and visitors as possible, including anthropologists, geologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, historians, genealogists, educators, students, and laypersons.

The proposed museum will be located at the corner of Second and Adams Streets in downtown Corvallis, Oregon.

The Bilbao Effect
Over the course of the past twenty years or so, institutions and entire communities have placed their faith in the development of new showcase museum buildings designed by “star” architects like Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Renzo Piano, and Daniel Liebeskind as a means to increase patronage and support. Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is particularly famous for the power of its dramatic architecture to revitalize an entire city and region.

While the BCHSM lacks the enormous financial endowment and support that institutions like the Guggenheim enjoy, it nevertheless aspires to develop an architecturally distinctive building in downtown Corvallis. Toward this end, it issued a Request for Qualifications following its acquisition of the Horner Collection, receiving 12 submissions.(1) The BCHSM ultimately selected Allied Works Architecture’s (AWA) Portland office to prepare a conceptual design.

Allied Works is well-known for its museum projects, which include the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the expansion of the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, and the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver (presently under construction).

Museum of Arts & Design, New York, by Allied Works Architecture (photo via Wikipedia)

Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, by Allied Works Architecture (model photo from website of the Clyfford Still Museum)

Born and raised in Portland, AWA’s principal, Brad Cloepfil, is a 1980 graduate of the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts.(2) His profile has steadily risen since the success of AWA’s seminal Weiden + Kennedy adaptive reuse project.

I'm only starting to learn about Brad Cloepfil’s approach to creating architecture. He is sought after by museums because of his ability to craft buildings that shift your perception so that you are open to new experiences. He views each of his museums as a “vessel” whose purpose it is to prepare you to see something different.

Cloepfil often looks to art to inform his design process; in the past, he has taken inspiration from artists like Donald Judd and Richard Serra, whose works are overtly spatial in their genesis. He has also been profoundly influenced by the Oregon landscape, as well as the expressive potential of construction and structure. Museum directors appreciate that he searches for the right questions to ask in an attempt to gather in the forces of their institution – its dreams, as well as the spirit and history of the place.

His buildings are famously non-expressive, at least when compared to those of the more heralded “starchitects.” In a July 2007 piece for Metropolis, writer Andrew Blum characterized Cloepfil as an “elementalist,” the embodiment of a shift away from glib shape-making (a la Gehry or Libeskind) toward a more timeless and lasting architecture:

. . . the relative unrenderability(sic) of Cloepfil’s work is a remarkable change from most museum projects—undoubtedly a blessing and a curse. Not that the finished buildings suffer; if anything, they gain power for not pandering to the camera. But architecture is salesmanship, and Cloepfil doesn’t make it easy for himself. “There are at times frustrations with clients and boards because they always want to know what it looks like,” he admits. “And if you say, ‘We don’t know yet,’ rather than sit at the podium and do a watercolor and say, ‘Here it is’—that’s just not the way we work. It isn’t like I don’t care how a building communicates visually. It’s just not a beginning place.”

In some respects, I find Cloepfil’s design approach akin to that of Peter Zumthor and David Chipperfield, with their emphasis upon the sensory aspects of the architectural experience. I’m also reminded somewhat of the architecture of Herzog & de Meuron, particularly because of the focus upon materiality they share with Cloepfil.

I hope to learn more about Brad Cloepfil and the work of Allied Works Architecture. There appear to be two recently published monographs that showcase the work of AWA but I have yet to get my hands on either of them. I expect to eventually add one or the other to my bookshelf.

The first floor includes two courtyards, a museum store, spacious lobby, education/event space and a project gallery. The red line indicates a series of built-in wall cases.

The second floor includes three gallery spaces, two of which can be sub-divided.

Fundamental Issues
A museum is a dynamic operation with an ever-changing collection, and its architecture must be responsive to much more than just the functional demands associated with the display of artifacts. The architecture of a good museum will be in harmony with the type of museum and subject matter that it supports – neutral for the exhibits, but expressive and memorable in its own right where people access the museum and formulate first and last impressions.

The architecture ought to be compatible with its surroundings, reflective of community pride and values, and be inviting and accessible. In short, the architecture should seek to both draw its inspiration from and support the evolving, dynamic life of the museum.

Upper floor gallery spaces.

