Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 People’s Choice Awards

Each year, the American Institute of Architects, Southwestern Oregon Chapter (AIA-SWO) in collaboration with the American Society of Landscape Architects, Willamette Valley Section of the Oregon Chapter (ASLA) sponsors the People’s Choice Awards for Architecture. These awards aim to educate and inspire our fellow citizens by showcasing architecture, interiors and landscape architecture projects created within the Southwestern Oregon Chapter area or by members of our Chapter. The program demonstrates to the public the role of the architectural profession in enhancing the built environment. AIA-SWO invited the public to vote for their favorites in several categories during the Eugene Celebration this past August. 

I was unable to attend the presentation of the winners for the People’s Choice and Mayor’s Choice Awards (which occurred at the September 13 City Club of Eugene meeting), and also the Colleagues’ Choice program at the September AIA-SWO chapter meeting. Regardless, I would be remiss if I didn’t use my blog to announce the winners, so here they are: 

People's Choice Awards: 

Residential: Mulkey/Claassen Residence – Jim Givens Design 

Commercial: First on Broadway Mixed Use – Rowell Brokaw Architects (Christian Columbres Photography) 

Public/Institutional: Sprout! Regional Food Hub – Arbor South Architecture 

Interiors: The Penthouse – Arbor South Architecture 

Landscape: Hop Valley Brewery – Dougherty Landscape Architects (Photograph by Curtis Reed) 

Pyrenees Vineyard & Winery Event CenterArchitecture Building Culture 
Student Design: Fossie: A Floathouse for South Slough – Daniel Abrahamson, Assoc. AIA 

­Colleagues' Choice Awards:

Office for Bell + Funk – PIVOT Architecture (Jeff Amran Photography)
Richardson Sports Headquarters – PIVOT Architecture (Jeff Amran Photography)

Lane Community College Downtown Campus – Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc + SRG + Pyatok Architects (Christian Columbres Photography)

Edwards Community Center – Rowell Brokaw (Christian Columbres Photography)

Mayor's Choice Awards:

Office for Bell + Funk – PIVOT Architecture (Jeff Amran Photography)

Stellar Apartments – Bergsund Delaney Architects & Planners 

Lane Community College Downtown Campus, Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc + SRG + Pyatok Architects (Christian Columbres Photography)
All in all, the winners comprise a great collection of very worthy projects. The quality of work in our chapter area and by AIA-SWO members is getting better every year!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Architects generally design according to systems they are familiar with and have accepted, but the breadth of this familiarity and acceptance is limited. We’re inclined to work inside a relatively small bubble of expertise. We stay within a comfort zone, most often because we don’t think we can know everything. As a result, the qualitative aspects of our built environment and its adaptability to social and technological change can be compromised or left to others who work in fields unrelated to architecture. 
The social sciences are an example of a group of systems that architects often ignore and yet exist as a ready resource for study. We too often regard the fields of behavioral science, environmental psychology, and sociology as distinct areas of specialization rather than as bases for fundamental design skills to be tapped. For example, housing for low to moderate-income families has long been a topic for research in the social sciences (and it is the one substantial segment of housing that involves architects) but the inaccessibility of the findings to designers has precluded their widespread application within the architectural profession and schools of architecture. 
This problem of unfamiliarity with systems that may be of use to architects is compounded by the nature of the design/construction process and the bias of our professional education. The data we can cull from behavioral and sociological studies tends to be separated from the formal principles that serve as the basis for our decision-making when we design. Because we’re trained to make choices via the study and evaluation of visual evidence, most of us ignore valuable information from non-architectural sources unless it is translated into patterns or diagrams we can easily grasp. 
One of the reasons we love being architects is because what we do is so multifaceted. However, the mounting “burden of knowledge” is pushing our profession increasingly toward specialization and a willingness to outsource more and more of our responsibilities. Consequently, our stature is diminishing as our control of the overall process of design and construction wanes. Some architects believe this is okay and inevitable given the accelerating complexity of the problems we face. I disagree. Critics bashed the naiveté and social idealism of the early Modernists, but equally injurious I suspect was the abdication of social responsibility by many of the architects who came after them. 
So what’s the solution? Is the answer to find ways to diagram essential design considerations founded upon research in the social sciences and other disciplines? Perhaps it is. Anything would be better than relying upon our intuition alone. Sticking our heads in the sand—ignoring wide-ranging bodies of research and wisdom outside of those most closely associated with architecture—is untenable in our increasingly diverse and complex world. The wealth of knowledge at hand is too great for us to ignore.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

