Friday, August 31, 2012

AIA-SWO’s New Website


AIA-Southwestern Oregon executive director Don Kahle and webmaster Erik Bishoff have taken the wraps off the chapter’s shiny new website. You can find it at www.aiaswo.com
 
Improving AIA-SWO’s online presence had been a chapter priority for the last few years. Don would be the first to admit that the path to the unveiling of the new website was bumpy at times. Among other things, attempts to link it with the national AIA database proved frustratingly difficult. 
 
So, Don and Erik have instead rebuilt the AIA-SWO website upon a user-friendly WordPress platform. As reported in the latest Thursday at Three e-newsletter, this is more “stable and solid” than the static html engine that powers the now obsolete www.aiaswo.org site. The bottom line is a “superior look and feel,” along with “greatly improved” usability. 
 
As enumerated in the Thursday at Three news article, the features of the new site that are notably improved include the following:
  • Featured news items are now front-and-center on the index page slider. No more hunting through text links for the latest news and events.
  • A new calendar feature keeps members apprised of the latest chapter events, including updates from AIA-SWO and DesignSpring. You’re now able to conveniently check out what meetings, Lunch & Learns, and tours are taking place.
  • The Thursday at Three AIA-SWO weekly newsletter will continue to be distributed to all members by email, but is also now archived to the AIA-SWO website.
  • AIA-SWO members can sign up for email notices that announce when new information hits the website. This will be a great way to know about updates as they happen.
  • Have something for sale? Looking for a job? Do you have an office to rent? Request a posting on the AIA-SWO bulletin board.
  • Social media links—Twitter and Facebook now; Pinterest and LinkedIn soon to come—are featured prominently on the home page.
  • Most importantly, the new AIA-SWO website incorporates a direct feed from my blog! My latest posts now appear simultaneously on both SW Oregon Architect and the AIA-SWO website. I’m honored to have my blog featured so prominently.
At the moment, the old site at www.aiaswo.org remains live even though the new site at www.aiaswo.com is ready for primetime. Don and Erik will soon consolidate the two such that the new site takes over the .org URL.
 
Don and Erik are justly proud of their achievement. Check out the new and most definitely improved AIA-SWO website yourself. I really like the changes and I think you will as well.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Whither City Hall?

Eugene City Hall (all photos by me)

We all knew the day was coming. The City of Eugene has abandoned and shuttered its City Hall, the event passing with little fanfare or sadness. A victim of institutional neglect and community indifference, the once celebrated building suffered a protracted decline.(1) It now sits vacant and forlorn, its fate all but sealed. 

City of Eugene administrators and politicians have pondered that fate for the better part of the past two decades. Something needed (and still needs) to be done. While the realities of City Hall’s physical shortcomings and the costs to remediate them took precedence in the discussions, its critical role as a symbol of civic government and community identity also figured prominently. The abandonment of City Hall leaves Eugene wanting for a new building emblematic of its citizenry and culture. It would be a shame if Eugene’s residents found themselves in future years without a city hall they could readily identify and point to with pride. 

It’s unlikely the now abandoned City Hall will ever be revived in a form that adequately preserves the qualities that made it an important example of mid-century public architecture.(2) As for a completely new building worthy of serving as the visible seat of municipal government for Eugene, I’m afraid the writing is on the wall. City officials realized taxpayers would not support the estimated $174 million boondoggle envisioned in 2008 by THA Architecture. The modestly scaled scenarios painted more recently by Rowell Brokaw Architects would do little to adequately consolidate the city’s far-flung administrative functions or ensure a structure befitting the civic stature that is associated with the institution of city halls. 

 
Not surprisingly, there’s been plenty of community debate about what Eugene can afford and deserves when it comes to a new city hall. Two individuals I know well and greatly respect recently contributed their voices to the conversation, both sharing their thoughts about converting the current Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) headquarters into Eugene’s next City Hall. 

