Monday, October 28, 2013

Leading by Example

Maurice Cox, FAIA (right) delivers the keynote presentation at the inaugural Making Great Cities forum (photo by Michael Soraci, Assoc. AIA)
A diverse audience packed the Center for Meeting and Learning at Lane Community College’s new downtown campus on Friday, October 19 to attend the first of the Making Great Cities series of community-wide forums about design excellence at the building, urban, and metro scales. Produced by a new and creative partnership(1), Making Great Cities promises timely, meaningful, and defining dialogue about how to improve our built environment. 

Design Excellence Committee program coordinator Kaarin Knudsen, Assoc. AIA, set the evening’s table by citing Eugene’s recent progress on the urban design front. She noted how most of us today recognize it’s less about if change will happen downtown and more about what this change is, how it is occurring, and the impetus it is building. 

The successes of recent developments in our city’s core hint at the possibilities. The sidewalks are bustling with pedestrians for the first time in decades. Recently vacant storefronts are filled once more. New businesses are choosing to make downtown their home. Happily, the notorious “pits” are filled in and a fading memory. As Kaarin observed, now is a propitious time to broaden the discussion about what it will take to make certain downtown Eugene’s future as our metropolitan area’s vibrant urban core is assured. 

Michael Fifield, FAIA expounded on the role design excellence plays in the making of a great city and introduced the inimitable Bob Hastings, FAIA, who in turn introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Maurice Cox, FAIA. 

Maurice is the former mayor of Charlottesville, VA, a past member of the faculty at the University of Virginia, co-founder of the national SEED (Social, Economic, Environmental, Design) Network, and is now director of Tulane University’s City Center Initiative. During his fruitful appointment as Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts, Maurice oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, and Your Town: The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design. At the NEA, he helped to provide professional leadership in architecture and design at many levels of government for a diverse collection of communities. Maurice’s history of forging real ties between design education, the political realm, and the public has garnered him broad respect as a community designer and leader of the public interest design movement. 

The primary message Maurice delivered in Eugene was that architects must act as leaders to ensure design excellence is at the center of any discussion about the future of our cities. He quoted Thomas Jefferson, who famously declared that “design activity and political thought are indivisible.” Fundamentally, it is Maurice’s belief that exercising leadership is the way to build a constituency for design excellence and influence a community to confront its adaptive challenges—those gaps between a community’s values and the current reality that cannot be closed by routine behavior. 

Perhaps the most significant of these adaptive challenges is identifying who needs to be at the table during deliberations about the future of our cities. The people who most need to be there are perhaps not the first we would think of. Maurice pointed out it is precisely those whose behavior and beliefs must be changed that would benefit the most by being a part of the discussion. Engendering a culture that values design excellence does not happen in an echo chamber. 

Translating a vocabulary foreign to most people requires leaders committed to that task, designers who enjoy the process of engagement. A designer in the public arena—as Maurice has been—has an opportunity to engage and bring together everyone who has a stake in the future of a city. This creates a dialogue that can touch on the benefits and not just the risks of change. 

Maurice enjoyed 17 years in Charlottesville, both in academia and the political arena, plenty of time during which he would make his mark. During his tenure as mayor, he advanced a platform premised upon developing a public appreciation for design excellence. Maurice’s measure of success is the extent to which citizens come to understand design excellence is synonymous with quality of life and a basic democratic right as opposed to something that should only be available to those that can afford it.

How did he do this? Maurice created more venues for design leadership in Charlottesville and then exploited those to the fullest extent possible. He worked to change his city’s values structure such that more people than before view design as a public issue and believe design excellence makes good fiscal sense. 

Maurice described 10 strategies he backed to promote this agenda: 

