Monday, August 30, 2010

The Architect is In

Will Dixon, AIA, assembled the Architecture 5¢ booth, a new feature at this year’s People’s Choice display (photo by Paul Dustrud, AIA)

For the first time ever (I think), I didn’t make it down to the Eugene Celebration to check out the AIA-SWO and ASLA People’s Choice display at Oveissi & Company. I’m trying to rest as much as I can – my pneumonia has relapsed and my doctor has advised me to “listen to my body.” So, rest it was, and that meant being a shut-in and missing this year’s event. Health comes first.

By all accounts, this year’s program was an unconditional success, with 50 entrants exhibited (a new high). Led by chair Rachel Auerbach, Associate AIA, the People’s Choice organizing committee did an outstanding job soliciting projects and organizing the display.

The winners of the People’s Choice Awards (and the Colleague’s Choice) will be announced at the next AIA-SWO chapter meeting, which occurs on Wednesday, September 15. The award recipients will be announced publicly on October 15 on an insert in the Register-Guard newspaper.

New this year is the Mayor’s Choice Award. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy will announce her favorite project at the September 15 AIA-SWO meeting from among those that were on display during the Celebration. Alas, her announcement will be by way of videotape, as she has a conflict that will preclude her from attending the meeting.

As mentioned in my previous post about this year’s program, also new was the “Architecture 5¢” booth inspired by the original erected by Seattle designer John Morefield at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. The goal of the booth was to introduce architecture to people in an informal and lighthearted way. What a great idea. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how successful the booth was.

I hope this is the last time I will have to miss the People’s Choice exhibit because I don’t have enough energy to be out and about. Being sick is really a drag.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The End of the Road

Franz Marc, Red and Blue Horses, 1912. Cover picture of "The End of the Road: The Transition to Safe, Green Horsepower

“Our years of rational thought, our instinct to do good, the advantage of education, and a clear reading of history tell us that the internal combustion engine and the vehicle that it powers is killing us. We need to change behavior collectively and make some common sense decisions about life. We need to change the way we live and the way we move.

“This is the beginning of the end of the road.”
                                                                                      Joseph McKinney

Joseph McKinney is a fascinating business leader and an "out-of-the box" thinker.(1) He is CEO and president of Oregon Roads, Inc. headquartered here in Eugene. Oregon Roads specializes in auto fleet leasing but sells individual cars as well. Joseph is also a fierce advocate for change in his industry, specifically toward a greener, more sustainable future.

Joseph McKinney

I recently completed reading The End of the Road: The Transition to Safe, Green Horsepower, a book written by Joseph and his co-author, Amy Isler Gibson. Joseph and Amy argue that focusing on improving the technology of automobiles alone is shortsighted and will not adequately address the challenges posed by the realities of peak oil and global warming. They are ruthlessly critical of the automobile industry – its history, development, and current status – and of the politics that have sustained it. They contend that continued extravagant spending on improving and expanding roads to support a system based upon internal combustion powered vehicles is sheer folly.

Joseph and Amy believe that the infrastructure of American transportation and energy systems must be radically altered to accommodate new, healthier types of transportation and vehicle use. They propose solutions they deem to be achievable, imperative, and locally adaptable. Their vision is of communities with roads that are restructured to encourage and accommodate new, healthier types of transportation and vehicle use.

The key concepts associated with this vision are:
  • Reassessing what it is we truly need to get from Point A to Point B
  • Differentiating and distinguishing between appropriate transportation options
  • Developing “village vehicles:” small, lightweight, zero-emission cars as an interim step toward a car-free future
  • Transitioning to a transportation infrastructure that makes village vehicles safe to operate (including decommissioning of urban roads to become “greenways” limited to use by pedestrians, cyclists, and village vehicles)
In the book, Joseph describes how a shift to village vehicles and roads that can make them safe can reduce carbon emissions by 25% in the near future.

