Friday, July 29, 2011

Blair Boulevard Small Business Neighborhood Renovation Program

The City of Eugene’s Community Development Division is looking for architecture and interior design professionals interested in volunteering about a dozen hours for a community design challenge. Wells Fargo Bank is providing nearly $10,000 in grants to fund small interior or exterior renovation projects for small businesses in the dynamic, artistic Whiteaker neighborhood in Eugene. This short project is aimed at building momentum, excitement, and vitality for entrepreneurs on and around Blair Boulevard.

The Opportunity
  • Volunteer designers will partner with University of Oregon architecture students
  • After touring the participating businesses, volunteers will provide advice and develop renovation proposals during a short workshop in late August
  • The selected businesses will receive grant money and volunteer labor from Wells Fargo employees to implement the designs
  • The businesses are expected to complete their renovations by the end of October
Once the renovations are complete, a group from the community will tour and review the businesses and award an additional $500 bonus grant from Wells Fargo to the most successful implemented design.

For more information about the project and how to enlist, contact William Ellis at or call the City of Eugene Community Development Division at 541-682-5444.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ford Alumni Center

Ford Alumni Center (all photos by me)

The makeover of the University of Oregon’s eastern gateway along Franklin Boulevard is now complete. Opened this past May, the Cheryl Ramberg Ford & Allyn Ford Alumni Center unites with the Jaqua Academic Center and the Matthew Knight Arena to form a gleaming, modern triptych. In so doing, the Ford Alumni Center further recasts the University as innovative, forward-thinking, and world-class.

Home to the UO Alumni Association, UO Foundation, and the university’s Office of Development, the Ford Alumni Center is the culmination of a decades-long effort by the UO to construct a multifaceted facility that serves as a welcoming front door to the campus. In this capacity the building provides much-needed event and gathering space for alumni, campus activities, and the Eugene/Springfield community. It serves as an introduction to the university, a starting point for student orientation, and campus tours.

View from northeast

What it does not do is serve solely as a repository for the history and accomplishments of Oregon grads. Instead, the Center extends the branding of the UO as trend-setters pioneered by its Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Ducks aren’t hidebound by tradition—like the high-flying football squad, they’re future-focused visionaries and achievers.

As constructed, the $33.6 million Center accommodates 60,000 square feet within a four-story metal and glass enclosure designed by TVA Architects. Opsis Architecture served as executive architect and was responsible for the interior architecture. The design secured LEED Gold certification by virtue of its energy efficiency and low environmental impact.

My wife and I visited the Ford Alumni Center this past Saturday, a splendidly sunny summer afternoon. Both of us left with the same favorable impression: TVA, Opsis, and interactive media designers Second Story Interactive Studio, Inc. have melded architectural form, details, and technology to craft an integrated and singular experience. The core of that experience is the threading of quintessentially Oregon motifs throughout. This is a building that rewards inspection and appreciation of the whole.

The alumni center shares with the neighboring Matthew Knight Arena the same vocabulary and palette of metal panels and glass. This comes as no surprise because TVA designed the exterior of both structures. Oriented perpendicular to the major axis of the arena’s elliptical plan form, the center provides a geometric foil and datum. It shapes an entry plaza oriented toward Franklin Boulevard shared by the two buildings. It greets westbound motorists along the busy thoroughfare by presenting a broad and glassy fa├žade to the plaza.

View looking southeast; the Matthew Knight Arena is in the background

The center barely skirts interpretation as a mere annex to the much larger arena. Some might question whether the alumni center should be associated so closely in both expression and proximity to a lavish coliseum purpose-built for activities ancillary to the university’s principal mission. Is this yet further evidence of an institution beholden to the big business of college athletics?

That issue notwithstanding, the smaller building more than holds its own. Its exterior is well-proportioned and detailed. There is a legible hierarchy to the application of curtain wall and other fenestration. Contrasting volumes satisfyingly project and recede. Had TVA not been responsible for both facilities, I suspect the designers of the alumni center might have struggled to develop a scheme as lucid and unforced. This may be why the UO directed Opsis, originally charged with complete design responsibility, to instead assign exterior design duties to TVA.


Inside, a generous atrium completely bisects the center and immediately draws your attention skyward through all four floors. The atrium is flanked by meeting venues (including the Lee Barlow Giustina Ballroom), the Tykeson Family Hall Interpretive Center, and office spaces. An open, inviting stair wends its way between the floors, its foot cascading waterfall-like toward the entrance. Bridges with glass guardrails cross the atrium offering elevated prospects. On the west wall a filigree of wood slats casts patterns of shadows that constantly change as the sun travels across the sky.

Overall, the effect is quite purposefully akin to a journey through the woods of the Cascade foothills.

