Saturday, March 19, 2011

March AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Richard E. Wildish Community Theater (photo by Discover Downtown Springfield)

Last Wednesday’s March 2011 AIA-Southwestern Oregon chapter meeting offered delights aplenty: a marvelous setting, a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal (hearty corned beef and cabbage, served up one day early by Cornucopia), newsworthy facts, and an entertaining edition of 10Square. All in all, it was an enjoyable evening.

The Richard E. Wildish Community Theater
A star attraction was definitely our venue: the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater on Main Street in downtown Springfield. AIA-SWO’s own Otto Poticha, FAIA, designed the award-winning transformation of the old McKenzie Theater. In his inimitable way, Otto regaled the gathered members with amusing tales of the project’s protracted genesis, design, and construction. Completed in 2006, the 286-seat Wildish Theater hosts dozens of dance, music, and theater productions each year within an intimate and acoustically superb “shoebox” auditorium.

Wildish Theater - Lobby (my photo)

It’s tough to put a finger on it, but there’s something about the design of the Wildish Theater that is quintessentially Otto. Perhaps it’s the quirky detailing of the entry canopy. Maybe it’s the compact juxtaposition of eclectic materials, exposed structure, and angled planes in the lobby. That something might also be the painterly use of colors throughout. Otto was able to wrest incredible value out of the limited funds available for the extensive renovation. Without a doubt, the Wildish is an inspired work of art.

Otto Poticha, FAIA, leads a tour of the Wildish Theater (my photo)

Despite his signature bluster, Otto knows how to deliver the goods. Jerry Diethelm said the following about Otto at the recent OPSU VII recognition ceremony in his honor:

“As everyone knows (Otto) can be sharply critical and outspoken if he thinks we are aiming too low or are off target. If there is an elephant in the meeting room, he will not merely acknowledge it, but wash it, feed it, and sometimes even ride it around the room. Insight and fresh thinking can feel uncomfortable and challenging especially when it is coming right at you, but that is his way and the way of art.”

The Fate of Eugene’s City Hall
Following our dinner, Otto trotted out that elephant. He reported on the City of Eugene’s plan, endorsed by the City Council, to raze the existing home of municipal government and construct a new City Hall in its place. Otto has long been a proponent for rehabilitating the mid-century modern landmark. He is unwilling to accept that the building’s fate is to meet the wrecking ball. In Otto’s view, we’re too quick to forget our past transgressions, repeating history by destroying it.

Last fall, Otto charged his students at the University of Oregon with exploring ways to mend City Hall’s shortcomings without erasing its essence. He presented images of the resultant designs, which encompass an imaginative range of scenarios for renovating and enlarging the facility. Otto’s desire is to persuade AIA-SWO (or a subset thereof, such as the Past-Presidents Committee) to follow his lead and champion the preservation of the 1960 design by Stafford Morin & Longwood.

Springfield Downtown Plan
Ted Corbin, Associate AIA, presented plans of a different sort. Ted is a member of the City of Springfield’s Downtown Citizen Advisory Committee. After voters approved an urban renewal district for downtown a few years ago, one of the first things the city did was bring in Portland-based urban design consultants Crandall Arambula to draft a downtown plan.
Image from the Springfield Downtown Plan (drawing by Crandall Arambula)

The firm’s vision calls for a new public plaza, known as Mill Plaza, near the corner of Main Street and Pioneer Parkway East. The plaza would be a magnet for new retail buildings and act as a downtown “hot spot.” The master plan also proposes restoring two-way traffic to Main Street. There would be protected bikeways, separating bicycles from auto traffic as a way to encourage more people to get out of their cars. A bicycle bridge is also part of the plan, connecting North A Street to a proposed housing development across the Willamette River in Glenwood.

Ted explained how the plan’s success is dependent upon attracting large “catalyst projects” that are strategically located, change the public’s perception of the area, stimulate new private development, and produce revenue to offset the cost of improvements.

The audacity of the Springfield Downtown Plan is astonishing. Ted acknowledged it would take substantial investments by private developers to create the kind of retail and office nexus envisioned by the city, its advisory committee, and Crandall Arambula. He also accepted that the concepts represent very long-term goals; nevertheless, the plan’s ambition and optimism for the future of the city’s historic core are most welcome. I look forward to blogging about downtown Springfield’s transformative renaissance as it becomes a reality.
The evening’s marquee event was 10Square, the fast-paced, Pecha Kucha-style series of slide shows that was such a hit at the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference. Despite the absence of a few presenters, this sequel proved no slouch.(1) The fast-paced showcase featured ten slides each from six engaging speakers.(2)

10Square emcee Katie Hall of PIVOT Architecture (my photo)

Andika Murandi: Photography
Beauty and symbolic elements are everywhere, but one needs to slow down and look for them to really appreciate it. Andika does exactly that through the art of his photography. He provided the audience with a glimpse of his impressive talent and eye for composition. If you want to see more, check out his work currently on display at the Pearl Street Full City, and during April’s First Friday Art Walk. You can also see his entire oeuvre at

Julie Flattery: Shakespeare YO (When Words Collide)
Julie waxed lyrically about that dude William Shakespeare and his contemporary manifestation in today’s pop culture. It was amazing to hear how many phrases in our everyday vernacular we owe to the Bard of Avon. There was method to Julie’s madness, more matter with less art. Her cadence, her humor—such stuff as dreams are made on. All’s well that ends well. Romeo up!

Copeland Downs: Kinetic Architecture
Copeland is representative of a new generation’s sensibilities. Using images of his studio projects as the vehicle, Copeland expressed his keen interest in kinetic architecture, social equity, and industrial process.

Rex Prater: Balance
With his ten slides, Rex reflected upon the path his career has taken. He started with an exposition of his previous work at Varvitsiotis Architecture. He then presented his current efforts as the principal of Balance Architecture & Design. Rex is moving forward, the process transforming him professionally. He has found that balance in life is the key to his success.

Tyler Polich: PDX Water Towers
Tyler presented images of his entry to an ideas competition that conceives alternative uses and repurposing of Portland’s ubiquitous water towers. Tyler proposes relocating the water towers, alternately burying or grouping them as if a community. He’d expose their “mysterious innards,” tie them together with bridges, and set them askew. He’d transform the water towers to be anything imaginable: libraries, skate parks, chapels, or sex hotels.

David Beardsley: “Oops”
Construction proceeds smoothly when all disciplines collaborate. However, coordination is only assured when people make an effort to work together. David’s slides demonstrated what can happen when this doesn’t occur. It’s a bizarro world where one goes down stairs rather than up to find the roof, where light fixtures are installed in locations they shouldn’t, and where porta-potties are the most dangerous places to be on the construction site.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Performers leave their mark on the wall backstage at the Wildish Theater (my photo)

The diversity of the March meeting’s program, from the tour of the Wildish Theater through each of the 10Square presentations, yielded a bounty of information and entertainment for those in attendance. It was another in a stellar series of AIA-SWO chapter meetings. If you missed it, fret not because you can find many of the highlights on YouTube, courtesy of AIA-SWO videographer Amy Lin. Here’s the URL:

(1) So with only six presenters, should the event have been dubbed “Ten by Six” instead?

(2) Thanks to Design|Spring for organizing the 10Square event.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: