Sunday, July 28, 2013

Zen North

Zen North rendering by Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning
The University of Oregon football program is currently one of the hottest brands in college athletics. As I reported back in February, the Ducks’ popularity and success has been fueled by the generosity of Nike founder and uber-alumnus Phil Knight. He’s increasingly directed his largesse toward ensuring Oregon stands apart from the crowd and is second to none when it comes to football facilities. 

As a long-time fan who followed the Ducks when times were fallow, I sometimes pinch myself and wonder when I’ll wake up from what seems like a fantastic dream. As it turns out, not anytime soon: besides the new Football Operations Center, another of Knight’s investments in physical improvements for the program—the $5 million Autzen Stadium North Berm project— is quickly taking shape. 

“Zen North” is the brainchild of Nike designer and UO Department of Architecture graduate Tinker Hatfield and Cameron McCarthy, a Eugene-based landscape architecture and planning firm. According to, the primary goal of the project is to improve the game-day experience for Autzen northsiders (like me): 

“The improvements to the berm and walkways on the north side of Autzen will be constructed in a manner that will provide better access and safety for fans entering and exiting the stadium. The existing pedestrian ramps, which were built with the original stadium, will be removed and the berm will be reshaped to provide pathways that are universally accessible . . . 

“ . . .In addition to the circulation improvements, the entire north side will incorporate enhanced landscapes and spectator amenities, providing a sharp new look for fans and passers-by on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The inspiration for these features is a "Pacific Northwest" landscape. Most of the plant material used will be native to the region, comprised of large conifer trees, ferns, Oregon grape, vine maples and native groundcovers. Spectator gathering and resting places along the pathways will be incorporated into these landscapes. These waysides include seating and drinking fountains while offering exceptional views of the Autzen complex, the Willamette Valley and the surrounding foothills of both the Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges.” 

I visited Autzen Stadium yesterday to see how Zen North is coming along. There’s plenty left to be done before the first kickoff of the 2013 season on August 31; regardless, it’s clear the project will further distinguish Oregon from its wannabe rivals. A raucous Autzen lavishly adorned with waterfalls, basalt outcroppings, and a dense forest on its shady north slope ups the ante and solidifies the Ducks’ reputation for out-of-the-box thinking.(1) 

New stairs, cascading waterfall, and trees at the east end adjacent to the Stadium Club (all photos by me)
New ramps and trees in place

New stairs and retaining walls in progress on the north side

Besides the new amenities, what intrigues me most about the project is what it may signal for Autzen’s future. I suspect that if and when the seating capacity on the stadium’s north side is increased, it will not necessarily mirror the south side as many have predicted since its 2002 expansion. Instead, the Zen North project suggests Phil Knight and Tinker Hatfield have something else in mind, something that will undoubtedly surprise us all. Ultimately, I expect Knight’s legacy will culminate in an Autzen complex shaped entirely by his vision.

Bonus shots of the Oregon football facilities:

The new Football Operations Center viewed from Martin Luther King Boulevard
Another shot of the Football Operations Center from within the south courtyard
The Moshofsky Center (indoor practice facility) in its new garb

(1) The faux landscape does tread perilously close to Disney-like Imagineering. Is the incorporation of a Matterhorn coaster ride in the works?  

Monday, July 22, 2013

LUCiA Construction Tour

LUCiA Townhouses

LUCiA presents a creative mix of buildings and outdoor spaces, combining a 10,000 sq. ft. commercial building, code-required parking, communal garden spaces, and 12 townhomes into a dense urban mosaic. Designed with clean modern lines, wide protective roof eaves responding elegantly to our wet climate, the buildings' articulated facades and dynamic massing create a thoughtful transition between the commercial properties to the south and the low-slung residences to the north. All townhomes will be Earth Advantage and LEED Gold Certified.

LUCiA's green strategies include:
  • A restaurant that will harvest solar energy to produce much of its own electricity and fill much of its hot water needs, including 1500 gallons of solar-heated water.
  • Elimination of building materials containing compounds that are toxic during their production or after installation.
  • Natural ventilation and daylighting through high-efficiency glazing and operable windows
  • Energy-efficient framing, resulting in a high-performance building envelope that includes more insulation and less framing lumber.
  • Use of local and durable materials, including locally produced concrete pavers, recycled steel, formaldehyde-free plywood and particleboard, rapidly renewable wood products, recycled cellulose, and sustainably harvested framing lumber.
  • Careful balancing of natural daylight with solar heat gain, integrated natural ventilation, and combination of beneficial shading with high-performance glazing.
What: Construction tour of LUCiA Townhouses

When: Thursday, July 25th at 11:55 AM

Where: Friendly Street and 27th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon

Architect: Jan Fillinger, STUDIO-E Architecture PC

RSVP by 5 PM Wednesday, July 23rd to Julie Romig at or 541-683-8661 x3.
Transportation: Carpool - meet at Bergsund DeLaney Architecture & Planning at 11:40 AM to carpool over to the site. Please indicate in the RSVP if you will be meeting to carpool.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Midsummer's Rooftop Romp

Roof of the Parcade in downtown Eugene, July 17, 2013 (all photos unless noted otherwise by me)

One of the great things about the local design and construction community is how close-knit and collegial it is. I think these traits are a function of its relatively small size but also simply because it is comprised of truly good people who enjoy each other’s company. We mix comfortably, unafraid to let our hair down, strengthening our bonds. 

The 2013 edition of the annual AIA-Southwestern Oregon & CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter picnic, which took place this past Wednesday, is a case in point. Everyone one had a great time storming the rooftop of the Parcade. A brutalist concrete parking structure in the middle of downtown isn’t the first image one conjures when thinking of a picnic. On the other hand, it proved to be an ideal setting for our (un)traditional summer celebration, a perfectly quirky yet appropriate venue for a gathering of folks dedicated to the betterment of our built environment. The picnic was as much a testament to the rejuvenation of Eugene’s urban core as it was an excuse to enjoy good food, music, and company.

Larry Banks, AIA, CSI of PIVOT Architecture and "retired carpenter" Jim Chaney, FCSI enjoy good food, good drink, and a laugh together.

The weather was perfect and the west wall provided welcome shade from the setting sun.
Representatives from sponsors Columbia Green Technologies and Skoler Building Resources displayed their (appropriately enough) green roof technologies and membrane roofing systems, respectively.
The future is so bright for Paul Dustrud, AIA he's gotta wear shades. 

"A Side of Beets" (including CSI's own Matt Keenan on bass guitar) provided the evening's fantastic musical entertainment. Incoming CSI-WVC president Tana Baker holds court at her table. 

Eric Gunderson, AIA, CSI of PIVOT Architecture, Travis Sheridan, Assoc. AIA of Willard C. Dixon Architect, and Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy await the start of the 2013 AIA vs. CSI tug-of-war. The mayor served as the contest's referee.

The epic tug-of-war in progress. For a second consecutive year, the AIA team (to the left) emerged triumphant (photo by Jenni Rogers, Assoc. AIA).
Big thanks to the event’s organizers, who produced a wonderful event. Thanks too, to the City of Eugene for clearing the way for use of the Parcade. 
Food and drinks were generously provided by the following companies: 
This year’s “Urban Picnic” will be difficult to “top” (pardon the pun); nevertheless, I’m confident next year’s version will be equally enjoyable and another opportunity to bring together some of the best people you’ll find anywhere.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tour of Stellar Apartments

Join the Eugene Branch of the Cascadia Green Building Council next Tuesday, July 23 for a tour of the Stellar Apartments, a 54-unit, multi-family housing project located in Eugene. Nearing completion, the innovative project will provide affordable housing for low income families and military veterans. 

Bergsund Delaney Architecture & Planning designed one of the twelve buildings to meet the Passive House standard, focused on extremely air tight and energy efficient construction. This pilot project will provide a rare opportunity to evaluate the health, environmental and financial trade-offs of this type of construction by comparing it to another building on site with the same design and solar orientation, built to Earth Advantage standards. 