"Oregon Cascades" media panels

By way of contrast with the atrium, the adjacent Tykeson Interpretive Center reminds me of the darker forest understory. Its nine interactive “Oregon Cascades” floor-to-ceiling media panels suggest the massive trunks of our region’s forests. Designed by Second Story, the panels deliver personal stories, historical data, and archival footage to visitors who navigate through interconnected “story streams.”

Allusions to water abound: I’ve already mentioned the cascading stair, which appears to flow downstream as it descends toward the interactive “Alumni Table.” The table’s touch-screen interface, which lets you access a database containing over 210,000 University alumni, resembles the effect of placing your fingers in a gently flowing stream. Glass light fixtures suspended from the ceiling clearly call to mind glistening raindrops.

"Coming & Going Fish" by Rick Bartow

"Contemplari Natura" by Tallmadge Doyle

The center also features an impressive collection of art commissioned specifically for the project. All of the pieces extend the forest and water metaphors. My favorites include “Coming & Going Fish,” a sculpture by Rick Bartow, and “Contemplari Natura,” a collection of copper plate etchings by Tallmadge Doyle.

What I find most compelling about the building’s interior design is the light hand with which the design team wove the forest and water allegory. The application is not so overt that it precludes other possible interpretations. It fully engages the building, utilizing everything in the architect’s toolkit: space, light, and materials.


Quoted in the Winter 2009 Oregon Quarterly, Second Story’s creative director Brad Johnson compared the UO to “a bedrock channel through which each student progresses and then departs; just as the riverbed of the university changes the course of each student’s life, so too does each student subtly leave his or her mark on the university itself, collectively carving out a canyon of shared experience and memory.”

As executed, the Cheryl Ramberg Ford & Allyn Ford Alumni Center is a spatial and material depiction of that shared experience. However, it is not a staid reliquary; instead, it is a dynamic and interactive channel. The building underscores the qualities that make the University of Oregon story unique. It breaks the mold, being as much future-focused as it is nostalgic. I like it.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

10square (3rd Edition)

Julie Flattery waxing lyrically about Shakespeare at the March 10square event. Sign up now to be a presenter for the August 5, 2011 10square!

DesignSpring's next 10square event (its third) will cap off Lane Arts Council’s August First Friday Art Walk, and DesignSpring is interested in showcasing your thoughts, experiences, and passions about design on August 5, 2011 at Cozmic Pizza in Eugene, Oregon.

You can be one of the ten presenters that evening. Each 10square participant will individually take the stage to present ten of his or her own slides. The ten slides are on screen for 30 seconds apiece in a predetermined order while the presenter discusses each slide as he or she sees fit. One of 10square’s appeals is its fast pace—there will be only a 10 second break between each presentation.

Any topic is fair game. The intent is to spark new ideas, connections, and conversations. 10square is also meant to be entertaining and informal—a great way to learn more about others in our design community. After the presentations, DesignSpring encourages everyone, speakers and audience alike, to stick around for follow-up discussion and fun.

Interested? Email DesignSpring at before July 22 to sign up or for more information. Include a draft presentation title, presentation description, and two examples of images, text, or art that you will be including in your presentation. DesignSpring will announce the roster of presenters on July 25, 2011.

Here are the details on the upcoming 10square:

What: 10square

When: August 5, 2011 (at the end of the First Friday Art Walk)

Where: Cozmic Pizza, 199 West 8th Avenue, Eugene

Call for Presenters Due Date: July 22, 2011

Presenters Submission – Include:
  • Name
  • Occupation (optional)
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Presentation title
  • Presentation description
  • Attach or include (2) images with submission
Additional information will be sent after the call for entries is received.

Presentation Format:
  • 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 exactly every thirty (30) seconds
  • The final presentation will be in PDF format and will need to be emailed to or delivered to a 10square host by August 1, 2011
  • Digital images should be 1024x768 pixels. The file names should be the same as your last name_first name_#of file (e.g. Greiner_Gabe_1.pdf)

After attending the previous two 10square events (during the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference in Eugene, and at last March’s AIA-SWO chapter meeting) I know I’ll be entertained and enlightened. Thanks in advance to DesignSpring for organizing what I am certain will be a successful third edition of 10square!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Integrated Project Delivery: Virtual Design to Construction

Ted Corbin, Associate AIA, is the force behind securing host venue status in Eugene for a unique, interactive webinar focused on the legal and management aspects of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Produced by a company named DESIGN[realized], the webinar is the first of a four-part series about IPD.

DESIGN[realized] says the series will explore how successful designers, builders, and building owners achieve significant project goals through the best use of process and technology. The sessions will delve into the best current thinking on legal, management, and technological issues associated with IPD. Speakers will share winning techniques to adopt, losing techniques to avoid, and other key experience gained as they have implemented IPD processes with virtual design to construction methodologies.

Ted will serve as the local facilitator during the webinar, which will take place on Friday, July 22nd from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the boardroom of Summit Bank's downtown Eugene office (96 East Broadway).