1.  Pace change and the community will make courageous choices
  • Use public process to build a community’s capacity to accept change
  • Take the necessary time to build trust
  • Establish a constituency for design excellence
2.  Encourage elected leaders to be visionary and think long-term
  • Educate elected officials about the art and design of cities
3.  Lead with public investment and private investment will follow
  • Raise the bar 
  • Serve the public interest 
  • Award young, fresh-thinking design firms (less than five years) with public commissions
4.  Change the rules of development
  • Implement new zoning ordinances 
  • Allow high density to happen
5.  Foster neighborhoods’ unique identities
  • Engage neighbors in the rewriting of the rules for development
6.  Make a place for designers in the civic life of your community
  • Encourage architects to serve on planning commissions, design review panels, or pursue political office (during his administration, Maurice appointed 24 Charlottesville designers to boards and commissions) 
  • Use public art to delight and provoke thought. If you use public art to delight and provoke thought, citizens will reengage in public life. 
  • Provide a “neutral ground” away from City Hall and city departments to serve as a forum for community discussions and education about design excellence
7.  Engage young people in solving problems & design the best places for them
  • Build a youthful enthusiasm and expectation for design excellence
8.  Lead by example
  • Embody the best design thoughts in the development of public spaces
9.  Hold design competitions
  • Engender a culture of design excellence 
  • Use student design competitions as testing grounds for new ideas
10.  Design according to your community’s values
  • Enlarge the community’s capacity to accept change
The results in Charlottesville have been remarkable. Among the successful projects the city developed over a period of years (not overnight) are the central Charlottesville transit hub, and a vibrant pedestrian mall boasting highly patronized performance venues, shops, and restaurants at street level with residences above.
Maurice drew comparisons between Charlottesville and Eugene. Like others in the audience, I found the urge to make such comparisons irresistible. Both cities are college towns of not dissimilar sizes, but it is the differences between the two that are more noteworthy. 
Unlike Eugene, Charlottesville’s development is not constrained by an urban growth boundary. Oregon’s enlightened land use legislation serves to preserve irreplaceable natural and agricultural areas in the vicinity of its towns and cities. The absence of similar UGB regulations in Virginia could result in uncontrolled sprawl but Charlottesville’s emphasis upon growing up, growing better and the virtues of urban density counter the lure of spreading outward. 
Charlottesville formed a “Design Task Force” comprised of respected architects, academics, and citizens to vet the design of key public projects. Eugene has yet to take this step; a sea change will be necessary before I can imagine there will enough support for such a concept in our community. 
Local architects established the Charlottesville Community Design Center, which elevated the status of design and served as a common ground for progressive ideas about how to improve the city from physical, policy, and social perspectives. The Center successfully bridged the gap between aspirations and reality while building the public’s trust in the power of good design. It emphasized the inclusionary aspect of design processes and promotes designers as facilitators, problem solvers, activists, and advocates. AIA-SWO objectives for its nascent design center, the Octagon, are similar. Charlottesville’s experience serves as an example for Eugene’s design community to emulate. 
The late U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan greatly influenced Maurice’s thinking. Moynihan was a champion of the GSA’s Design Excellence Program for federal architecture. He believed the quality of design is a public issue and a political fact. Maurice cited Moynihan to remind us that good design for all people has far-reaching ramifications. He is sustaining Moynihan’s legacy while also doing his part to advance public architecture and urban design. 
Charlottesville’s Freedom of Speech Wall, the result of an open competition for a public art piece. Photo by Daniel Rothamel [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Without a doubt in my mind, the AIA-SWO Design Excellence Committee absolutely made the correct choice in selecting Maurice as its speaker for the inaugural Making Great Cities forum. Broadening the discussion about design excellence and its value to Eugeneans is precisely the message the audience gathered needed to hear. Our city may be on the verge of viewing design excellence as a political imperative. If the Making Great Cities series continues to present speakers of the caliber of Maurice Cox, I’m confident we’ll cross this threshold sooner rather than later.  

(1)  Led by the AIA/SWO Design Excellence Committee and including the City Club of Eugene, the University of Oregon, local community groups, Lane Transit District, and the City of Eugene.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blog Action Day 2013

Volunteers assembling dwellings for Opportunity Village Eugene (photo from OVE's Facebook site)
Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about an issue of global importance on the same day (Monday, October 15). It’s an opportunity to witness the power of participatory journalism marshaled toward a common cause. The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a worldwide discussion. 

This is my fifth Blog Action Day:  For 2012 the theme was “The Power of We.” In 2011 the issue was Food; in 2010 it was Water; in 2009 it was Climate Change. 

The theme this year is Human Rights. As an architect, someone who likes to think of himself as dedicated to the betterment of our built environment for the benefit of all, I must admit a measure of discomfiture about what architects should be doing to help address the variety of human rights issues confronting our population. Certainly, one pressing issue is homelessness. 

Most everyone considers the right to shelter as fundamental, regardless of whether individuals have the wherewithal to provide for themselves or not. Humans cannot survive for long without protection from the elements. It’s incumbent upon a civilized society to care for those among its numbers who, through misfortune rather than choice, are without a place to lay their heads each night. 

This past April, the Southwestern Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architects turned the light upon homelessness, a social problem that has resisted simple solutions for decades in America. Specifically, a panel of speakers described the valiant local effort to create Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE), a new transitional village for homeless individuals and couples in west Eugene. 

Architects know how profoundly a living or work environment can shape the imaginations of the people inside them. “We shape buildings and then buildings shape us.” But what about those who are doing without? When people lack the security, the predictability, the comfort, and the definition of a place to call their own, what are we asking them to live without? 

Dan Bryant, pastor at First Christian Church and OVE board president, outlined the breadth of the challenge here in Eugene. A staggering 1,400 people may go without shelter on any given night. Caregivers like the Eugene Mission and Shelter Care have no choice but to turn away as many as 95% of those looking for a roof over their heads. The common stereotypes about the homeless—that they are predominantly drug addicts, winos, criminals, lazy, or mentally ill—are giving way to an understanding about how diverse their population really is. 

The homeless are often well-educated. Many are caring parents with children. Others are victims of domestic abuse, or burdened with physical disabilities, or unemployable for reasons beyond their control. The vast majority have roots in our community. Most are not transients; they are our neighbors. The reasons for homelessness are as different as each person is. 

Dan explained how Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy charged the Opportunity Eugene Task Force with recommending new and innovative solutions to the issue of homelessness in Eugene. The group concluded establishing a safe and secure place for those currently without housing should be the first priority. Acting upon this recommendation, the City of Eugene approved OVE as a pilot project through October 1, 2014. 

After examining potential sites for several months, the City Council picked a vacant lot at 111 North Garfield Street near Roose­velt Boulevard as the future site for OVE. It was one five sites the council considered. The lot used to be a trailer park, so there are utilities on hand that can be repurposed. The immediate neighborhood doesn’t have a lot of residences, so the likelihood of resistance to establishing a transitional homeless community there is minimized. 

On the opposite side of the ledger, the lot is not conveniently located near basic services, such as a grocery store. However, in this regard it is nowhere as poorly sited as Dignity Village in Portland, which is located near the Portland International Airport, many miles away from everything. Perhaps the North Garfield site’s biggest shortcoming is that the City of Eugene bought the property eight years ago with the intention of using it to construct a 40,000-square-foot maintenance garage for city vehicles. Ultimately, OVE’s days are numbered because the City will one day construct its garage. 

Opportunity Village Eugene welcomed its first residents last month. What does it look like and how does it work? It’s a transitional village of around 30 people who have collaborated with skilled architects and builders to construct simple, efficient micro-houses and shared common spaces. OVE provides its residents with opportunities to build a human-scaled community while developing skills and relationships that allow them to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. OVE’s foundation rests upon the notion that self-governance will provide residents with autonomy, responsibility, and respect. 

The building blocks of the village are compact, simple, safe, secure, and transportable dwelling structures, clustered together to encourage community cohesion and security. Panelists Alex Daniell and Andrew Heben described the various types of structures, which include Conestoga huts, deluxe and budget bungalows, roundhouses, and conic shells. The dwellings, none larger than about 100 square feet, provide basic shelter only. Kitchen and food storage, a dining area, bathrooms, bike parking, and personal storage lockers are communal. 

OVE also provides a gathering space for meetings, and opportunities for gardens and micro-businesses. Overall, the village offers a stable, safe, and sanitary environment where basic needs— food, shelter, medical care, a sense of dignity and belonging in place and community— are met. 

Mark Hubble, himself a homeless member of our community, discussed how meaningful it is to him to have an alternative to being on the streets. For Mark, simply having a lockable front door is huge. He was the first person to move into a Conestoga hut as part of Eugene’s car camping program, which allows huts to be placed on sites around the city hosted by local churches or businesses. He believes Opportunity Village Eugene provides the stability and a foundation people without houses need, as well as a sense of purpose, place, and belonging. 

Mark detailed how the ongoing success of OVE is predicated upon several core values. These include a village committed to horizontal organization and self-governance. They require resident participation to the greatest extent possible in the assembly of the structures. Additionally, the core values dictate an application and intake process based upon relationship building, and adherence to five basic, non-negotiable rules listed in the Community Agreement. 

The five rules for the Village are:

1. No violence to yourselves or others

2. No theft

3. No alcohol, illegal drugs, or drug paraphernalia

4. No constant, disruptive behavior

5. Everyone must contribute to the operation and maintenance of the Village.

Residents self-manage the village with oversight provided by the non-profit, Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE). Residents make decisions about how the village is managed and directly deal with minor disputes. The non-profit ensures that the five basic rules are being upheld. OVE also screens all potential residents and conducts criminal background checks. 

All of the panelists who spoke to local architects as panelists at our meeting last April enriched our understanding of the struggles that accompany homelessness, and provided us with a little inspiration that can shape the work we do for clients who are much more fortunate. It’s all too easy for us to overlook how architects contribute powerfully to a larger, invisible structure that builds equity and compassion into our society. 

So what can we do to help? For one, we can volunteer our time and skills. We can also contribute construction materials to OVE’s building partner, Community Supported Shelters. CSS receives donations at the Tine Hive located at 1160 Grant Street in Eugene. And of course, OVE would welcome any monetary assistance. OVE is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so all contributions are tax-deductible.

If Opportunity Village Eugene is viewed by the broader community as a success, the nonprofit hopes it will eventually see a network of several villages throughout the city. Everyone benefits when those who are homeless are offered the opportunity afforded by needed shelter to renew their life goals and aspirations. 


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lane County Covered Bridges

Interior of the Chambers Railroad covered bridge (all photos by me)

Cottage Grove hosted its 11th Oregon Covered Bridges Festival this past October 5th. Among the event's many family-friendly activities, the festival included guided tours of the vicinity's impressive collection of historic covered bridges; however, my wife and I chose to go it on our own and undertake a self-guided tour.

We were blessed with a picture-perfect October day. The weather was unseasonably warm, the sky clear and bright. The colors of the leaves on the trees were beginning to turn. It was an absolutely perfect day for a drive in the countryside. 

I was surprised to learn Oregon was once home to over 600 covered bridges. Today, only 50 or so remain (20 of which are found in Lane County); regardless, this number remains among the greatest of any state in the union. The following excerpt from Style & Vernacular: The Architecture of Lane County, Oregon provides an brief accounting of their importance in our local history: 

“Covered bridges had been a tradition in New England and Europe long before settlers arrived in Oregon to find a land thoroughly laced with rivers and streams. Dissatisfaction with the early ferries and their onerous tolls led to the first wooden bridges. In spite of tradition, the first bridges were rarely covered and their unprotected frames soon deteriorated in the wet climate of the Northwest. So it was for purely practical reasons—and not out of any sense of the picturesque—that the builders of the mid-nineteenth century began to enclose the structure of their bridges, extending their life from less than 10 years to nearly 40, barring destructive floods. 

“But picturesque they are . . . Most are later-generation bridges built from modern structural designs that, in many cases, replaced earlier bridges whose designs relied more on intuition, native genius and good luck, which were eventually lost to age or flood. The surviving bridges range in age from the Mosby Bridge, built near Cottage Grove in 1920, to the Belknap Bridge near Blue River, built in 1966. 

“Perhaps no structures preserve the image of the past as much as these wonderful “airborne barns,” and when they are replaced by more practical concrete spans, that image will disappear with them. It is a matter that goes beyond nostalgia since these bridges gave form to the social, economic, and religious life of the early communities and, in fact, were vital to their very existence.” 

During our tour, we visited six different covered bridges. While each is unique, all share features characteristic of the type: muscular timbers assembled as Howe trusses; plank siding, most often painted white; shake-clad pitched roofs. Some are reconstructions, facsimiles of previous spans that could not otherwise be preserved. Regardless, authentic or not, their absolute lack of pretense is what I find most appealing. Like barns or grain elevators, they boast clear, unadorned, and unaffected forms. Oregon’s scenic covered bridges are precious vestiges of a simpler time. We’re lucky they’re still with us. 