St. Vincent de Paul is partnering with Alison Kwok at the University of Oregon, EWEB, and the City of Eugene to monitor energy use and indoor air quality data between the two buildings (each containing 6 units) to assess the value of pursuing the Passive House approach for multi-family projects. The Eugene Branch of the Cascadia Green Building Council hosted a presentation about the Stellar Apartments last year, highlighting a life-cycle assessment that evaluated whether the long-term, operational energy efficiency and climate change benefits from the Passive House approach are expected to outweigh the environmental impacts from the added insulation and materials (the short answer was yes!). 

What: Tour of the Stellar Apartments 

When: July 23, 2013   5:15 PM - 6:15 PM

Where: 1535 City View St., Eugene, OR; meet in the Community Building

Tour Guides:  Nora Cronin, St. Vincent de Paul; Sara Bergsund & Julie Romig, Bergsund DeLaney Architecture & Planning; and Win Swafford, Passive House Consultant 

Cost:  Free for Cascadia members and students. $5 for non-members.

Please RSVP at Eventbrite – space limited! 

Please walk, bike, carpool or take a bus.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Clear Sub-Parts

Mercer Museum, Doylestown, PA (photo by Jared Kofsky via Wikimedia Commons)

While Bill Kleinsasser may have disagreed with the notion of designing too specifically to suit immediate needs, such was not the case when it came to responding to the particulars of site, orientation, memory, and the materials with which one builds. He repeatedly cited the idiosyncratic designs in Doylestown, PA by Henry Mercer to illustrate his lectures about response to place, historical continuity, and—most intriguingly—the construction of mental maps in the process of comprehending the places we experience. For Bill, it was essential that rich, complex spaces also offer easily understood sub-parts. Clear sub-parts are the outline of outstanding features within which details are filled. 

A visit to the Mercer Museum, Mercer’s home Fonthill, and his Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, all located in Doylestown, features prominently on my “bucket list.” I look forward to someday experiencing these unique works of architecture, with the privilege of viewing them through eyes influenced over three decades ago by Bill’s teaching. 

Elements, spaces, sub-spaces, details
If, as in speech or music, the separate parts of a spatial construct are not fully developed and clear, there will be confusion about what they are and what they offer. Spaces and parts tend to merge with others if clarity and identity is lacking. Conversely, great spatial complexity may be understood easily if parts are clear, and a whole place may result that is rich, yet perfectly comprehensible. 

While each sub-space is always part of the whole in Mercer’s buildings, each is also always clearly expressed and useful on its own. Each is intriguing in regard to the special concern that is evident in its configuration and when the smaller spaces are brought together into the whole, a complexity of memorable elements exists without confusion. 

Interior of the Mercer Museum (photo by Mrmcdonnell, used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

How different Mercer’s museum would be (and how confusing) if the sub-spaces were all alike in spite of the differentiation suggested by the different exhibits, different positions, and different conditions of light. The uniqueness of each would be lost and with it the lucidity of the whole. If in all the buildings, the vaults, walls, columns, stairways, corridors, doors windows, corners, and tiles were less clear and expressive in themselves, their simultaneous presence would be like mumbled words. Eloquence is only possible when sub-parts are vivid and clear.

WK / 1981

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Designing for an Unknown Audience

Opera Romana-Vedare, Bucharest (photo by Mihai Petre via Wikimedia Commons) 
Once again, I’m happy to publish an excerpt from the writings of one of the best teachers I ever had, the late T. William Kleinsasser. He was a great educator, committed to his beliefs. Regrettably, his wisdom is at risk of being of being lost to time. I take great satisfaction in offering his words to a new generation of designers, doing what I can to sustain his legacy. 

Reading his essays many decades after he first wrote them, I am struck by how timeless they are. The following piece is no exception. In it Bill challenged the notion of designing precisely to suit immediate needs. Instead (and going beyond merely designing for flexibility and “loose fit”), he advocates designing places that enrich our life experience, settings that help us realize our full potential as human beings. Read the passage carefully and return to it often:

Three years ago some design students at the University of Oregon attended a lecture about elderly people. Since the lecture was given by a physician who specialized in geriatrics, they were surprised when the physician asked them what kinds of physical environments old people should have. The students had come to learn from him. But it was proper that the physician should ask. 

