Sunday, September 25, 2011

September AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

J.F. Alberson and Scott Clarke at the September AIA-SWO chapter meeting (my photo)

The September AIA-Southwestern Oregon chapter meeting celebrated the value of design in our community by honoring the recipients of the 22nd Annual People’s Choice Awards. Hosted once again by Kaz Oveissi at his OPUS VII gallery in downtown Eugene, the well-attended gala showcased all of the projects submitted for the 2011 People’s Choice program.

The People’s Choice Awards is a public outreach effort conducted jointly by AIA-SWO and ASLA Oregon-Willamette Valley Section as part of the annual Eugene Celebration (which took place this past August 26-28). The purpose is to present the recent work of architects and landscape architects, and to encourage the public to critically engage the built environment. The emphasis is not on winning but on sharing and honoring all the work undertaken to make buildings and landscapes important and meaningful in our daily lives.

All of the 2011 entrants were on display for the meeting (my photo)

The “Colleague’s Choice” vote is an ancillary program to the People’s Choice Awards and meant to be a fun way for our AIA-SWO and ASLA members to weigh in on the question of which of their peers’ projects are most worthy of recognition.

For the second year in a row, Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy presented her “Mayor’s Choice” awards. An enthusiastic public advocate for design excellence, sustainability, and smart growth, Kitty is a great friend of the local design community.

Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy (my photo)

Each of the 2011 award recipients is listed below. The “PC” designation indicates a People’s Choice award. “CC” indicates a Colleagues’ Choice winner, and “MC” is a Mayor’s Choice.(1)


2fORM: Dillard Landing - PC + CC

Dillard Landing - 2FORM Architecture (photo by Jeff Amram)

Chuck Bailey Architect: Done in the Sun - MC

Done in the Sun - Chuck Bailey Architect


2fORM: Evergreen Family Medicine - PC + CC + MC

Evergreen Family Medicine - 2FORM Architecture


PIVOT: EmX Gateway Extension - PC

EmX Gateway Extension - PIVOT Architecture

PIVOT: EWEB Roosevelt Operations Center - CC

EWEB Operations Center - PIVOT Architecture

PIVOT: Eugene Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting - MC

Eugene Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting Facility - PIVOT Architecture


Stangeland & Associates: An Oasis Reclaimed - PC + CC + MC

An Oasis Reclaimed - Stangeland & Associates, Inc.


Dougherty Landscape Architecture: Roosevelt Crossing - PC + MC

Roosevelt Crossing - Dougherty Landscape Architecture

Dougherty Landscape Architecture: Oregon Coast Community College - CC

Oregon Coast Community College - Dougherty Landscape Architecture


Robertson/Sherwood/Architects: Fenton Hall - PC + CC

Fenton Hall - Robertson/Sherwood/Architects PC

2fORM: Kitchen Karma - MC

Kitchen Karma - 2FORM Architecture (photo by Jeff Amram)


2fORM: Solstice Student Housing - PC + CC

The Solstice - 2FORM Architecture (photo by Jeff Amram)

Bergsund Delaney Architects: Lamb Building - MC

Lamb Building - Bergsund Delaney Architecture & Planning PC

Congratulations to all of the 2011 winners!

The success of this year’s program is due in no small part to the efforts of its organizing committee. Thanks to the following individuals for making the 22nd Annual People’s Choice Awards the best yet:
  • Richard Shugar
  • Paul Dustrud
  • Kurt Albrecht
  • Alison Moore
  • Nicole Ankeney
  • Matt Koehler
  • Don Kahle
Model of Eagle Rock Retreat by 2FORM Architecture, part of an adjunct display at OPUS VII (my photo)

Thanks too to Kaz Oveissi for making his splendid gallery space available for the AIA-SWO September meeting.(2) In addition to OPUS VII, Kaz operates Oveissi & Co. (each year the site of the People’s Choice exhibit during the Eugene Celebration) and Perugino (a coffee shop nonpareil). Kaz envisions OPUS VII as a means to introduce the community to the creative world, a social and artistic platform whose purpose is to recognize, reward, and showcase mastery in art, architecture, and design. The People’s Choice Awards is a perfect fit for OPUS VII; this year’s entrants will remain on display through mid-October.