Of course, recognizing that we are at “the end of the road” and realizing Joseph’s and Amy’s vision will require a momentous shift in how we all regard our beloved automobiles. Joseph and Amy are optimistic that Eugene is exactly the kind of community that is amenable to and ripe for the changes that are necessary. I’m not so sure. As progressive as many would like to believe that Eugene is, I see plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Americans (and a majority of Eugeneans are no exception) have a love affair with their cars, the convenience they provide, and the freedom they afford. I’m afraid that only dramatic changes to our circumstances – such as crippling hikes in the price of gasoline or overwhelming, immediate evidence of destructive climate change – will wean us from our addiction to the overweight, over-powered, greenhouse gas-spewing transporters that monopolize the current automotive marketplace.

If village vehicles are to become accepted, they initially will have to be able to hold their own in the company of conventional automobiles, SUVs, and trucks because a comprehensive network of greenways will not appear overnight. The first village vehicles will also have to be as broadly appealing as possible to not appear too alien to our current sensibilities.

New, “mainstream” electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf (and certainly the Tesla Roadster) are not village vehicles. They’re too much in the mold of conventional automobiles: they’re heavy, expensive, can drive faster and are more powerful than necessary. Ideally, VVs will be small, lightweight, and locally manufactured.

The Arcimoto Pulse (photo from Arcimoto's website)

Eugene is fortunate to have a home-grown company that is poised to capitalize on the hoped-for demand for village vehicles. Arcimoto has designed the Pulse, a three-wheeled electric VV that may be appealing enough to gain a foothold in the automotive marketplace. As the Arcimoto website states, consumers may find the Pulse a more efficient and more enjoyable implementation of the way they already drive every day:

“Stand on any busy street corner and watch the cars go by. What you typically see is a single person driving upwards of 5,000 lbs. of steel. Ask those folks where they’re going and it’s usually a 5-mile trip to the store, or their 10-mile morning commute. Tack on fuel and maintenance costs for that vehicle, and the expense in wasted resources and energy adds up quick for an individual, let alone the multiplicative effect across the whole of society.

“Why haul around thousands of pounds of steel and many cubic feet of unneeded space for daily commutes, a trip to the grocery store, or visiting grandma across town? Drive something that fits.”

TV stars Nathan Fillion (at the wheel; Firefly, Castle) and Jon Huertas (Castle) taking the Arcimoto P4 prototype for a test drive in Eugene a couple of weekends ago. (Photo from Arcimoto's website)

I’m guardedly optimistic that cars like the Pulse will become the norm and that Arcimoto will be successful. Perhaps our society will recognize the need for change to a sustainable transportation model sooner than I imagine. Visionaries like Joseph McKinney and Amy Isler Gibson are doing what they can to hasten that change.

I found The End of the Road to be enjoyable for a couple of reasons: First, Joseph and Amy write from a local perspective, citing examples and projecting scenarios that are specific to a possible future for Eugene. Second, the book reads like a conversation between the co-authors, with Amy providing commentary (her text distinguished by being italicized), in the role of an educated, curious and at times challenging consumer. This adds a pleasantly breezy, informal tone to the book.

I highly recommend The End of the Road to all who have tried to imagine practical solutions to the problem of reconciling unsustainable growth with the need for convenient, practical transportation.

(1) Joseph and I are both members of the Emerald Executive Association, a Eugene-based business networking group. Joseph's wife, Lydia, is a planner for the City of Eugene.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010


Last year, the Oregon Legislature approved Senate Bill 79, directing the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD) to reduce energy use in commercial construction 15-25% over the 2007 code provisions by 2012. With the adoption of the 2010 Oregon Energy Efficiency Specialty Code (OEESC) the division achieved the goal set out by the Legislature two years ahead of schedule.

The 2010 OEESC is now a stand-alone code. It takes the place of Chapter 13 in the Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC).

COMcheck is Oregon's new method of determining compliance with the OEESC. The U.S. Department of Energy developed the COMcheck software to clarify and simplify commercial building energy code compliance.

Use of COMcheck is now required to demonstrate that a project complies with the OEESC. The reports and checklists generated by COMcheck must be included with construction documents when applying for a building permit.