It is the environmental designer’s responsibility to provide others with insight about the way people relate to and depend upon the physical environment. 

But it is never clear who the people in the environment are: 
  • We don’t know exactly who is there and who will come
  • They will probably stay awhile and leave 
  • They will change as they grow older, as society and context change (their attitudes and aspirations; their points of view and frames of reference; their relationships; their dependencies) 
It seems right that much should be left for the people in the environment to define and complete for themselves: 
  • They need to establish themselves as selves
  • If the environment is too explicit it is often too complete, too clear, unchallenging, un-stimulating, closed
  • And, we cannot anticipate everything . . . 
It is certainly necessary to have concern for particular people, particular actions, particular situations, and particular needs. 

But it is also necessary to be responsive to more general aspects of the human condition, especially the human capacity and need for expanded experience and expanding the experience until it is a new and different scene, or scene within a scene, and then perhaps back again to what it was before . . . 

It seems that we are more alive (regardless of age) if we are able to make meaningful (strongly felt) patterns out of our experience. This is made evident by our need to laugh, to love, to celebrate, to ceremonialize, to dramatize, to have special places and special things, to swing, to turn on, to influence others (and know it), to communicate with others, to withdraw, abstract, identify, imagine, reflect, dream of better things, to be with it and in it . . . not out of it. 

We need to ask how much should be particular (closed), how much general (open), how much to be explicit, how much implicit, how necessary are “brackets” which form ranges of choices (from dark to light, from large to small, from inside to outside, from designated to undesignated, from public to private, from together to alone). 

We could make places instead of objects. We can select and shape their elements. We can determine combinations, juxtapositions, transitions, rhythms, moods. We can differentiate. We can add to or subtract from. We can recall. 

We could make places that can be possessed by people . . . places that are involving, places that can be changed and made more responsive to particular needs or patterns . . . made different more than once, in more ways than one. 

We could make places that provide the possibility of diversity of experience over time . . . different frames each inviting multiple interpretations . . . magic and mystery as well as logic and clarity. 

In so doing, we could make places that evoke (but not dictate), help (but not limit), are powerful (but not overpowering), are exact (but not too particular), are particular (but not closed); they could be PRECISELY AND SIGNFICANTLY GENERAL, intensifiers of life experiences, others, and ourselves . . . developers of our capacities to respond, feel and wonder. 

We could go beyond the current habit of designing buildings which are fixed by na├»ve preconceptions long before designers are even considered. 

We could go beyond configurations generated by the most careful and thorough study of particular needs and activities. 

We could go beyond buildings that are the result of structural, economic, or building servicing criteria alone. 

WK / November 1971

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Urban Picnic!

"The Picnic" by Thomas Cole (1846). The 2013 AIA-SWO/CSI-WVC picnic will be just like this (except for the fact it will take place on top of a parking structure in downtown Eugene)
Summer’s wonderfully sunny weather beckons us outdoors for a myriad of warm-weather activities. Not surprisingly, gluing my rear end to the chair in front of our computer to write a blog post hasn’t been high on my list of seasonal priorities. This is especially true when home projects and work commitments also rightfully demand my time and attention. 

Fortunately, this brief entry is all about helping make the most of your summer. Mark your calendars: the AIA-Southwestern Oregon & Willamette Valley Chapter CSI picnic will take place on Wednesday, July 17 from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Join us as we celebrate summer in the city by storming the rooftop of the Parcade at 8th & Willamette in downtown Eugene!

This creative twist on a venerable summer tradition is sure to be memorable. The menu will feature refreshing beverages, tacos with all the fixins, frozen yogurt treats, and generous urban panoramas bathed in the warm glow of midsummer’s setting sun. The picnic’s organizers and Design|Spring have lined up a design charrette and a tug-of-war, and other enjoyable activities. All in all, the picnic promises family friendly fun for everyone connected with AIA-SWO and CSI-WVC. Don’t miss it!

What: AIA-SWO & CSI-WVC Urban Picnic 

When: Wednesday, July 17 – 5:30-8:00 PM 

Where: 8th & Willamette, rooftop of the Parcade