(1) I failed to take note of all of the photographers responsible for the images of the winning projects; for this, I apologize. I'll add their names to this post as soon as possible.

(2) In addition to the display of People's Choice entrants, OPUS VII is currently displaying models of projects by 2FORM Architecture and Rowell Brokaw Architects. Rowell Brokaw also curated an exhibit of photographs at OPUS VII entitled "The City" that documents how surprisingly dymanic Eugene's cityscape has been in its relatively short history.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Commercial "Passive House" Buildings in Europe

Diagram by the Passivhaus Institut via Wikipedia

The next educational event hosted by the Eugene Branch of the Cascadia Green Building Council is a presentation by Peter Reppe of SOLARC Architecture & Engineering. Peter will talk about architectural and engineering design solutions that are used on European commercial buildings built to the stringent Passive House standard.

Peter’s presentation will provide a glimpse into the future of net-zero commercial buildings in this country, as an increasing number of techniques used in European examples have started to infiltrate the American high-performance buildings market.

Peter has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Germany and a master's degree in environmental policy from the University of Michigan. He has over 15 years of professional experience in energy efficiency and green building, including environmental life cycle assessment, embodied energy, and LEED certification. While at SOLARC, Peter has focused on energy design support for high-performance commercial buildings, including energy modeling and facilitation of design charettes. He is a certified Passive House consultant.

I have the good fortune to currently be working with Peter on two projects, the Lane Community College Downtown Campus in Eugene, and a new Community Living Center for memory-care patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Roseburg. In both instances, Peter and SOLARC are providing energy modeling services, which are critical to ensuring that the designs will meet our targets for energy efficiency.

Here are the details for Peter’s presentation:

What: Techniques, Systems and Experiences with Commercial "Passive House" Buildings in Europe

When: Tuesday, September 20, 2011; 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Where: Tykeson Room, Eugene Public Library (main branch), 100 West 10th Avenue, Eugene, OR

Cost: Free

Learning Units: You can self report your attendance at this presentation for GBCI Credential Maintenance (one CE hour) or one (1) AIA CEU. Find information about self-reporting on Cascadia's website.

RSVP: Please call Jenna Garmon at (541) 682-5541 or email her at to RSVP.

Feel free to bring your lunch. Please bike, walk, carpool or take a bus.

About Cascadia: Cascadia promotes the design, construction and operation of buildings in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live, work and learn. The Eugene Branch of Cascadia generates momentum towards a sustainable built environment by facilitating education and connections and celebrating our community. The chapter hosts monthly lunchtime presentations and tours and quarterly evening events on the latest green building topics.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


World Trade Center (image via Wikipedia)

It’s a testament to the power of symbolism that the twin towers of the World Trade Center were and in their absence remain synonymous with power, hubris, terror, and loss. The late Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the WTC, said “world trade means world peace” and that the complex should be a “living symbol of global harmony.” On September 11, 2001, radical jihadists instead regarded it as a symbol of American evil and arrogance. The painful irony of Yamasaki’s words haunted us in the immediate aftermath of the terrorists’ attacks.

The new World Trade Center (image via Wikipedia)

Today, 9/11 is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. New Yorkers are rebuilding Ground Zero as a gleaming paean to optimism. Collectively, the new architecture there will stand for an entire nation’s response to the events of that fateful September morning. The power of symbolism is great; in this instance, let’s hope the architecture ultimately symbolizes our ability to move on. It’s important to remember what happened ten years ago (no one will forget) but also to awaken to a world that has irrevocably changed since then.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Art of Sustainable Living

Mark your calendars! The third annual BRING Home and Garden Tour: The Art of Sustainable Living takes place on Sunday, September 18 from 10 AM to 4 PM.

Participate in the BRING Home and Garden Tour and be inspired. Rethink your use of resources and help reduce our community’s collective carbon footprint. Learn about the benefits of smaller homes and secondary dwelling units, designed for compact urban living.