COMcheck offers a streamlined, easy-to-understand process for demonstrating compliance with all commercial energy code requirements for envelope, interior and exterior lighting, and mechanical systems. It eliminates calculation tasks other than determining square footages and requires no specialized technical knowledge of commercial codes. When applied to simple buildings, COMcheck is self-contained, requiring no additional resources or reference books.. Contractors and designers who use COMcheck can save time and effort in documenting code compliance.

COMcheck is the subject of the City of Eugene’s next Design/Plan Review sack lunch presentation. It will take place on Thursday, September 2, 2010, from noon to 1:00 PM, in the Atrium Building’s Sloat Room (99 West 10th Avenue). Mark Campion of the State of Oregon Building Codes Division will be the speaker. He will demonstrate COMcheck’s capabilities by modeling some typical buildings. He will also discuss use of the prescriptive method versus the simplified trade-off method, and why a designer would choose one over the other.

Mark encourages anyone interested in attending his presentation to bring examples of envelope assemblies, interior and exterior lighting systems, and HVAC equipment types to see how COMcheck would handle them.

Don’t miss the City’s Design/Plan Review sack lunch to learn more about this important new energy code compliance software. If you have any questions regarding the September 2 meeting, contact Mark Whitmill, Assistant Building Official, City of Eugene by phone at (541) 682-5128 or by email at

Saturday, August 21, 2010

2010 People’s Choice Awards for Architecture

Wow! Time flies when you’re having fun (or in my case, when you’ve been sick in bed for weeks). It’s already time for the 21st annual People’s Choice Awards for Architecture, which will take place this coming week during the Eugene Celebration, August 27, 28 and 29, 2010. Once again, you’ll find the People’s Choice display in the showroom of Oveissi & Company, located at One East Broadway in the heart of downtown Eugene.

Each year, the American Institute of Architects - Southwestern Oregon Chapter (AIA-SWO) in collaboration with the American Society of Landscape Architects - Willamette Valley Section of the Oregon Chapter (ASLA) sponsors the People’s Choice Awards for Architecture.

The intent of the program is to educate and inspire our fellow citizens by showcasing architecture, interiors, and landscape architecture projects designed by AIA-SWO or ASLA members. The program demonstrates to the public how design professionals enhance the built environment.

Everyone can vote for their favorite designs in several categories. These categories may include:
  • Residential
  • Commercial / Public / Institutional
  • Interiors
  • Residential Landscape
  • Commercial / Public Landscape
  • Unbuilt
The People’s Choice Awards committee will count the votes and announce the winners at the September AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting. The committee will further publicize the winners in various media outlets.

My understanding is that the organizing committee has done an outstanding job, attracting a bumper crop of entrants for this year’s show.

(Image credit: the late, great Charles M. Schulz)

New this year at the People’s Choice display will be a booth staffed by AIA-SWO and ASLA volunteers offering design advice for a nominal fee of 5¢ per consultation. The booth is directly inspired by and modeled after the “Architecture 5¢” stand erected at the Ballard Farmer’s Market by Seattle designer John Morefield. Will Dixon, AIA of the People’s Choice Awards committee contacted John and received his endorsement of our proposed Architecture 5¢ booth.

The goals of the booth are to deliver architecture to the people and serve the public with good design. The Architecture 5¢ principles of conduct are as follows:
  • Good design should be available to everyone… period
  • No project is too small for big ideas
  • Be good . . .
Don’t miss this year’s People’s Choice display! There’s more than ever before to see. Check it out and help bring design excellence to the forefront of our community’s consciousness.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Design/Spring, the emerging design professionals group in Eugene, Oregon, invites everyone who may be interested to participate in 10square, a design slam where ten designers will each present ten slides in rapid-fire fashion.

Design/Spring is producing 10square as its contribution to the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference. The event will be hosted at Cosmic Pizza in Eugene on Friday, October 15, 2010 starting at 9:00 PM. Cosmic Pizza is located at 8th & Charnelton in downtown Eugene.

