Thursday, June 27, 2013

June AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

It would be more accurate to characterize the June 2013 AIA-SWO chapter meeting as a joint event with our colleagues from the Willamette Valley Section of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA Oregon). Indeed, the title of the evening’s presentation—“Blurred (Di)Vision”—served to highlight the focus upon cross-disciplinary collaboration and the power of integrating building and landscape design efforts. 

The program featured four different AIA/ASLA member teams. Each team presented projects that exemplify the power of collaborative design. Every example went well beyond merely (in the words of David Dougherty, ASLA) “shrubbing things up.”

David Edrington, AIA & Brad Stangeland, ASLA
David and Brad (Stangeland & Associates) presented two extraordinary projects separated by a quarter century commissioned by and for the same client: the Lewis Garden and the Mary’s River House, both for Todd Lewis and his family. In both instances, the traditional architect/landscape architect dynamic was flipped on its head as David’s firm was retained by Brad’s as a consultant and not the other way around. Their working relationship was greatly abetted by the fact (at least at the time of the Lewis Garden project) both firms worked in the same building.

The Lewis Garden project involved the creation of truly usable garden rooms of great character through the use of new architectural features to positively shape outdoor space. Todd Lewis purchased the vacant property neighboring the one his house sat upon, greatly expanding the scope of the garden project to ½ acre. David and Brad produced a single set of documents featuring drawings both designers literally worked on together. 

Mary's River House: landscaping and wetlands
Todd Lewis selected the site for his Mary’s River House to be immediately adjacent to sensitive wetlands. David and Brad designed the home as a lens to focus views and attention upon the natural setting, while paying requisite attention to such issues as the elevation of the flood plain, prevailing winds, and appropriate architectural character.  

John Lawless, AIA & Rick Satre, ASLA
I find it hard to believe it’s already been twelve years since several Eugene-area design firms came together as a coalition to collaboratively develop a plan for reopening a three-block stretch of Broadway between Oak and Charnelton Streets in downtown Eugene to vehicular traffic. The effort was just one of an ongoing series of developments then and since that have helped revive the once moribund street. At the same time, the team also worked with local designer Scott Wylie to design Kesey Plaza at Broadway’s intersection with Willamette Street. 

The intersection of Broadway & Willamette

The allied firms included TBG Architects & Planners, Robertson/ Sherwood/Architects, WBGS (now PIVOT Architecture), Satre Associates, and Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers. All of the firms were located on Broadway or very nearby, so they stood to be beneficiaries of the hoped-for improvements. 

John (TBG) and Rick (Schirmer/Satre) recalled the camaraderie fostered by the collaboration. They also described the enjoyable process of engaging Broadway merchants and other users by means of a “rolling charrette,” literally using a cart as a platform for creating and sharing design ideas, block by block. 

The City of Eugene was another member of the coalition, and was responsible for actually producing the construction documents for the project. John spoke of his concern at the time that the City would be a difficult partner because it was not accustomed to working with private sector designers on a public works project. As it turned out, the City largely proved to be cooperative and willing to work with a truly creative team.

Scott Stolarczyk, AIA & Justin Lanphear, ASLA
Scott (Robertson/Sherwood/Architects) and Justin (Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning) described their collaborative effort to design the sparkling new Regional Health & Education Center for Planned Parenthood of Eugene/Springfield in Glenwood on Franklin Boulevard. Its location in Glenwood would present several interesting design challenges, including having to deal with the absence of any public storm-water infrastructure and anticipating the City of Springfield’s plans for the future realignment of Glenwood Boulevard (including the introduction of a roundabout). Compounding the site design issues were the project’s inclusion of 40 geo-exchange wells to provide a constant source of energy for heating and cooling the building, and also the unique security demands presented by Planned Parenthood’s sometimes controversial mission. 

Planned Parenthood green roof and interior courtyard

Scott and Justin responded with a thoughtful design that successfully addresses the project’s constraints and opportunities. They created oases for storm-water management, and worked together to shape the structure to ensure generous access to daylight and views for all building occupants. These views include outlooks over a green roof from a portion of the upper floor level. Scott and Justin also incorporated areas of pervious pavement and provisions for outdoor art (including a row of colorful bicycle racks taking the shapes of supersized IUDs). 

Jim Lewis, AIA & David Dougherty, ASLA
Jim (gLAs Architects) and David (DLA Landscape Architecture) truly exemplified the power of melding building and site design to creative and powerful effect. They presented four separate projects, each of which it would be difficult to imagine the design of the landscape without the architecture and vice versa. 

The first project Jim and David described was their design for the Cow Creek Tribal Center. The two took inspiration from the partially buried plank houses of the indigenous peoples, as well as the woven patterns of their sophisticated basketry. They incorporated these inspirations into the design of the facility, providing users of the Tribal Center with accessible and familiar motifs.

Jim and David conceived the Oregon Coast Community College project as a “clearing in the forest” providing a wind-protected series of outdoor spaces on a formally bare site. The architecture and landscaping alike reflect the coastal environment. The site design specifically employs the vocabulary of a coastal estuary to unify the design, treat storm-water in a naturalistic way, and trace circulation paths through the complex.

Cal Young Middle School courtyard
The next featured gLAs/DLA project was Cal Young Middle School in Eugene. Largely inward focused toward its courtyard, David organized the school’s landscaping around complex geometric patterns.

Finally, Jim and David proudly described their design for the new National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research facility at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. The entrance to the facility bridges over a pre-existing seawater return channel. David skillfully re-imagined the channel as a natural waterway, which the Center’s staff now dubs “NOAA Creek.”

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The AIA-SWO Program Committee envisions partnering with ASLA to make the joint meeting an annual event. The plan for next year is to feature similar collaborations, so start thinking about what your design team will want to present. The committee hopes to procure a larger projection screen (Chuck Bailey, AIA admonished the presenters for employing images that were too small to be viewed satisfactorily from across the room) and perhaps a different venue (one that might better “blur” the line between indoors and out).

AIA-SWO thanks Arica Durkhoop-Galas and ASLA for organizing the June meeting. As always, big thanks also go to Design|Spring for its logistical support, and to the staff of The Actor's Cabaret for its hospitality and great food. Finally, AIA-SWO gratefully acknowledges the support of the Pacific Capital Resource Group, sponsor for the June chapter meeting.

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