Tom Santee wrote a guest commentary in the August 19 edition of the Register-Guard in which he championed the idea of adapting the EWEB headquarters as City Hall. Tom served as EWEB’s public relations professional during the late 1980s when its current headquarters was designed and built.(3) He believes the highly visible landmark’s prime riverfront location and iconic form are ideally suited for repurposing as the city’s symbolic seat of government.(4) 

In last Friday’s edition of his weekly column for the Register-Guard, AIA-SWO executive director Don Kahle countered (indirectly) Tom Santee’s enthusiasm for consolidating city services in the EWEB building. Don’s principal objection to Tom’s plan is that the EWEB headquarters isn’t where a city hall should be. In Don’s mind, the building is literally and figuratively on the wrong side of the tracks, outside of Eugene’s downtown core. He also believes that, while attractive, the EWEB headquarters blocks views and access to the river. 

What do I think? With only mild reservations, I find myself in the camp of those who advocate transforming the EWEB headquarters into Eugene’s next City Hall. If EWEB is looking to relocate its administrative functions, I can’t think of a better and more sustainable outcome for its current home than to extend its life in civic service. 

By virtue of its physical prominence, visibility, and architectural quality, the dominant reading of the EWEB headquarters is of an important public facility. The community-inspired master plan for the redevelopment of EWEB’s riverfront property and Willamette River Greenway restrictions effectively would guarantee its distinction as the only major building near downtown to be located so close to the river. Its future within a park-like setting along the river’s edge is assured. Contrary to Don’s assertions, the EWEB headquarters does not block access to the riverfront but rather marks a point of access and extends the urban grid to it. The headquarters is one of the few buildings in the city that overtly acknowledge the river and its importance to Eugene. 

The headquarters is admittedly smaller than necessary to house all of City Hall’s functions. However, it could accommodate the majority of those associated with citizen contact, providing one-stop convenience for as many services as possible. Departments with less of a need for direct contact with patrons could remain located elsewhere.(5) The EWEB building already does feature generously proportioned public meeting facilities, an attractive atrium, and convenient parking. 

EWEB Headquarters viewed from Alton Baker Park across the Willamette River.

Some functions might necessitate construction of new spaces. For example the municipal court requires facilities tailored to security and other functional demands associated with the judiciary; I imagine these would be difficult to create from within the current fabric of the EWEB headquarters. Likewise, it might be desirable to construct a grand new council chamber, perhaps similar in character to the old one. Any new addition to the EWEB headquarters could occur as an annex to the west, away from river, in keeping with the riverfront redevelopment master plan.  

Don’s criticism of the EWEB headquarters being too far removed from the center of downtown is valid. Yes, it will forever be separated from what should be our community’s center of gravity by the Southern Pacific rail lines. Then again, the nearby Federal Courthouse is similarly isolated from downtown by the Franklin Boulevard/Mill Street approach to the Ferry Street Bridge. Eugene’s downtown is lamentably diffuse but shouldn’t be circumscribed to exclude EWEB or the Federal Courthouse. If anything, we should embrace connecting downtown with the Willamette River and restoring historic ties between the city and the waterway it was founded upon. 

Like Tom Santee, I believe converting the EWEB headquarters into Eugene’s new city hall can be a win-win scenario. EWEB could entrust its prominent, uniquely situated, structurally sound, and energy-efficient building to the City of Eugene rather than to a private enterprise that might permanently remove it and its riverfront prospect from the public realm. The City would secure an attractive new home for itself at a considerable discount compared to the cost of constructing equivalent space from scratch. Moreover, it would demonstrate its commitment to sustainability by highly valuing the energy embodied in the original construction of the EWEB headquarters. Rather than expending increasingly scarce resources and funds on a new building, the City would walk the talk and lead by example. 

I suspect I might be missing an important point here, a shortcoming which would bring into question the very underpinning of this concept. I have not studied the entire issue in detail. Perhaps Tom and I are mistaken and the idea of converting the EWEB headquarters into City Hall is a terrible one. 

