Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doubling Down on Trickle Up

“Good design trickles up,” proclaimed architect/landscape architect/UO emeritus faculty member Jerry Diethelm as first questioner during the City Club of Eugene’s September 7 meeting highlighting the winners of the 2012 AIA-Southwestern Oregon People’s & Mayor’s Choice Awards. “How do we double down on trickle up?” 

The timely allusion to Bill Clinton’s 2012 DNC speech aside, Jerry’s question elicited insightful responses from the distinguished panelists assembled to consider how well-designed built environments improve our lives. Michael Fifield, Robin Hostick, and Kaarin Knudsen praised the People’s Choice Awards program for bringing the best work produced by AIA-SWO firms(1) to the public for its consideration. The display at the Eugene Celebration engages visitors, develops their design vocabulary, and showcases design excellence. It’s apparent many of the annual street party celebrants relished the opportunity to vote for their favorite projects as over 800 submitted ballots. 

AIA-SWO and Architects Building Community definitely consider the People’s Choice Awards to be an excellent means to educate the public about architecture and urban design. It’s always a challenge for government, academia, or the design professions to impose “top-down” standards for design excellence. It’s much better for the future of our communities if all citizens develop an understanding of, recognize, and support good design (and the effort and investment necessary to realize it). Empowering non-designers with the skills to evaluate and make choices is a “trickle up” strategy. 

This year’s People’s Choice program drew 33 entrants across seven categories. The 2012 winners are as follows: 

Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc.The Hummingbird 

The Hummingbird - Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc.

Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pcBarnhart Dining Center Renovation
Barnhart Dining Center Renovation - Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc (photo by Jamie Forsythe) 

Stangeland & Associates, Inc. - The Finishing Touch 

The Finishing Touch  - Stangeland & Associates, Inc.

Dustrud Architecture pc - The Pearl

The Pearl - Dustrud Architecture pc (photo by Peter Dustrud) 

Rowell Brokaw Architects with Opsis ArchitectureLCC Building 10 Adaptive Reuse
LCC Building 10 Adaptive Reuse - Rowell Brokaw Architects (photo by Eleni Tsivitzi) 

Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc. - River Road Mini-Home 

River Road Mini-Home - Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc. (photo by Mike Dean) 

Rowell Brokaw Architects - First on Broadway 

First On Broadway - Rowell Brokaw Architects

For the third 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. The mayor made three selections: 

2fORM Architecture - Pacific NW Publishing

Pacific NW Publishing - 2fORM Architecture (photo by Richard Shugar, AIA, LEED-AP) 

Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc. - The Hummingbird 

The Hummingbird - Nir Pearslon Architect, Inc.

PIVOT Architecture - Willakenzie Crossing

Willakenzie Crossing - PIVOT Architecture (photo by Jeff Amram) 

Despite the occasion to recognize the PCA and MCA winners, much of the panel discussion focused on the importance of the entirety of the built environment at the scale of the city rather than upon the merits of individual projects. As Michael Fifield questioned, “how do we weave the fabric that ties everything together?” He, Robin, and Kaarin identified their favorite cities and why they chose them. Notably, they observed that the features distinguishing their favorites occur at different scales and densities, suggesting that factors other than density (and the coming together of people it engenders) are also in play. Some cities are fortunate by circumstance of their natural setting and history; others are great because of deliberate intent. Ultimately, buildings are part of the fabric that makes great places, not apart from it. 

So, what’s the takeaway from the awards presentations and the City Club panel discussion? I’d say it’s simply that local architects, landscape architects, and urban designers are doing just a bit more, year by year, to raise the public’s awareness about design excellence. Perhaps the City Club of Eugene will make a panel discussion like the one at this past Friday’s meeting a fixture on its annual calendar. If we’re smart about it, we can make everyone care about architecture in our communities. We can nurture a grassroots level of expectation for good design. We can double down on trickle up and all win. 

(1) As well as work produced by members of the Willamette Valley Section of the American Institute of Landscape Architects Oregon Chapter.


mrs random said...

Darn, I'm sorry I missed the program!

Randy Nishimura, AIA, CSI said...

Mrs. R: Yeah, I was expecting to see you there since you're a big muckity-muck in the organization and all!