Saturday, November 13, 2010


Lunch on the Silva Concert Hall stage, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Friday, October 15, 2010, AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference (photo by Erik Bishoff)

Here is another post about last month’s 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference. My goal is to memorialize the event before it recedes too quickly from memory. The conference was hosted by AIA-Southwestern Oregon.

AIA-SWO Executive Director Don Kahle is well known in Eugene for the weekly column he writes for The Register-Guard newspaper. I look forward to reading what Don has to say each Friday, because I can rely upon his quirky mind to serve up a satisfying quota of quips, queries, and querulous quibbles in a characteristically offbeat take on the quotidian.

Don’s November 5, 2011 column was no exception. In it he reflected upon the parallels between our mutual home city, Eugene, and our hometown football team, the currently number one-ranked University of Oregon Ducks. There are lessons, he wrote, for all of us in the Ducks’ success. Specifically, it was head coach Chip Kelly’s “Win the Day” philosophy that appealed to Don.

That philosophy has heightened the players’ focus. Excellence and a top ranking are the rewards; the daily exertion in their pursuit a source of joy. The players are confident. Kelly has his team believing in itself, both on and off the field. The Ducks’ display of fearless ambition is inspiring.

Why, Don mused, can we Eugeneans not push toward excellence and shake ourselves of complacency? Why can’t we adopt a resolve similar to that of our beloved Ducks? Why not believe in ourselves and possibilities? Is it wrong to be ambitious?

Ambition drove AIA-Southwestern Oregon to produce the best possible 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference. Much of the credit goes to 2010 Conference co-chair Jody Heady, AIA, who steadfastly made the case that Eugene has as much to offer and delight conference attendees as any other host site in the Northwest & Pacific Region. Rather than dwell upon perceived limitations, Jody coached us up to believe that 2010 was Eugene’s time to shine.

AIA-SWO previously hosted the Northwest & Pacific Region Conference in resort settings, such as Sunriver in Central Oregon, rather than in Eugene. There were those that doubted (me included) that Eugene would be considered an attractive destination. However, Jody rightly argued that Eugene’s distinctive attributes – its middling size, well-established culture of respect for the environment, and being the home to the University of Oregon, among others – would set our conference apart. As Chip Kelly does with his players, Jody challenged us to raise our game.

The results speak for themselves. The 2010 Conference and its theme – “An Emerald Vision” – resonated with the AIA members, associates, students, and others who attended. The program was design-focused, discussion-rich, and deep. Our roster of speakers, panelists, and design awards jurors was superb, reading like a who’s who of authorities on design excellence, place-making, and paradigm-shifting changes affecting architecture.(1)

There were 262 registrants, many more than the previous AIA Northwest & Pacific Region conferences hosted by AIA-SWO at those resort locations. More than one attendee remarked glowingly about how enjoyable the experience in Eugene proved to be. The conference was a fiscal success, with dozens of trade show vendors and sponsors providing generous financial support.

The lessons for those of us who helped organize the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference are clear: We can be ambitious and choose to pursue lofty goals. We can work effectively toward those goals as a team. We can win each day’s battle and ultimately achieve great things. Our successful experience with the conference is evidence that Eugene can hold its own and play on the same field with Portland, or Seattle, or wherever.(2)

As I've stated previously, I was awed by the efforts of my organizing committee colleagues and the contributions they made to the unequivocal success of the Region Conference. It’s easy to doubt and predict failure. After witnessing the organizing committee’s and volunteers’ labors first hand I’ll never question again our ability to rise to the occasion. I am convinced that we have the talent and will to do anything we want to.

This college football season has been a magical one (so far) for the Oregon Ducks, and yet I can’t help but think that it’s a harbinger of many more to come. Success breeds success. Don Kahle asked if we in Eugene can become possessed of the same fearless ambition displayed by the talented team of destiny we’ve cheered on to gridiron glory this fall. AIA-SWO’s experience with the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference is proof for me that Eugene’s design community can grasp the brass ring, push toward excellence, and win the day. We can provide the design leadership Eugene needs at this important time in its history. All it takes is the drive and determination – the ambition – and a common goal to better our city’s built environment.

(1) The list included:
  • Alan Durning – Director, Sightline Institute
  • Julie Eizenberg, AIA – Koning Eizenberg Architecture
  • Ed Feiner, FAIA – Former GSA Chief Architect
  • David Lake, FAIA – Lake|Flato Architects
  • Donlyn Lyndon, FAIA – Eva Li Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley
  • Clark Manus, FAIA – 2010 AIA First Vice President
  • Thom Mayne, FAIA – Morphosis
  • Shelley Poticha – HUD Senior Advisor for Sustainable Housing & Communities
(2) Granted, a few of the compliments we received betrayed preconceived notions. An example: “I didn’t expect an AIA conference produced in a small city like Eugene to be so sophisticated!”

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