What are your thoughts? What form should a new city hall for Eugene assume?
 
(1) The 1960 design by Stafford, Morin & Longwood was a winner of a juried, two-stage design competition. Regardless, murmurs about replacing the facility would begin all too soon as its deficiencies became apparent. These deficiencies include its vulnerability to collapse in an earthquake, and reliance upon an antiquated steam heating infrastructure, which the Eugene Water & Electric Board terminated this summer. 
 
(2) Otto Poticha is a fan of Eugene’s former City Hall. "With its unpretentious look and courtyard design, the building” he has said (it) "has a warm, friendly and inviting atmosphere... Our City Hall is a very special and unique architectural achievement... It is unique in the world as a city hall." 
 
(3) WEGroup Architects & Planners designed the EWEB’s headquarters. The cost of construction totaled $23.8 million in 1988. The headquarters is comprised of a four-story building with an open, atrium-style lobby that is connected by a skywalk to a two-story building to the north. EWEB’s plaza and fountain are well known to residents who walk or bike along the riverbank path between the buildings and the river. 
 
(4) City Council member Mike Clark also is a strong proponent in favor of converting the EWEB headquarters to become Eugene City Hall. 
 
(5) It needn’t include the Eugene Police Department, which recently moved its offices to a building on Country Club Road, across the river from downtown.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Welcome to Design Excellence!

Visitors peruse the 2012 People's Choice Awards display at the Eugene Celebration, August 26, 2012 (my photo).

This dispatch comes from the 2012 AIA-SWO People’s Choice Awards display in the lobby of the Broadway Commerce Center during the Eugene Celebration. It’s the last day of the Celebration, the city’s quirky, something-for-everyone, end-of-summer bash. As it has been for many years, the People’s Choice display is a fixture at the Celebration.

This year, the exhibit strived to be more than simply a beauty contest. AIA-SWO expanded it to shine a spotlight on the Ten Principles for Design Excellence, which I featured in my post about the 2011 People’s Choice Awards. Collectively, the principles provide a foundation for raising public appreciation of the importance of good design. 

Another addition to the 2012 People’s Choice display was a presentation of the City of Eugene’s 7 Pillars of Growth. The city manager created the pillars with the help of a 70-member citizens’ committee called the Community Resource Group. Public hearings, open houses and online surveys also were used to gather public opinion during the city’s land analysis process, dubbed Envision Eugene. Each of the seven pillars is accompanied by strategies and tactics to achieve the objectives. 
 
The 7 Pillars of Growth are: 
  • Provide ample economic opportunities for all community members
  • Provide affordable housing for all income levels
  • Plan for climate change and energy uncertainty
  • Promote compact urban development and efficient transportation options
  • Protect, repair, and enhance neighborhood livability
  • Protect, restore, and enhance natural resources
  • Provide for adaptable, flexible, and collaborative implementation
How we grow and what we design and build in our community contributes powerfully to our cultural identity and satisfaction as a city and region. Design excellence has the power to improve the character and economic viability of our community and region. The decisions we make today will have a lasting impact on our community. 
 
Michael Fifield, FAIA, with a customer at the Architecture 5-Cents booth (my photo).
 
The impetus to increase the public’s awareness and expectation for design excellence came in part from Architects Building Community. ABC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (and adjunct to AIA-SWO) dedicated to community outreach and well-informed public involvement in planning design excellence for our communities and public spaces.(1) 
 
Announcement of this year’s winners of the People’s Choice Awards will take place at the Friday, September 7 City Club of Eugene meeting. The Colleague’s Choice Awards presentation will occur later at the monthly AIA-SWO chapter meeting on Wednesday, September 19.    

(1) I presently serve as a member of the ABC board of directors. I’ll soon write another post further explaining the mission of Architects Building Community.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

August AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Furman Hall, Oregon State University (all photos by me unless noted otherwise)

Each August, AIA-Southwestern Oregon moves its monthly meeting to Corvallis in the interest of engaging the chapter's mid-Willamette Valley members. This year, the gathering also included our brethren further north from AIA-Salem. All told, it was a sizable and diverse group, an opportunity to revisit with old friends and also make new connections. 

The subject of the August meeting was the recently completed remodeling of Education Hall on the Oregon State University campus. Rechristened as Furman Hall(1), the project posed numerous challenges for its team of architects, engineers, and builders. We were most fortunate to have three key members of this team on hand to explain how these challenges were met: 
Originally built in 1902 to a design by prominent Albany architect Charles H. Burggraf, the structure was first named Agriculture Hall and later remodeled during the 1930s when it became Education Hall. Its history was tumultuous, including two fires during its tenure as the home of the Chemistry Department.(2) Through the ensuing decades, the interior of building would be subjected to repeated minor remodeling as needs changed. Eventually, it became clear to the university that Education Hall required a major upgrading to meet contemporary pedagogic and life safety standards. 

OSU’s project brief included complete restoration of the building’s Romanesque-revival exterior in keeping with the comprehensive historic preservation plan that is mandated by its location within the campus’ National Historic District.(3) The mandate would necessitate gutting the interior and the almost complete removal and replacement of the original exterior envelope. This in turn led to numerous surprises for the project team, not the least of which were significant structural issues.(4) At the same time, the facility needed to comply with a State of Oregon directive to achieve LEED Silver equivalent standards. 

OSU Project Manager Larrie Easterly describes one of the benches created from sandstone blocks salvaged from the building's original skin.

As recounted by Troy, Matt, and Larrie, the project would become a major success story and a showcase for the merits of the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) project delivery process. Their presentation emphasized the necessity of teamwork and a mutual willingness to always undertake what was in the best interest of the project. 

Conveniently for the benefit our group, the trio enumerated the various trials, tribulations, and features of the job by addressing a series of predetermined questions: 

What were the cost implications of the decision to preserve, upgrade, and reuse rather than replacing the building?
Fortis Construction determined upgrading the existing building at $320 per square foot would be less costly than entirely replacing it. Fortis also deemed reuse the more sustainable choice versus building from scratch. Fortis salvaged, repurposed, or otherwise diverted from the landfill all demolished or removed materials.

What special techniques were used to repair and upgrade structural systems while maintaining the historic integrity of the building exterior?
Meeting the requirements of the Historic District necessitated a laser survey of the original exterior stonework to ensure its accurate replication with the new work. A total of 1.5 million points was located with exactitude by the laser equipment. The seismic upgrade was a hybrid system involving insertion of new lateral-force resisting elements and reinforcement of the existing structure. 

Furman Hall after the removal of its original stone cladding (photo courtesy of FFA Architecture & Interiors, Inc.)

What was the process for replacement of the exterior wall system?
The team documented the existing historic conditions before removing the exterior stonework.(5) Fortis Construction inserted new shear walls and new wall framing with insulation and sheathing to back up the limestone veneer. The windows are new (aluminum-clad wood) with profiles that match the original sashes. Other new elements exactly match the appearance of the building as it was during the 1930s following the series of renovations during that decade. 

How did the special needs of 21st century education influence the interior design while having limited impact on the exterior portions of the building?
FFA designed the interior renovation to meet the 21st century needs of the College of Education. Key features include improved openness and connectivity to encourage better communication and interaction. FFA removed existing walls and inserted an atrium connecting all floors, which is topped with skylights bringing natural light deep into the building. Interior glass walls help further bring natural light deep into each floor. 

Interior atrium of the remodeled Furman Hall.

What efforts were taken to include sustainable materials and systems in the solution? As much of the existing structure possible was saved and re-used. New insulated glass skylights and windows replaced old, leaky units. The new windows are operable, allowing natural ventilation. Energy-efficient heating and ventilating systems, lighting systems and controls, and low-flow plumbing fixtures were also installed. 