There are several other issues related to realizing a new museum for the Historical Society in downtown Corvallis. These include:
  • Development of a broadly-appealing design that will attract the support of donors and friends of the Museum.
  • Provision of flexible gallery spaces capable not only of optimally displaying the diverse pieces of the Horner Collection, but also accommodating the needs of varied traveling exhibits.
  • Clear organization of a functional program and barrier-free building circulation on a site that, by necessity, requires arraying displays and other spaces across multiple floors.
  • Creation of a building that contributes positively to the urban experience of a vibrant and revitalized area of downtown Corvallis.
  • Implementation of appropriate sustainable design strategies to achieve LEED Gold certification as required by the RFQ’s project brief.
AWA’s concept addresses these issues with a two-story scheme that features high-ceilinged galleries, flexible exhibit space, a pair of courtyards, and a museum store rendered in the firm’s characteristically modernistic idiom. One measure of AWA’s success will be how successfully it assembles the desired complement of functional spaces on the relatively tight, urban site. The Historical Society’s charge to AWA is to ensure that the layout of spaces maximizes efficiencies to the greatest extent possible, while simultaneously providing a gracious experience for museum visitors.

Upper floor gallery spaces.

Ultimately, the new museum may or may not resemble the images shown here. AWA’s work is not conceived in scenographic terms; as Andrew Blum noted in Metropolis, the firm’s projects do not pander to the camera. Like everyone else, I will have to look forward to visiting the completed project before being able to render fair judgment about the design.

Second Street elevation.

By selecting Allied Works Architecture, the Benton County Historical Society has swung for the fences. It remains to be seen if it has hit a home run. Based on the promise of his past projects, Brad Cloepfil offers the Society good odds to deliver a one-of-a-kind facility that will bring to light the wonders of the Horner Collection.

(1) My firm – Robertson/Sherwood/Architects – coveted this project. Alas, we were not short-listed because a) on reputation alone, how could we compete with the likes of AWA?; and b) we could not boast a large portfolio of museum-related projects (our most relevant project is our 2009 addition to the Museum of Natural & Cultural History at the University of Oregon).

During our pursuit of the commission, I had the pleasure to speak with BCHSM Executive Director Irene Zenev several times. Irene “gets” architecture and recognizes the fact that the proposed museum will be a civic asset for downtown Corvallis. She understands that outstanding architecture will deliver added value to the display of the Horner Collection.

(2) Because Cloepfil graduated in 1980, he and I never crossed paths (I began my studies at the University of Oregon in the fall of 1980). He completed graduate studies at Columbia University in 1985 after a stint working with Mario Botta in Switzerland, with whom he shares an emphasis on craftsmanship and geometric order. Cloepfil founded Allied Works Architecture in 1994.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Invest in Yourself: Register Today!

An Emerald Vision: The 2010 American Institute of Architects Northwest & Pacific Region Conference
October 13-16, 2010

I blogged previously about how AIA-SWO’s 2010 Conference marketing committee, led by Barbara Harris, has assembled a promotional campaign for this fall's big event. That effort includes a series of email “blasts” to targeted audiences. With online registration now open, the committee is directing the next blast (below) to all AIA members and associates who attended past AIA Northwest & Pacific Region conferences in Spokane, Honolulu, and Anchorage:

You’ve atended the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference before. You know how valuable it is. This year’s edition will be no exception. Give yourself the gift of An Emerald Vision: The 2010 American Institute of Architects Northwest & Pacific Region Conference, October 13-16, in Eugene, Oregon.

Want an asset that will never diminish in value? Invest in yourself. That’s a sure bet in this economy. Profit richly by networking and learning.

Coveting a guaranteed return on your investment? Receive all 18 continuing education units required for your annual AIA membership (including HSW and SD credits) at the Region conference.

Seeking value? Explore the power of good design in the widest possible context — consider transportation, civic leadership, land-use planning, even the effect of natural disasters on place-making. We'll push beyond the green bandwagon and ask “what’s next?” We’ll look at genius loci and the vision of futurists.

Looking to diversify your conference experience? Select from our broad portfolio of educational sessions: lectures by distinguished speakers, intriguing panel discussions, or tours of outstanding local projects. We’ll spend a day on the University of Oregon campus, drawing upon a new generation of design leadership throughout the Region. We’re arranging alumni get-togethers, and time with professors and students.

Space is limited. Tell everyone what we have planned and have them sign up before summer slips away.

No other AIA component is as geographically and culturally diverse as the Northwest & Pacific Region. That’s why you value the exchange of ideas, networking, and the company of your Region colleagues. You know how rewarding an investment in every AIA Northwest & Pacific Region conference can be.

Invest in a commodity that will pay real dividends. It's a gem: An Emerald Vision.

Make your 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference plans now!

Register online at http://www.emeraldvision2010.com/.