If you would like to participate in 10square, fill out the Call for Entries form and email it to Gabe Greiner by Friday, September 24th. If you would like more information please email Gabe at

The concept of 10square is similar to the PechaKucha nights that are produced around the world as a venue for young designers to meet, show their work, exchange ideas, and network. The key is a format that keeps presentations concise, fast-paced and entertaining.

The 10square presentation format will be as follows:
  • Each presentation will consist of exactly 10 PowerPoint slides
  • Each slide can contain images or text (or both) but no animation, video or music
  • The total presentation time will be five (5) minutes. Each slide will be timed to change every thirty (30) seconds
Kudos to Design/Spring for organizing an important evening that is certain to entertain, enlighten, and educate.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Stitch in Time

Civic Stadium (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Dennis Galloway is a local photographer who contacted me after finding my blog. He thought that I might find his work interesting, particularly his “widescreen” panoramic images of buildings and spaces.

His panoramas are stitched together electronically from a half dozen or more digital photographs. They often display a level of detail that is remarkable, “positively voyeuristic” in the words of Register-Guard writer Bob Keefer. Keefer wrote on the occasion of an exhibit of Dennis’ work at the Eugene Public Library in 2008.

“The immense level of detail that can be captured by even fairly ordinary digital cameras, once you start stitching images together, opens new frontiers in photography that have hitherto been the exclusive province of large-format photographers.

“Their construction as widescreen panoramas adds yet another dimension to the experience. Galloway rotates his camera through 180 degrees or more while making these photos; a simple square room becomes a visual puzzle to be solved.”

Bob Keefer, The Register-Guard, September 18, 2008

Artist's studio panorama (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Dennis does not specialize in architectural photography. Perhaps this is why I find his approach to depicting architecture intriguing. He does not feel bound by the conventions of that trade, such as perspective control. He isn’t necessarily concerned with composing and editing photographs to conform to commonly accepted distortions in constructed perspective.

Lillis Hall, University of Oregon (photo by Dennis Galloway)

A problem with conventional architectural photography is that it emphasizes scenographic representations of buildings from static vantages. Compositions of individual images are stressed rather than exploration or explication of the dynamic spaces shaped by the architecture.

Architect and author William Hubbard took exception to the emphasis upon scenographic representations of buildings and spaces in his 1981 book Complicity and Conviction: Steps Toward An Architecture of Convention. For Hubbard, such an emphasis leads to a failure to establish a deeper basis for liking buildings because carefully composed, static images do not tell us of values that are deeper or more important to us. The ultimate goal of the scenographic approach is a pretty picture, not necessarily a more informative documentation of the subject matter.

Hult Center for the Performing Arts (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Rather than idealized representations from a single perspective, Dennis Galloway’s composite images are analogous to Cubist paintings, wherein the flux of time, motion, and space were expressed more dynamically than by the conventional art that preceded it. Like the Cubists, Dennis depicts his subjects from a multitude of viewpoints, conveying a greater context than is possible utilizing a scenographic approach.

In addition to his panoramic photography, Dennis is not hesitant to employ High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques, merging multiple exposures to depict a wider range of luminances than is possible from a single image. He uses HDR to achieve exaggerated local contrasts for artistic effect. Again, Dennis is less focused upon “realistic” or idealized representations of architecture. Instead, his goal is to utilize every tool at his disposal to deliberately affect the viewer’s perception of his images.

U.S. Post Office, Eugene (photo by Dennis Galloway)

No photograph or set of photos can replace actually experiencing a work of architecture in person. No matter how evocative an image may be, it remains a limited, two-dimensional representation of a much more complex reality. No photograph can come close to portraying an authentic, multi-sensory architectural experience. This is why I have a problem with design awards programs. In many instances, projects are awarded by juries solely on the basis of submitted photographs.

Eugene Public Library (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Nevertheless, Dennis Galloway’s work points to how photography can do more to suggest in two dimensions the multi-dimensionality of architecture and space. Panoramic and HDR imagery will not replace conventional photo documentation of architecture. On the other hand, such techniques can augment standard, perspective-corrected imagery to more fully convey the substance of the architecture being depicted.

If you’re interested in learning more about Dennis’ work, check out his websites at the following URLs: