Monday, January 28, 2013

AIAS Professional Mentor Program

The University of Oregon chapter of the AIAS announces its Professional Mentor Program, the goal of which is to provide pair students with emerging and established professionals who are interested in serving as mentors to them. The AIAS needs at least 20 more mentors for the program. 

If you’re interested in being a mentor, submit a paragraph similar to the example below describing the path you’ve taken during your career. Students will read the submitted paragraphs and identify their preferences for mentors who best match their personal career goals. The deadline for submissions is this coming Friday, February 1 (AIAS extended their previously published deadline). Following the pairing of students with their mentors, AIAS will host a mixer to allow everyone to meet for the first time. 

Here’s the sample paragraph: 

Alvar Pei van der Wright, AIA Associate at ABC Architects

Alvar Pei van der Wright graduated with a Master's in Architecture from the University of Napkin Sketches in 2011. Soon after graduation he as hired by ABC Architects where he currently works. He has worked on various projects, two of the main projects are: XYZ University Classroom building and the Main City Promenade. Alvar believes that there is more than just working, but also giving back. With the AIA, he is currently serving as the Associate Director and sits on various committees.

Be a mentor and provide guidance to our next generation of design professionals. Send your paragraph and contact information to by Friday!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

JSMA Inflatable Design Contest

A page from Ant Farm's Inflatocookbook

Taking inspiration from the experimental architecture collective Ant Farm, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is hosting Eugene's first Incredible Inflato-contest! Founded in San Francisco in 1968, Ant Farm created inflatable environments at numerous happenings, schools, conferences, and festivals, notably the Rolling Stones' free concert at Altamont. Traveling the country throughout the 1970s, Ant Farm distributed their Inflatocookbook, teaching architectural skills ad hoc to democratize the institution of architecture.(1) 

The Schnitzer Museum is encouraging AIA-SWO architects and associates to create teams and explore the joyful possibilities of inflatable environments. The museum will display the finalists' inflatables in a storefront location downtown for the occasion of the March First Friday Artwalk.

You can find full contest instructions at Submissions to the contest are due just a few days from now on February 1. The museum’s jury will then select four finalist teams to construct their inflatable for the First Friday Artwalk on March 1. Submission posters will be on display in the museum's lecture hall during the opening of the exhibition West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977. Direct any questions you have about the contest to exhibition coordinator Jessi DiTillio at or (541) 346-0980.  

(1)   I remember being fascinated by the work of Ant Farm back during their ‘70s heyday. For some reason though, I had it in my mind more recently that Ant Farm’s founders—Chip Lord and Doug Michels—were east-coasters rather than from San Francisco. I think I may have been confusing them with the Jersey Devil design/build firm founded in 1972 by Steve Badanes, John Ringel, and John Adamson.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

BUILD 2013

Each January, the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) produces the annual BUILD Construction Conference. The comprehensive event includes a construction products show, educational seminars, and an economic forecast dinner presentation about the state of the local economy, specifically the prospects for the construction sector in the coming year. As it has for the past few years, BUILD will take place on the last Thursday of January at the Hilton Hotel & Conference Center in downtown Eugene. 

The Willamette Valley Chapter has dubbed this year’s edition of the conference as “Lucky 13,” and is focusing upon the theme of “Turning Challenges into Opportunities in 2013.” In addition to CSI, the other participating professional societies are the American Institute of Architects, National Association of Women in Construction, Associated General Contractors, Cascadia Green Building Council, and American Society of Landscape Architects. 

The free products show and educational seminars offer fantastic, convenient opportunities to learn about the latest developments in construction industry technology, practices, and knowledge. Each seminar qualifies for one AIA learning unit (or other industry continuing education credit), so those of you who currently are short of your requisite yearly total should definitely plan on attending. No pre-registration is necessary for either the product show or the educational seminars: just show up and you’re in! 

There will be a total of six different seminars this year, two occurring concurrently in each of three sessions. The seminar schedule is as follows:

Session 1 (1:30 – 2:30 PM) 

Upward Acting Sections Door Systems (Joplin/Seeger Room)
Overhead Door Corporation 

Architectural Millwork Quality Issues (Sousa Room)
Woodwork Institute




Session 2 (2:45 – 3:45 PM) 

The Science of Projection Screens (Joplin/Seeger Room)
Da-Lite Screen Company





Seismic Renovation of Existing Buildings (Sousa Room)
MRR + DCI Engineers

Session 3 (4:00 – 5:00 PM)

Linoleum 101 (Joplin/Seeger Room)
Forbo Flooring

Tax Update – What’s new for 2013 and beyond (Sousa Room)
Jones & Roth CPAs and Business Advisors




Following the last session of seminars, BUILD’s social hour will be perfect opportunity to connect with your colleagues in the building industry—the architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, bankers, owners, insurers, code officials, attorneys, and accountants that BUILD our community! 

The “Projects in the Pipeline” dinner is always a highlight of the annual BUILD conference, and this year’s edition should be no exception. It will be comprised of presentations from speakers representing some of the major public and private sector entities that together have been responsible for much of the local construction activity in recent years. The distinguished 2013 panel of speakers is as follows: 
  • David Suchart – Director of Management Services, Lane County
  • Denny Braud – Urban Renewal Manager, City of Eugene
  • John Tamulonis – Community Development Manager, City of Springfield
  • Darin Dehle – Director of Facilities Services, University of Oregon
  • Dave Hauser – President, Eugene Chamber of Commerce
  • Jack Roberts – Executive Director, Lane Metro Partnership
  • Jonathan Lauch, Facilities Manager & Shelly Berman, Superintendent – Eugene School District 4J
You can either be a “cup half-full” or “cup half-empty” kind of person. I’m a “half-full” type myself, and I am confident we’ll hear from the panel that the design & construction industry in the Eugene-Springfield metro area has much to look forward to in 2013 and beyond. For architects like me, the goal should be to seize upon the opportunities inherent in this potential and facilitate the kinds of future developments that will further enhance livability, sustainability, and the attractiveness of our community for years to come.

RSVP by noon, Friday January 25, 2013 to Alorie Mayer at to assure your place at the “Projects in the Pipeline” dinner. There will only be a limited number of spaces available on program day. 

I hope you’ll join me and many others by attending BUILD 2013 on January 31. It’s sure to be a great event (it always is) and will only be more so with your participation. See you there! 

What:          BUILD 2013 Conference presented by CSI Willamette Valley Chapter 

When:        Thursday, January 31, 2013 

Where:       Hilton Hotel & Conference Center, Eugene, OR 

Cost:           Educational Seminars:              Free
                    Economic Forecast Dinner:       $30 ($10 students)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Achieving Net-Zero Energy Buildings

Reserve the evening of Wednesday, January 23 for what promises to be a highly informative presentation by Mike Hatten about net-zero energy projects and the Energy Petal of the Living Building Challenge. Mike is internationally recognized for his expertise in energy-efficient buildings. His firm, SOLARC, has consulted on an extensive and diverse array of high performance building projects.

A net-zero building is a building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. Mike will describe four net-zero (or near net-zero) projects, including the certified Painter's Hall in Salem and the Bullitt Center in Seattle.

Following Mike’s lecture, there will be an opportunity for a hands-on learning experience on achieving net zero energy in the Eugene-Springfield area. Roundtable discussions will focus upon two case studies to enhance understanding of the considerations, opportunities, and challenges of reaching net-zero energy in our climate.

The event is another in a series of presentations produced by the Eugene Living Building Collaborative and the Eugene Branch/Cascadia Green Building Council, focusing on the Water Petal requirements of the Living Building Challenge

What:      Achieving Net-Zero Energy Buildings 

When:     Wednesday, January 23, 2013; 5:00--8:00 PM. Doors open at 5:00. Lecture to begin at 5:15 PM, followed by roundtable discussions. Light refreshments will be served during the workshop. 

Where:    Living Learning Center South, Performance Hall, University of Oregon. 1455 E. 15th Ave.
(across from Hayward Field; Campus map:

Cost:      Free (donations welcome). Space will be limited so please RSVP to Jenna Garmon at (541) 682.5541 or email:

The Eugene Living Building Collaborative is a part of the worldwide Ambassador Network promoting the Living Building Challenge. It provides focused opportunities to learn about and apply the Challenge to projects, and helps support active change towards a truly sustainable future.  

The Cascadia Green Building Council 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. We host monthly lunchtime presentations and tours and quarterly evening events on the latest green building topics. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Time Capsule

LCC president Mary Spilde adds an item to the time capsule (photos by me)

I joined dozens of others—LCC staff, construction workers, and members of the design team— this past Friday on a gloriously sunny winter afternoon in Eugene to mark the completion of the Academic building at the Lane Community College Downtown Campus. We buried a commemorative time capsule, which will remain buried and sealed until 2064 on the occasion of the college’s 100th anniversary serving Lane County residents.

Like the topping out ceremony that took place last March, the tradition of placing a historic cache of goods or information has a long history, dating back to ancient times. The practice is most often intended as a method of communication with whoever ultimately opens it many years down the road. Some critics argue time capsules do not provide much useful historical information as they are typically filled with "useless junk", new and pristine in condition, which tells little about the people of the time. This is in many ways true for the Downtown Campus time capsule; however, this hardly diminishes the custom and its value to those who assembled the collection of items in the container and the future generation who ultimately open it on the appointed date.

Notwithstanding its dubious archaeological value, I personally think placing a time capsule is great fun. Unless medical science advances significantly, I don’t stand a good chance of being around to see it opened fifty-one years from now (when I would be 104). I’ll miss the opportunity to see everyone’s reaction when it is opened. Will the Twinkies still be edible?

The contents of the time capsule include a box of Twinkies and a "Ty" mascot bobblehead.

The Downtown Campus' big Grand Opening celebration will take place in March, so Friday's time capsule ceremony wasn't intended to the the shiny new facility's official coming-out party. Nonetheless, the Academic building will be open for business this week as it hosts its first classes of the winter quarter. I'm looking forward to seeing how it performs in all respects, particularly from an energy-savings point of view, and whether it meets its goal of achieving a LEED Platinum rating. More on that to come in a future post. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Library Chronicles – Part 3

Eugene Public Library, central stair (all images by Eckert and Eckert Photography)

This post is the third of three marking the 10th anniversary of the Eugene Public Library. You can find the first two posts here and here. 

Sustainable Design
It was while we were designing the Eugene Public Library that the U.S.Green Building Council rolled out its Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) rating system. The program would not progress beyond the “beta” stage during this time; regardless, we registered our project with the USGBC to determine if the energy-conserving and sustainability strategies we incorporated would qualify it for eventual certification. Alas, despite being 30% more energy efficient than the levels mandated by the already stringent Oregon code, our design fell just short of basic certification. 

We did not pursue several strategies that might have resulted in additional LEED points. These include innovative wastewater technologies, exclusive use of certified wood products, limiting construction materials strictly to those locally sourced, and incorporating on-site renewable energy sources. Because LEED was so new and we were unfamiliar with the program, it wasn’t until we were well into design development that we chose to look into the possibility of certification. By then, our design was well-advanced and we could not adjust it adequately to address fundamental issues. For example, because of its broad cross-section the building does not provide daylight and views to more than 90% of all regularly occupied areas as required by LEED credits IEQc8.1 and IEQc8.2

Ironically, one of the points we failed to secure was LEED credit SSc2: Development Density & Community Connectivity. The intent of this credit is to channel development to urban areas with existing infrastructure, protect greenfields, and preserve habitat and natural resources. The criteria the USGBC used for SSc2 included requiring the site be developed within an area boasting a density in excess of 60,000 square feet per acre. Our site’s immediate context failed to meet this criterion, notwithstanding its location within the downtown core and a setting as urban as any available at the time in Eugene. Although well-intentioned, it’s clear the USGBC missed the mark with SSc2 because it failed to acknowledge the low-density reality of a smaller city like Eugene. We appealed to the USGBC but failed in that effort. 

On the positive side of the ledger, our project team implemented numerous strategies that combine to make the library an exemplar of sustainability. These include embracing alternative modes of transportation(3),managing construction waste, optimizing energy performance, incorporating sophisticated lighting controls, and specifying environmentally friendly and low-emitting materials. 

Main Lobby

Working With the Project’s Best Interest in Mind
No matter how large and complex a project may be, its success or lack thereof can usually be attributed to the efforts of a surprisingly small group of people. The Eugene Public Library’s main branch was no exception in this regard. This was particularly true during the project’s construction phase when I had the great fortune to be part of a fantastic Owner-Architect-Contractor team. 

The principal City of Eugene’s representative was its project manager, Brad Black. The general contractor, John Hyland Construction, assigned Jeff Durmaj as its project manager. Brad, Jeff, and I worked together as a team, embracing a partnering strategy wherein the best interests of the project were always paramount. None of us elevated our own welfare above that of the library, particularly when difficult construction or design-related issues inevitably arose. Under such circumstances, the reflexive default is to adopt a defensive stance rather than a cooperative one. With partnering, this was not the case: ahead of construction, we agreed to standards for communication, dispute resolution, and problem-solving. We addressed the thorniest of issues mutually, constructively, and well before they threatened to derail the work. 

The upshot is that during the course of constructing the library, the three of us truly came to like and respect one another. Brad is now happily retired but Jeff and I look forward to the possibility of working together again on another successful development. 

Because the project followed a conventional design-bid-build process, we did not enjoy the opportunity to share the planning process with Hyland and its key subcontractors. Today, collaborative, integrated design methods are increasingly prevalent.(4) Key advantages of integrated design include having the Contractor on hand during the design phase to conduct constructability and cost reviews. Hyland’s low bid for the library exceeded the budgeted figure by four million dollars, the cause of considerable consternation at the time. We consequently worked with Hyland to successfully identify savings without having to pare scope or compromise quality. It would surprise me now if anyone could point to where we chose to make the necessary cuts. 

Entry Garden

A Catalyst for Change
Optimists believed the advent of the new library was the tipping point beyond which downtown revival would be assured. However, the hoped-for revitalization has been slow to come. Across the street, the Lane Community College Downtown Campus is a welcome advance, but it comes after a series of stillborn plans and the ignominy of the “Sears pit” years. It’s probably unrealistic for anyone to have pinned hopes for a downtown renaissance on a single development, even one as significant as the library. 

So, has the library fulfilled its promise to help rejuvenate downtown? Ten years since its opening, the answer to this question remains open for debate. One thing is certain: downtown Eugene is better off than it would have been had the library been located outside the city’s core. It is an immensely popular amenity. It attracts a substantial population to downtown every day: both the numbers of card holders and library visits more than doubled after the new building opened. Ultimately, it may be best for us to regard the library as but one incremental, albeit important, step toward realizing the urban center we hope for. If allowed to evolve organically, downtown Eugene will eventually become the center of culture, commerce, and community it deserves to be. 

View looking east along 10th Avenue

Eugeneans love their library. As we hoped, it has become a centerpiece for Eugene: a vibrant place to learn, gather, have fun, and grow. Major civic landmarks of its scope and significance to the community are a rarity for a city of Eugene’s modest size.(5) Equally rare are the opportunities available to local architects to design such projects. With the benefit granted by ten years of perspective, I fully appreciate how privileged I am to have played a part in making the “new” Eugene Public Library a reality. 

(3)   Lane Transit District’s Eugene Station is located immediately to the east of the Library across Olive Street. It is the primary bus transfer station in Eugene and the western terminus of the Eugene-to-Springfield line of its EmX bus rapid transit system. 

(4)   Our Lane Community College Downtown Campus project is a case in point. 

(5)   The Hult Center for the Performing Arts (completed in 1982) is another civic project of comparable importance and prestige. If and when a new Eugene City Hall is designed and built, it will be smaller and perhaps more ordinary than it deserves to be because of limited funding. The window of opportunity for publicly funded, grand architectural gestures is closed for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Library Chronicles – Part 2

Eugene Public Library (all images by Eckert and Eckert Photography)

This post is the second of three marking the 10th anniversary of the Eugene Public Library. Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc led the team responsible for its design. Find Part 1 of this series of posts here and Part 2 here. 

A Library for the 21st Century
The intervening years between the Library Site Selection Study and the final design of the new Eugene Public Library was a period marked by rapid changes to the role of public libraries. The increasingly widespread use of and fluency with digital technologies during this period threatened to render the traditional library obsolete. At a minimum, the matter of how a facility for the 21st century should function and look like would underlie all of our team's thinking about the design.

The 1990’s and early 2000’s witnessed the construction of a wave of major new libraries, including noteworthy examples in San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Vancouver, and Nashville. The architects for each of these projects surely confronted the same questions we did here in Eugene. Their efforts, though, did not presage radical reinvention of the library paradigm. The project most critics cited as a prominent exception is Seattle’s new downtown branch, designed by Rem Koolhaas and his firm OMA; however, its awkward form wasn’t the game-changer its proponents maintained but merely evidence of the architect’s aesthetic and philosophical idiosyncrasies. 

Window bay in West Reading Room; art glass by John Rose

For us, the bottom line was the library patron’s experience. It became the key criterion by which to measure the success of our design, regardless of how the library’s collection might evolve. We believed libraries would always need to offer patrons comfortable places in which to read real paper & ink books. Like Louis Kahn, we regarded the library experience at its essence to be the act of removing a book from the shelf and taking it to a light-filled place to read. Accordingly, we deliberately fashioned distinct reading rooms, tall day-lit volumes that center and ennoble the library patron. We eschewed amorphous, albeit more flexible, spaces that lack spatial definition. 

We realized designing a library for the 21st century needn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bath water. People often fail to recognize how quickly humans adapt to ever-accelerating change. Social media and smart phones are extraordinarily recent inventions; they didn’t even exist when we started work on the new Library in 1998. Our team may have been unwittingly prescient when we chose not to completely abandon the centuries-old typology of the library as a building form—bottom line, we regarded libraries as repositories for information and custodians of cultural heritages, just as generations of architects before us had done. Additionally, we considered libraries essential anchors of community life, highly accessible, welcoming and comfortable “third places.” As if in response to technology’s inexorable advance, we intuited that attempting to somehow match that progress architecturally would be an exercise in futility.

Central rotunda

Traditional or Cutting Edge?
Predictably, the design of the Eugene Public Library sparked a spirited debate about style. Should it look “traditional” or should it push the aesthetic envelope? This wasn’t a merely superficial consideration. Our design response would stand as a representation of Eugene and its citizens. Everyone reacts instinctively to good and bad architecture, and certainly our goal was a good design. But what did this mean? Our professional peers expected a landmark structure, while most laypersons simply wanted something that wouldn’t be ugly. How could we design a library that would appeal to the sensibilities of as many as possible in a diverse community like Eugene? As the architects, what were the articles of faith by which we designed? 

Led by Sandy Howe, our team approached the design of the library with a collaborative mindset. RSA and SBRA were a good match architecturally: both offices shared a similar affinity for well-considered, program and context-driven designs, and a common eye for detail. Neither firm adhered to a signature style, preferring instead to allow the specific circumstances of each particular design problem to elicit an appropriate response. By nature, our team’s ego and personality were not inclined toward bravado; our innate tendency was to rely upon time-tested principles of composition, proportion, and construction in the creation of contemporary space, form, and structure. 

West Reading Room

Our design was bound to disappoint some observers when it was first revealed and, sure enough, it did. We managed paradoxically to dishearten both traditionalists who longed for a grandiose classical edifice (complete with marble lions flanking a grand entrance stair) and those who would settle for no less than a cutting-edge, avant-garde statement. The latter camp included some of our colleagues in the profession, among them local curmudgeon Otto Poticha, FAIA. Doctrinaire modernists, like Grant Seder, AIA emeritus, regarded our impure aesthetic as inauthentic. 2003 AIA-SWO Design Awards jury chair Thom Hacker, FAIA, averred after the library’s completion that its outward expression would be more appropriate to an academic campus rather than a setting downtown.(2) As expected there were also folks who insisted upon an unmistakably Pacific Northwest expression, which we struggled to address. 

What we did focus on was shaping an eminently practical, sustainable (more on this in Part 3), site-responsive, and cost-effective library building. Toward this end, we developed a classically proportioned design that features strong centers and local symmetries, large and small patterns, and proportionate scaling of parts to the whole. We did this without overt historicizing or turning our backs to the possibilities afforded by modern construction technologies. 

We chose brick masonry for the exterior because of its natural beauty, durability, warmth, and human scale. Laid in place by hand, one-by-one, the assembly of brick demanded skilled, authentic craftsmanship to achieve a richly textured form marked by light & shadow, rhythm, and hierarchy. A measure of our success was the Masonry & Ceramic Tile Institute of Oregon’s selection of the library as the recipient of the 2003 Hammurabi Excellence Award. The project would also receive a 2nd Place Award in the 2004 International Excellence in Masonry Awards program from the Mason Contractors Association of America

Today, the question of what style the library is has faded in the bright light of the public’s fondness for the building. Style is secondary to the experiential qualities of a visit to the facility. Eugene’s library is comfortable, welcoming, easy to navigate, and a great place in which to read. I think the taxpayers believe their money was well-spent. 

. . . Next: Part 3: Sustainable Design; Working with the Project’s Best Interest in Mind; A Catalyst for Change; Assessment

(2)     Hacker’s fellow jury members apparently shared his reservations about the design: they did not confer any award upon the Library.