How was the building's structural system upgraded and did these upgrades bring the structure up to current seismic code standards?
The design team introduced new CMU shear walls at each of the four corners of the building at all floors. New foundations were required at the shear walls, tied to the perimeter of the existing concrete floor structure and roof structure framing. Also added was new plywood sheathing over the entire existing roof area. 

The restoration included the exact duplication of the original stone facade's features (including lintel stones left in place after a 1930s remodel added a second main building entrance, eliminating a window and obviating the need for the lintel).

What were the most difficult tasks (planning, design, and construction) that challenged the project team and were there any unique or break-through technical solutions or management approaches that can be employed on other similar projects?
The technical challenges associated with removal of the exterior envelope while maintaining the stability of the structure for the rehabilitation were significant. These were complicated by the funding limitations, which required documentation of the exterior and structural upgrades separate from the interior package. Additionally, achieving consensus with the user group proved difficult—translating big ideas into a specific program for the College of Education. 

Time-lapse construction video by Campaign for OSU - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2LeMLqG_AE

The Furman Hall project took 14 months to complete from start of construction through its completion in January 2012. The end result is a historically accurate exterior restoration of Education Hall as it stood during the 1930s (deemed by FFA as its most definitive configuration) and a thoroughly modern and efficient interior remodel.(6) Without a doubt, the team of FFA, Fortis, and OSU has injected new energy into a beloved campus landmark, extending its useful life for many decades to come. The project is a sterling example of how older buildings can successfully be adapted for contemporary use while preserving a worthy heritage. 

Big thanks to Troy, Matt, and Larrie for sharing their experience with us. Thanks too to John Evans and his firm Pillar Consulting Group, Inc. for sponsoring the evening’s presentation.   

(1) The building is a monument to Joyce Collin Furman, who grew up in Lebanon, Oregon and received her degree in math education at OSU. She became a well-known Oregon philanthropist and strong advocate for homeless youth. To honor her memory, Joyce’s husband, William A. Furman, made the lead gift for the project on behalf of the Joyce N. Furman Memorial Trust.

(2) The fires would leave the wooden roof structure charred but structurally sound.

(3) The National Park Service designated the historic core of Oregon State University as a National Historic District in 2009. One major reason that OSU’s historic district now finds itself on the register is the campus plan upon which it was based, created in 1909 by famed architect John C. Olmsted of the Boston-based Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. OSU is Oregon’s only public or private college or university so represented on the register.  

(4) As the building was opened up, the team discovered much of the structure was not as it seemed. The extent of the fire damage was revealed. Beams failed to actually bear on columns or other supports. And the roof sagged as much as four inches in some places.

(5) The original stone used for the exterior skin was a combination of diorite for the base and sandstone above. The team determined that the diorite base was sound but that the soft sandstone was too compromised to be retained as part of the completed remodel. In its place, FFA selected limestone, which is harder. The stone mason, Columbia Stone, did a remarkable job of replicating the appearance of the original sandstone blocks.

(6) Some, like Steven Semes in his book The Future of the Past, argue that preservation or mere replication of an historic fa├žade while gutting a building’s interior is superficial and violates the original design’s integrity. I suspect I will address this issue in a forthcoming blog post.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Awe, Wonder, and Curiosity

Mars Curiosity Rover (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

I watched NASA TV last Monday with countless others around the globe while mission staff breathlessly checked off the entry, descent, and landing sequence for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity. NASA assigned control of the remarkably precise plunge (dubbed “seven minutes of terror”) through the Martian atmosphere and landing within Gale Crater to MSL’s onboard computers. Due to the lengthy communication delay between Earth and Mars, no direct human control of the craft was possible. What I witnessed was a truly astonishing technological triumph. 

Curiosity’s spectacularly successful landing rekindled my childhood sense of awe and wonder about space exploration. NASA’s accomplishment stands as a testament to the power of human imagination, creativity, persistence, and will.