  • Leading-edge construction techniques as well as low-cost, do-it-yourself remodels
  • Passive and active solar applications
  • Energy conservation
  • Creative reuse of materials
  • Organic gardens, edible and medicinal landscaping
  • Rainwater catchment systems and water wise landscaping
  • A cob greenhouse and oven
  • Honeybees, and everyone’s favorite – chickens
Sites are clustered in Eugene neighborhoods for easy bike and bus travel. Ride the bus for FREE. Show your ticket or Tour Guide when you board any Lane Ttransit District bus on the day of the tour.

The City of Eugene and EWEB are co-hosts for this year’s tour.

Volunteer for a 3-½ hour block of time or more (morning/afternoon) on tour day and receive a FREE ticket for the BRING Home and Garden Tour!

For more information, please contact Renee Benoit at

Monday, September 5, 2011

Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge (all photos by me unless noted otherwise)

A few months ago I listed Timberline Lodge as one of my ten favorite buildings in Oregon, despite not having visited the landmark. Such is the power of its mystique, majestic setting, and history that I could not leave it off my list. Not unlike the revelation during my childhood that was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the resort on Mount Hood immediately commanded my attention the very first time I saw its images in print. I instinctively knew Timberline Lodge was a special place.

My wife and I finally vacationed at Timberline this past August, staying three days and two nights to soak in the ambiance, breathe the mountain air, and set aside our workaday cares. We occupied one of the private queen-bed rooms on the third floor, enjoying expansive south-facing views. Mt. Jefferson (40 miles to the south) prominently occupied the vista during the day, while the eerie glow from massive wildfires on the Warm Springs Reservation colored the night sky. Above the tree line, colorful mountain wildflowers complemented the silvery gray of the lodge’s exterior and the alpine terrain. We had plenty of time to explore the hotel and its environs, making side trips to scenic Trillium Lake, Government Camp, and Little Zigzag Falls.

Timberline Lodge, view from south

Timberline Lodge is owned by the U.S. Forest Service. A common misconception is that it is owned by the National Park Service, and is a National Park Lodge; it is not. The facility is leased from the Forest Service and operated by the family-owned R.L.K. & Company, a corporation devoted to its preservation.(1)

Many of you probably have some familiarity with the lodge’s history. It was constructed during the depths of the Great Depression as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) venture. The project employed up to 470 workers on site during the peak of construction, many of them older, highly skilled craftsmen. Remarkably for a building renowned for its hand-hewn rusticity, extraordinary art, and custom furnishings, the total elapsed time between groundbreaking and its dedication by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 28, 1937 amounted to a mere 15 months.(2)

You may not be as acquainted with Timberline’s architects. During the 1920s, Pietro Belluschi and a precocious John Yeon submitted separate proposals for expanding the privately owned Cloud Cap Inn on Mount Hood’s north side. Eventually, it became clear there was a greater need for overnight facilities on the mountain’s south flank. Yeon would subsequently develop a scheme for Timberline, which formed the basis of a 1935 U.S. Forest Service proposal to the WPA. The WPA turned down this application because material costs were higher than allowed. The Forest Service subsequently retained Gilbert Stanley Underwood as its architect. Underwood built his reputation upon designs for several National Park Service lodges, including Zion Lodge, Bryce Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, and the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. His design for Timberline Lodge was executed by Forest Service architects Tim Turner, Linn Forrest, Howard Gifford, and Dean Wright.(3)

Underwood apprenticed with Arts & Crafts masters in California before establishing his own practice. Historians use words like “rustic” to characterize his lodge designs, although Timberline’s promoters avoided that term in favor of “Cascadian.” Native wood and stone, exaggerated scale, and “unsophisticated” decorative motifs were common themes.

The architects’ primary goal was not to detract from the natural beauty of Timberline’s site, nestled at the 6,000 foot level of Mount Hood. Their intent was to blend the design with the mountain surroundings.

Timberline Lodge, upslope view; purple lupine wildflowers are in bloom

The 3-story, 70-room hotel is grand and imposing (especially when viewed immediately from below) and at the same time deferential to the magnificence of Mount Hood’s looming peak. Asymmetrical wings radiate from the “headhouse,” whose conical shape echoes the mountain’s profile. Native flagstone, Douglas fir board-and-batten siding, and cedar roof shakes clad the exterior. The roofs slope steeply to shed the heavy winter snows.