The following are the six covered bridges my wife and I visited on our Sunday tour. I copied the descriptions from the OCB Festival website (I hope the festival organizers don’t mind). The site is excellent, with descriptions, photographs of, and directions to all of Oregon’s surviving covered bridges. 

Centennial Bridge
Timbers from two Lane County bridges (Meadows Bridge and Brumbaugh Bridge) which had been dismantled in 1979 were used to build the Centennial Bridge in 1987. The volunteer effort to erect the bridge honoring Cottage Grove's 100th birthday proved to be a success. At the dedication ceremony a time capsule was encased in the entrance of the bridge containing items from the 1980s. The Centennial Covered Bridge is a 3/8 scale model of the Chambers Covered Bridge. It is only 10 feet wide and 14 feet to the roof peak, and thus only handles foot and bicycle traffic. In 2012 the siding was replaced and the bridge was repainted. 

How to get there:
Exit I-5 at Cottage Grove. Travel south on Highway 99 to Main Street turn right and continue west on Main Street for about 5 blocks. The bridge spans the river at the confluence of Main Street and River Road. 

Chambers Railroad Bridge
Chambers Railroad
The Chambers Bridge is the last covered railroad bridge in Oregon. It was built by the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railroad for a logging spur which brought logs to the Frank Chambers Mill in Cottage Grove. The actual use for the bridge was short, as the sawmill burned in 1943 and rail traffic no longer crossed the bridge. 

Although the bridge trusses were exposed, at one time the siding completely enclosed the structure to afford maximum protection for the timbers. In the typical construction for railroad spans, truss members of herculean proportions were necessary to support the moving weight of rail payloads. Built to accommodate steam engines pulling logging trains, the sides of the Chambers Bridge reach much higher than highway covered spans and give the bridge an appearance of being much longer than its actual length. 

The western approach to the bridge was removed to make way for the easement of South River Road. Abandoned for years, the bridge was a frequent target of arsonists, as the charred timbers attested. Fortunately, the bridge did not succumb to fire. 

The bridge was inspected under the 1993-95 Covered Bridge Program. The bottom chords showed extensive decay, and in some places three of the four members were rotted. In several places all three members of the floor beams were rotted. Corbels were decayed and crushed, which made the house lean as much as 12 inches to the upstream side. 

Emergency Declared
On February 9, 2010 it was discovered that the Chambers Covered Railroad Bridge had moved creating additional lean upstream. Apparently the bridge had moved as a result of the January 12, 2010 storm. The bridge was in danger of imminent collapse. On Tuesday, February 16, 2010 the Cottage Grove City Council held an Emergency Council Meeting to declare an emergency and authorize the immediate dismantling of the bridge. Upon adoption of the emergency resolution the City and consulting engineers (OBEC) began securing approvals from State and Federal agencies for the dismantling of the bridge. Clearances were received Friday, February 19, 2010 and onsite work began Monday, February 22, 2010.

Bridge dismantling began February 24, 2010. The bridge was secured and a substructure under the bridge was built to stabilize the bridge during the dismantling. A platform was built on the downstream side of the bridge and rolled under the bridge. Once under the bridge the platform was raised to hold the bridge structure in place.

The upper chords were anchored to the downstream substructure to further stabilize the bridge. Reconstruction of the bridge began in March of 2011. The summer months saw the bridge reapear slowly on the west bank of the river. The fully rebuilt bridge was scheduled for completion in November of 2011. It was sitting back on its piers in October and was rededicated on December 3rd, 2011. 

How to get there:
Exit I-5 at Cottage Grove. Travel south on Highway 99 to Harrison Avenue. Turn west on Harrison to Old River Road. Turn south on Old River Road. Chambers RR is off of Old River Road just south of Harrison. 
Currin Bridge
As with many Lane County landmarks, the Currin Bridge was named after an early pioneer family in the area. Nels Roney constructed the first covered bridge at this site in 1883 for $1,935. When it was to be replaced in 1925, Lane County again considered a contract for the bridge construction. The lowest bid was $6,250. The county felt it could save money by building the bridge itself. County employees, with the supervision of brothers Miller and Walter Sorenson, constructed the bridge for $4,025, realizing a substantial savings for the county. Architectural distinctions include single piece hand-hewn chords and cross-wise planking on the approach. It is Lane County’s only covered bridge with white portals and red sides. 

Lane County closed the bridge to traffic when it was bypassed by a concrete span that was built only an arm's length away, making the old covered crossing difficult to photograph. In late 1987, the bridge was mothballed by removing an approach and placing a wire fence in the portal. Additional work included structural repairs and fumigating for insects. 

During the 1993-95 Oregon Covered Bridge Program, Lane County received a $48,000 grant to rehabilitate and re-open the bridge to pedestrian traffic. Work items included truss repairs, a new rail system, a new synthetic roof, repaired siding and house painting. The successful restoration of this bridge is another example of the dedication of the State and local governments to Oregon’s covered bridges. 

How to get there:
Travel four miles southeast of Cottage Grove on Row River Road to the intersection of Layng Road. The bridge crosses the Row River at this location and is located one mile from the Mosby Creek Bridge, also on Layng Road. 

Interior of the Dorena Bridge
When Dorena Dam was built in 1946, plans were made to span the Row River at the upper end of the reservoir. Government Road along the west bank was completed in 1949, and the Dorena Bridge was built a year later, after the reservoir was filled, at a cost of $16,547. 

Miller Sorenson, Lane County bridge foreman, supervised the construction. The bridge is often referred to as the "Star Bridge" because it provided access to the nearby Star Ranch. Once a large and proud estate, the ranch has been reduced to about 100 acres. The state-designed bridge was bypassed in 1974 by a concrete span. Repairs were made to the structure in 1987, as part of the county's "mothball" plan for covered bridges. The asphalt flooring was removed, chords fumigated and other rehabilitation work was completed. 

The original town site, named for Dora Burnette and Rena Martin (by combining parts of their first names) is underwater at the bottom of the reservoir. A railroad in the vicinity served the mining camps until the gold mines played out. The lumber industry developed and used the rails to ship logs to Cottage Grove. Until 1987, the rails were used by a steam-powered excursion train. The cost of liability insurance increased too much to keep it going. Today the old rail line has been converted under the rails to trails program into what is arguably the nicest bike path in western Oregon. 

Lane County requested and received grants from the Oregon Covered Bridge Program totaling $59,000. These funds were used in the 1996 reconstruction of Dorena Bridge to create a wayside park. The project included replacement of the substructure, replacement of approach spans and extensive repairs to the covered span. When the house was resided, windows were installed for light and improved air flow. 

How to get there:
Travel five miles east of Cottage Grove on Row River Road to the junction of Shoreview Road. Continue east on Shoreview Road seven miles to the bridge. 

Mosby Creek Bridge
Mosby Creek
The Mosby Creek Bridge is Lane County’s oldest covered bridge, having been built in 1920 at a cost of $4,125 by Walter and Miller Sorenson. Spliced chords and steel rod cross-braces on the upper chords of the bridge are modifications of the basic Howe truss design. Design elements include semi-circular portal arches, ribbon openings at the roofline, and board-and-batten siding. 

The span was capped with a corrugated metal roof. During the summer of 2002, the roof was replaced with synthetic roofing material, and other repairs were made at the same time. The Mosby Creek Bridge was one of the bridges which could be seen from the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern steam excursion train, The Goose, prior to the sale of the locomotive to Yreka, California in 1987. 

Mosby Creek was named for David Mosby, a pioneer of 1853 who staked claim to 1,600 acres east of the present city of Cottage Grove. 

How to get there:
Travel one mile east of Cottage Grove on Row River Road. Follow the sign to Mosby Creek Road by turning right, and crossing the railroad track. Turn left on Mosby Creek Road and travel southeast two miles to the bridge. Alternately, from Currin Bridge continue southwest on Layng Road to Mile Point 0.2 to Mosby Creek Bridge.

Stewart Bridge
As with other wooden bridges in Oregon, the Stewart Bridge has had its share of woes. Heavy rains of the 1964 "Christmas Flood" brought water raging down Mosby Creek with the resulting force cracking the lower chords of the bridge. Just over four years later, a heavy snowstorm dropped more than three feet of snow on most of the Willamette Valley. The roof bracing gave way under the weight of the snow, and the entire roof caved in. 

Repairs to the bridge once again made it usable, and it carried a 20-ton limit until it was bypassed in the mid-1980s by a concrete span. The Stewart Bridge was officially "mothballed" in 1987, with one of the approaches removed, fumigation of timbers, and installation of a wire fence inside a portal for safety of pedestrians. In the 1993-95 biennium, the Lane County received a grant of around $48,000 from the Oregon Covered Bridge Program to restore the bridge. 