The format is different than most webinars. A one-hour webcast featuring leading industry experts kicks off the program at 9:00 a.m. followed by 30 minutes of local discussion among the Eugene attendees. The webcast resumes at 10:30 a.m. with a follow-up local discussion to conclude the session.

By participating in the event, you will:
  • Learn how building professionals from around the country engage in IPD
  • Get new ideas for incorporating building processes and technology into your work
  • Share with other group participants building methods and techniques that are applicable locally
  • Hear interactive Q&A discussions among presenters and participants across the nation
  • Earn 3.0 AIA Continuing Education System (CES) credits
Eugene will be one of many host venues around the country but the only one in Oregon.

According to Ted, the discounted early bird registration fee expired last Friday (July 8); however, he is going to see what he can do to extend the bargain rate because the AIA and DESIGN[realized] acted so late to get the word out. Regardless, you can secure the $10 discount if you are an AIA member. The full event price is $55. Registration is online.

Ted hopes to draw as wide a spectrum of participants to the webinar as possible. The involvement of more people, each bringing their unique perspective to the discussion, will enhance the educational value of the experience for everyone.

Email Ted at with any questions you may have regarding the webinar. He hopes to see all of us on July 22 at Summit Bank.

What: Legal Aspects of IPD, BIM, VDC webinar (3.0 AIA CES)

When: July 22, 2011

Where: Summit Bank boardroom, 96 East Broadway, Eugene, OR 97401

Registration: Online at

Cost: $55 ($45 for AIA members)

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Waves of Hope

Only a few months have passed since the deadly Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan but already American public attention to the aftermath of the disaster has faded. While not unexpected(1), the tragedy remains all too real and present: the reality is thousands of people are crowded into shelters, without a home or job, lacking water, food, and power. Entire towns have been devastated, literally wiped off the map. Japan continues to depend upon global support and assistance.

I’m doing my small part to ensure the recovery efforts and the very real suffering of survivors continue to draw our attention. I’m a member of a committee charged with raising funds for earthquake relief. Entitled Waves of Hope: Sending Relief Shore to Shore, the effort will culminate in an exciting “Art Swell” event on Friday, September 23, 2011.

Eugene’s OPUS VII Gallery will be filled that evening with good wine, abundant appetizers, and inspiring music.(2) There will be a raffle featuring the work of some of Eugene’s finest artists as a fundraising incentive.(3) In addition, two large paintings offered by well-known painter Adam Grosowsky will be sold by silent auction.

The committee will extend to everyone who contributes $100 or more an appreciative invitation to the Art Swell. Last-minute donations of $100 or more will be accepted at the door.

Devastation in Ofunato (photo by Satoko Motouji)

Local artist Satoko Motouji and Japanese-American Association of Lane County president Mike Takahashi lead the Waves of Hope organizing committee. Satoko recently visited Tohoku, the directly impacted region of Japan. She toured six different cities, finding the extent and severity of the destruction to be absolutely beyond words. Unbelievable amounts of debris remain untouched, even after three months.

Satoko returned to Eugene believing the struggles for the Tohoku area residents have only just begun. The vastness of the devastation, she explained to me, can best be placed into perspective by realizing that the length of the impacted coastline is greater than the distance between Eugene and Seattle.

The statistics are staggering. As of June 5, the Asahi Newspaper reported the following numbers by prefecture:

Additionally, the earthquake and tsunami destroyed 65,840 homes and countless businesses.

There is no doubt in Satoko’s mind that the people of Japan sincerely appreciate any and all contributions in support of efforts to rebuild the lives and communities forever altered by the earthquake and tsunami. There is so much that needs to be done, and it will take much time and money to accomplish.

If you’re interested in making a donation, mail a Waves of Hope Relief Fund check or money order (payable to the Japanese-American Association of Lane County) to:

Mike Takahashi
841 Virgil Avenue, Eugene, OR 97404

The JAA will direct all gathered funds to the Japan Red Cross to support that organization’s earthquake relief programs.

Your contribution is tax deductible in accordance with IRS regulations. JAA is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization.

(1) The shortness of our collective attention span has been well-chronicled. An article published by the online magazine Salon discusses how media attention dropped sharply just a few brief months after the deadly 2010 Haiti earthquake occurred. How many people now give the tragedy in Haiti even a passing thought?

(2) The entertainment will include koto master Mitzuki Dazai and Eugene Taiko, the traditional Japanese drumming group of which I am a member.

(3) The list of artists contributing to the Art Swell includes Kate Ali, Kathleen Caprario, Mark Clarke, Margaret Coe, Tallmadge Doyle, Jan Eliot, Kathryn Finnerty, Michiyo Goble, Adam Grosowsky, David Joyce, Ron Lovinger, Faye Nakamura, Susan Lowdermilk, Barbara Pickett, Margaret Prentice, Julie Reisner, Ruri, Satoko Motouji, Katsuyuki Shibata, and Bev Soasey.
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