As a child of the space age, I grew up believing humankind’s potential was limitless. My faith in our ability to do wondrous things was richly rewarded when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in July of 1969. I recall my wide-eyed amazement as a true miracle of modern science unfolded before me in grainy black-and-white television images. The experience encouraged me to think big, look beyond the horizon, and ponder life’s greatest questions. 

Today, many criticize the use of limited public funds on programs that are literally out of this world. Regardless of the benefits to space science, how could policy-makers rationalize risking $2.5 billion to send a robot to a small, dusty, red planet 93 million miles away? Wouldn’t this money have been better spent solving problems here at home? This question is particularly resonant during this time of economic uncertainty. Why Mars when millions of our neighbors are in need of work, food, and housing? 

No amount of prosperity will entirely justify any expenditure on space exploration. There will always exist needs that trump others. Money isn’t the point. What is relevant is our innate desire to invest human energy and potential in the exploration of the unknown, in pursuits that enlist the power of our imaginations. 

Astrophysicist, Portland resident, and fellow blogger Ethan Siegel recently attempted to capture in words what may seem ineffable—a cogent rationale for space exploration:

“ Space is something that we are not only a part of, but that encompasses and affects all of us. Learning about the grandest scales of our live—about the things that are larger than us and will go on relatively unaffected by whatever we do—that has value! And it might not have a value that I can put a price tag on, but in terms of unifying everyone, from people in my city to people in a foreign country to people or intelligences on other planets or in other galaxies, space exploration is something that is the great equalizer. And the knowledge, beauty, and understanding that we get from it is something that one person, group, or nation doesn’t get to keep to itself; what we learn about the universe can be, should be, and if we do our jobs right, will be equally available to everyone, everywhere. This is where our entire world came from, and this is the abyss our entire world will eventually return to. And learning about that, exploring that, and gaining even a small understanding of that, has the ability to give us a perspective that we can never gain just by looking insularly around our little blue rock.”

This perspective is applicable to everything we as earthlings engage with. We cannot afford to maintain our anthropocentric worldview and hope to survive as a species. I’m enthusiastic about missions like the Mars Science Laboratory because they capture the attention and imagination of a wide audience, one primed for recalibration. 

Villa Rotunda by Palladio (photo by Philip Schafer via Wikipedia)

So what does my enthusiasm for the exploration of Mars have to do with architecture? A lot actually. 

Like space exploration, great architecture has the power to awaken our curiosity, point to the transcendent, and open our minds to worlds of possibility. As Ethan Siegel suggests with space exploration, great architecture speaks to things larger than we are. Like the universe itself, great architecture is beautiful and complex. It helps us understand who we are and where we come from. 

Great architecture is almost never the product of small-mindedness and expedience. It is only rarely the outcome of linear, reductive thinking. Great architecture demands an investment of both real and intellectual capital that may seem outsized compared to its immediate payback. Its true return may only be recognized many generations after its achievement. 

Great architecture is often the result of openness to the new and the unknown, as well as a childlike capacity to wonder. It presumes humility as an a priori condition to the experience of awe and wonder. Great architecture engages the curious mind and commands reflection. 

The capacity to wonder is critical to our advancement as a civilization. So too is curiosity because it is the fuel for creativity and inspiration. Without them, our world might not be filled with the innovations and conceptions that command our respect and reverence. 

I believe space scientists and talented architects have much in common. At their most sublime, their work inspires awe, wonder, and curiosity. Everyone is richer for their efforts. Curiosity’s creators dared to dream big. It would not surprise me at all to soon hear news from Mars that will more than repay their faith and investment in the intrepid rover. 