Interior view of headhouse roof framing; note the hexagonal light fixture

Hexagonal in plan, the headhouse accommodates the main lobby, Timberline’s most impressive interior space. The room soars to the peak of the roof, centered on an enormous stone fireplace. Massive hand-adzed wood beams and columns ably shoulder the burden of heavy winter snowfalls. My wife and I could only imagine how the embrace of blazing hearths and the warmth of the pine, fir, oak, and hemlock accoutrements provide welcome refuge for the lodge’s winter visitors.

Carved owl newel post

Intricately hand-carved wood details and stout furniture with pioneer, Native American, and wildlife motifs abound throughout. The traditional handiwork of blacksmiths is equally prominent, featured in wrought-iron furniture and fixtures. In addition to the functional works of art, the WPA Federal Art Project commissioned numerous artists and artisans to create murals, lithographs, oil paintings, tapestries, marquetry, and watercolors. My favorites include Douglas Lynch’s linoleum murals in the Barlow Room, Howard Sewell’s oil-on-canvas homage to the wood and metal workers who built Timberline, and the wildflower watercolors by Dora Erikson that adorned our room. The creative skill of the artists and artisans is an integral part of a very significant whole.

"Metal Workers" by Howard Sewell

I found the interior spaces, particularly the lower lobby, too dark relative to the brightness outdoors. It took some time for my eyes (and my Transitions® lenses) to adjust to the severe contrast. However, this is a minor quibble. If nothing else, the chiaroscuro of light and shade renders the volumes and forms in dramatic fashion. Textures are exaggerated; the materiality of wood, stone, and fabrics accentuated.

Timberline captures the spirit of the trying times during which it was built. It is an enthralling mountain destination, elegant in its rusticity. There’s something almost primal about its architecture and embellishments. I cannot imagine Central Casting serving up a more quintessential aesthetic for a Cascades ski lodge.

Here's Johnny!!!! (studio screenshot from The Shining)

The building’s archetypal features and dramatic, isolated setting fulfilled director Stanley Kubrick’s vision of the fictional Overlook Hotel in his 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining.(4) Kubrick endowed Timberline with (in the words of one critic) "a menacing grandeur," making it seem as if the building was alive. Today, that starring role is part of the hotel’s lore.

The U.S. Department of the Interior designated the lodge a National Historic Landmark in 1977, declaring it the finest example of WPA “mountain architecture.” It has become as much a museum as it is a working resort.

Main Lobby

Our visit to Timberline did nothing to temper or invalidate my substantial expectations about its design. In the minds of many, including my own, it is synonymous with Mount Hood, the Cascades, and even Oregon. Its identity is inseparable from the place of which it is a part. Timberline achieves what good architecture ought to, which is to engage our senses at every turn, shape our perceptions, and heighten our awareness of the world around it. In addition, the lodge lives as an inspiring and enriching monument to the workers who built the structure and crafted its many fine details.

I look forward to visiting Timberline Lodge again someday.

(1) Short of amenities when it first opened, mismanaged, and closed completely during the Second World War, Timberline was seldom profitable. By 1955, the Forest Service sought a new operator to rescue the resort. Richard L. Kohnstamm took the helm, restored the building, added new facilities, returned it to profitability, and eventually founded the nonprofit Friends of Timberline.

(2) The WPA was often derided during the Depression as “Workers Puttering Around” because there was an inherent disincentive to completing projects in a timely fashion. After all, the more time it took to complete a job, the longer it meant you would have one. Timberline proved an exception to the rule, as employees worked quickly to avoid the heavy snowfalls and their impact upon construction activities.

(3) As a souvenir of our visit, I purchased a wonderful book about the history, art, and craft of Timberline Lodge authored by Sarah Baker Munro. Her book is the source of some of my information about Timberline’s genesis.

(4) Stephen King was never a fan of Kubrick’s use of Timberline as a stand-in for his fictional Overlook Hotel. King’s true-life inspiration was the Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colorado, which would be the setting for a 1997 made-for-TV remake of the movie.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

East Campus Residence Hall

East Campus Residence Hall, University of Oregon (all photos by me)

The new East Campus Residence Hall (ECRH) at the University of Oregon is well on the way to opening its doors one year from now. The facility will be only the second new residence hall built on campus since 1963.(1) It is part of the university’s plan to significantly upgrade the overall quality of UO residence halls to attract more high-achieving students and help meet the UO’s goal of increasing full-time enrollment from 22,400 to 24,000.