How to get there:
Travel one mile east of Cottage Grove on Row River Road. Follow the sign to Mosby Creek Road, turning right and crossing the railroad tracks. Turn left (south) on Mosby Creek Road and travel approximately 3.5 miles to Garoutte Road.
*   *   *   *   *   * 
I’m surprised we waited so long to discover our impressive assortment of nearby covered bridges. Don’t put off doing the same if you haven’t already seen them yourself. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Making Great Cities: Democracy + Design

Maurice Cox, FAIA

The AIA-SWO Design Excellence Committee is launching a series of community-wide forums about design excellence at the building, urban, and metro scales. The general subject area is “Making Great Cities,” and the speakers at each of the planned events will contribute the best thinking from their fields.

This program is a new and creative partnership led by the AIA/SWO Design Excellence Committee and includes the City Club of Eugene, the University of Oregon, local community groups, Lane Transit District, and the City of Eugene. 

Maurice Cox, FAIA, former mayor of Charlottesville, past member of the faculty at the University of Virginia, and now director of Tulane University’s City Center Initiative, will deliver the series’ inaugural presentation on Friday, October 18 at Lane Community College’s Downtown Campus. He brings to Eugene his history of forging real ties between design education, the political realm, and the public. He is a widely respected community designer and leader of the public interest design movement, and also a co-founder of the national SEED (Social, Economic, Environmental, Design) Networkl event’s keynote will be given by Maurice Cox, former Mayor of Charlottesville and now director of Tulane’s City Center Initiative. Mr. Cox has spent almost two decades forging ties between design education, the political realm, and the public. He is a nationally respected community designer and leader of the public interest design movement and former design director for the National Endowment of the Arts.

Additionally, Maurice, who studied architecture at Cooper Union in New York under the guidance of John Hejduk, is the former design director of the National Endowment of the Arts. In that capacity, he led the Mayor’s Institute on City Design, the Governor’s Institute on Community Design and oversaw the award of more than $2 million per year in NEA design grants across the United States. 

Maurice received national acclaim for his ability to incorporate active citizen participation into the design process while achieving the highest quality of design excellence. His accomplishments led Fast Company business magazine to name him one of America’s "20 Masters of Design" for his practice of "democratic design." 

Maurice’s appreciation of the civic process led him to serve as a city council member and then mayor for the City of Charlottesville, VA. During his term as mayor (2002-2004) the city was ranked as the "#1 Best Place to Live in the USA & Canada" by Frommer's Cities Ranked and Rated. Charlottesville was also the smallest in America to maintain a AAA-bond rating for excellence in fiscal management with a municipal city budget of $100 million. Under his leadership, the city completed several large projects, including the passage of an award-winning zoning ordinance in support of mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development; new infill residential neighborhoods and mixed-income, higher-density housing; and the design of a two-mile, federally funded parkway entrance into the city. 

At Tulane University, in addition to working with the highly successful Tulane City Center program, he has been involved with URBANbuild, the Tulane Regional Urban Design Center, the preservation program, and the school’s new Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development program, all which are community outreach design initiatives of the university. 

I previously heard Maurice Cox speak at the 2010 Oregon Design Conference at Salishan. I considered his presentation to be the high point of that event. I expect his appearance here at the first "Making Great Cities" forum to likewise be nothing less than outstanding. 

The Design Excellence Committee is very excited about the upcoming program and hopes it will support a broad, ongoing community conversation about the importance of quality in our built environment. Don’t miss it. RSVP today! 

What:   “Making Great Cities” forum featuring a keynote presentation by Maurice Cox, FAIA 

When:  6:00 PM – 7:30 PM Friday, October 18, 2013. Reception to follow. 

Where: Lane Community College Downtown Campus, 101 West 10th Avenue, Eugene
Cost:   FREE (suggested donation is $5 to help defray costs)
            Refreshments served with no-host bar.

RSVP: at

The Design Excellence Committee expects this event to be at capacity so please RSVP today.

Questions? Contact Kaarin Knudsen, Assoc. AIA, Design Excellence Committee Program Coordinator at