If architects are to remain relevant in the decades to come, they’ll need to likewise think big, look over the immediate horizon, and consider what it means fundamentally to dwell upon the earth. It will be their responsibility to wonder and explore, if not the larger universe, the smaller ones closer to home they can control. Like space scientists, they will need to enlist and exercise human curiosity for the sake of a future that can be better for theirs and future generations.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

AIA-SWO Tour: Allen Hall Expansion and Remodel

(Rendering by TBG Architects + Planners)

The next in the ongoing series of AIA-SWO construction project tours features the expansion and renovation of Allen Hall on the University of Oregon campus. Home to the School of Journalism & Communication, the building is located between Lawrence and Friendly Halls and along the Old Campus Quad, Allen Hall was originally constructed in 1922 and first expanded in 1954. The new project renovates 39,000 square feet and adds 18,000 square feet of space.

Journalism has changed significantly over the last decade. The School’s new home strives to be cohesive and transparent with classrooms, offices, conference/seminar spaces, TV studio, public areas, and digital common studios that foster communication and collaboration. The revitalized Allen Hall will be able to provide meaningful education for the decades to come.

Construction started in June 2011 and is scheduled for completion this month.

What: University of Oregon Allen Hall Expansion & Remodel Construction Tour

When: Noon, Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where: 1020 University Street

Architects: TBG Architects + Planners

Contractor: Lease Crutcher Lewis

Hardhats are required.

Recommended transportation: Take the EmX to the Dad's Gate Station. The LCL trailers are at the SW corner of Allen Hall. Click here for a map. 


Sunday, August 5, 2012

EmX Meets Design Excellence Goal

(Photo by Streetcar Press by way of Flickr Creative Commons)

As a past-president of AIA-SWO, I am a de facto member of our chapter’s Local Affairs Committee. When the occasion merits it, the committee will deliver its perspective on important and controversial issues related to the design of our community’s built environment. The West Eugene extension of Lane Transit District’s EmX BRT (bus rapid transit) system is a case in point. 

We know there are those among the AIA-SWO membership who do not support the west Eugene extension of EmX as we do; nevertheless, we are confident our opinion represents that of the majority of AIA-SWO members and thus warrants the chapter’s imprimatur. 

I personally believe the proposed extension’s antagonists are waging a war of misinformation and intimidation. Furthermore, I suspect the core motives of the most influential members of the opposition are political in origin rather than founded in genuine concerns for those who would be directly impacted by EmX. The West Eugene Extension is merely a convenient avatar for a movement bent upon tearing down any initiative associated with progressive ideology. Publicly funded support of mass transportation fits the bill in their minds. 

The committee recently distributed the following letter to local elected officials and media outlets. The Register-Guard published the letter in its August 5 Commentary section. I tip my hat to past-presidents Paul Dustrud (2011) and Eric Gunderson (2007) for providing leadership on this important topic. 

EmX Meets Design Excellence Goal
The Local Affairs Committee of the American Institute of Architects-Southwestern Oregon Chapter fully supports the west Eugene extension of Lane Transit District’s EmX express bus service in particular and efficient public transportation for our region in general. 

We believe EmX represents an advanced mass transit system able to support compact livable communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, operate at a lower cost to the public, encourage development along transit corridors, and create construction jobs in our community. 

EmX will be an interconnected system of more than 60 miles of bus rapid transit service linking destinations throughout the metropolitan area. It operates at a lower cost per mile compared to conventional bus transit routes and is an ideal system for midsize communities by offering high-frequency, high-capacity service at one-tenth the cost per mile of light rail or street car systems. 

We encourage community support for EmX in west Eugene and in additional corridors throughout the area as outlined in the TransPlan and the Metro Plan for the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. Additionally, we believe public transportation system projects shouldn’t require a public vote. We ask the City Council to support EmX as fundamental to Envision Eugene and to adopted public policies and goals. 

The AIA-SWO chapter is a professional organization of architects with 200 members in southwestern Oregon that advocates for design excellence to better our community. EmX embodies that vision of design excellence for our built environment, earning our clear support. 

- Paul Dustrud, 2011 president American Institute of Architects-Southwestern Oregon Chapter and 19 other past presidents (including me).