I recently toured the construction site with fellow members of the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute as part of the group’s August meeting.(2) Brad Black, Capital Projects Manager for University Housing, was our guide. He provided us with a comprehensive overview of the project and its unique features. The basic specifications are as follows:

Location: The block bordered by 15th Avenue, Moss Street, Agate Street, and 17th Avenue; east of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and across 15th Avenue from the Bean Residence complex

Design: Three residential towers rising four floors each above a shared first-floor plate consisting of dining facilities, classrooms, and other common areas

Resident Students: 454 undergraduates, to be housed in a mix of unit types (including singles with private bathrooms, doubles with private or shared “Jack & Jill” bathrooms, and suites comprised of three double rooms sharing a bathroom)

Square footage: 185,000 square feet

Architect: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF)

Contractor: Hoffman Construction

Cost: $71.5 million

Rendering of the ECRH by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, Architects

Typical of a nationwide trend toward enhancing students’ on-campus experience, the ECRH will integrate academics and residential life. In addition to accommodating classrooms in the complex, the ECRH will be home to a full-time, on-site librarian to assist students with research in the afternoon and evening. It will also literally house a resident faculty scholar, who will direct the hall’s academic programs and provide curriculum leadership. Unique to the ECRH, the university will offer projects and programs for students enrolled in the Robert D. Clark Honors College and for foreign language majors seeking a language immersion experience (with anchor programs in Spanish and Mandarin).

View from scaffolding overlooking the roof of the 1st floor commons level below; four floors of housing rise above in three blocks

As expected, the ECRH will feature state-of-the-art wireless data access, multimedia presentation rooms, and a variety of dining options including an espresso bar and a “grab & go” outlet.

Interior of one of the top floor double rooms; note the dormer at right

Significantly though, the project breaks no new architectural ground. ZGF and its team developed a relatively pedestrian design, not unlike its earlier Living-Learning Center located in the heart of the UO campus. Despite its technical advancements (including significant energy saving strategies, which the university hopes will help garner the project LEED Gold certification) and market-savvy amenities, the ECRH simply doesn’t aspire to radically recast the mold for on-campus residence halls.

The architectural vocabulary is a stripped down, contemporary interpretation of the “Georgian Colonial” style prescribed by Ellis F. Lawrence (UO Campus Architect from 1914 to 1946) for buildings outside of the main campus quadrangle. The ECRH inherits its DNA from Lawrence’s precedents; like Hendricks, Susan Campbell, and Straub halls before it, the new building features narrow wings, pitched roofs, punched windows, and a brick wrapper. Despite its large size, the ECRH’s bulk isn’t overwhelming.

BIM technology facilitated coordination of different building systems

The resulting installation

During the tour, Brad emphasized the importance of Building Information Modeling (BIM) to the project. The ECRH is large, complex, and expensive. BIM is increasingly central to the success of significant developments like the ECRH. One of the core strengths of BIM is the integration of computer modeling into project coordination. This is most clearly evident when disparate design disciplines and trades utilize BIM to perform clash detection. However, BIM’s true value may lie in its utility as a reliable basis for integrated decision making during the design phase.(3)

Beyond the ECRH, the University of Oregon intends to further upgrade and augment its stock of on-campus housing. Upcoming projects will replace some of the most deficient of the old dormitory complexes. I’m eager to see how the residence hall paradigm at the UO will continue to evolve.

(1) The other newer residence hall is the Living-Learning Center, completed in 2006. ZGF designed the Living-Learning center.

(2) I’ve been a member of the Construction Specifications Institute since 1988. CSI offers the opportunity to network in a collegial setting with professionals representing all sectors of the construction industry: property owners, developers, contractors, engineers, specification writers, building products manufacturers—the whole gamut. The organization’s name is misleading; it’s about so much more than just construction specifications.

(3) My experience with Revit points to another benefit of BIM: the software’s capability to define parameters and relationships between objects within the information model such that if one changes, related objects also change. By ensuring that different views are automatically consistent, errors are greatly reduced.