AIA-SWO Construction Tour: Corporate Office Building

This month’s AIA-SWO Construction Tour features a 2-story, 12,900 square foot wood-framed corporate office building for a local timber and property management company. 
Robertson/Sherwood/Architects developed the design after extensive conversations with the client regarding its day-to-day workflow and internal operations in order to get the organization of work groups correct. Also key was gaining an understanding of how the company regarded itself as an organization and developing an aesthetic that fit with what the company wants to portray to the public. This included finding key opportunities for the display of wood products manufactured from trees harvested from its own forest lands and also special artwork and artifacts collected over the years. Overall, the design is meant to fit in with the surrounding larger corporate office buildings. The exterior utilizes brick, wood, and metal roofing. 
The project is following the design-build project delivery process. 
What: Corporate Office Building Construction Tour 
When: Monday, September 23rd 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm 
Where: 200 International Way, Springfield, OR 
Architect: Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc 
RSVP:  Please RSVP by 5 pm Friday, August 23rd to Lana Sadler at or 541-342-8077
Transportation: Take the EmX to the International Way Station, which is near the job site.
Carppool: Meet at Bergsund DeLaney Architecture at 11:40 to carpool over to the site. Please indicate in the RSVP if you will be meeting to carpool.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Working Together for Successful Projects

The September Willamette Valley Chapter CSI meeting featured the initial presentation in a planned series on the topic of what makes a successful project. Each meeting in the series will look at the subject from a different point of view. First up: The Owner’s Perspective
This first edition showcased a distinguished lineup of three panelists who provided a glimpse of how diverse the owner’s concerns can be with today’s projects. Regardless, all three pointed consistently to effective communication as a primary key to a project’s success. 
Cynthia Pappas
Formerly the assistant city manager for Springfield, Cynthia Pappas is now President and CEO for Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon (PPSO). PPSO opened its new Regional Health and Education Center last year. Designed by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects (RSA) and built by Chambers Construction, the $8.5 million building was funded by a variety of sources, including donations from community members and foundations. PPSO chose the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) mode of project delivery for its new center. 
Cynthia described how the CM/GC method helped PPSO achieve its goals. For one, being brought on board early, at the beginning of the design phase, meant Chambers Construction could participate as an adviser to PPSO and Robertson/Sherwood throughout the design process. Chambers furnished constructability reviews and value engineering to optimize the cost and performance of the project. For another, the CM/GC process balanced and mitigated the risk between PPSO, RSA, and Chambers by improving communication and helping to maintain realistic budget and schedule expectations. Most importantly, it fostered a team approach and a high level of mutual respect. 
PPSO also took advantage of the know-how offered by professional project management. For the Regional Health and Education Center, the organization looked to Carole Knapel of KPFF Consulting Engineers. Carole regularly provides project management services for various facility owners. Like Cynthia, Carole previously worked for the City of Springfield (managing the City’s efforts related to PeaceHealth’s Riverbend hospital, as well as Springfield’s new Justice Center). With Carole’s involvement, PPSO ensured itself a high level of expertise when it came to developing clear and obtainable project objectives, and managing the constraints of cost, time, and scope. 
Cynthia cited the value of pre-development conferences and meetings early with the various authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ). In the case of the PPSO project, these meetings revealed significant design constraints during the initial site planning. RSA was able to resolve these early, well before they might otherwise have resulted in costly design changes and schedule delays. 
Mark Miksis
Mark Miksis is a partner at deChase Development Services and also an architect with his own firm. As such, Mark brought a unique point of view to the panel, wearing as he does both the shoes of an owner/developer and leader of the design team. While he doesn’t always assume both roles on every project he becomes involved with, he always applies his diverse experience and body of knowledge toward ensuring its success. 
Mark stressed the importance of thoroughly performing due diligence with respect to environmental, technical, and legal considerations at the front end of a project. Project scoping is also critical: program, budget (including soft costs and contingencies), schedule, and site selection all ultimately are translatable as essential components of pro forma financial statements and directly factor into the calculation of a project’s financial prospects. 
Like Cynthia and for the same reasons, Mark is a fan of the CM/GC method of project delivery. He’s also an advocate for design-build, as well as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Whether it’s CM/GC, design-build, or IPD (or a combination thereof), the bottom line for Mark is minimizing what is unknown and effectively managing risk. Also, like Cynthia, Mark strongly advocated engaging the AHJ as part of the project team. He believes team building and partnering (whether formalized or not) help to avoid unproductive “positioning” by fostering a spirit of cooperation and trust. 
Currently, Mark is providing project management services to Northwest Community Credit Union for its new headquarters building now under construction next to the Federal Courthouse at 8th and Ferry Street in Eugene. As both a property owner/developer himself and an architect, Mark is applying his considerable skills toward the success of the NWCCU project.
Gary Wildish
Gary Wildish has had “a lot of fun” in the seven years since he retired from his role as a project manager for Chambers Construction. In Gary’s case, however, “retirement” takes on a meaning quite different than one most of the rest of us might imagine: he’s been as busy as ever, volunteering his lifetime of experience and expertise to numerous local non-profit agencies as an unpaid consultant. 
Echoing a theme shared by Cynthia and Mark, Gary firmly believes it is important the owner be represented by an individual or team of advisors who understand the owner’s culture and decision-making processes, as well as the technical and management challenges posed by complex building projects. 
Among the organizations Gary has recently assisted are the Relief Nursery, Looking Glass Youth & Family Services, Pearl Buck Center, Jasper Mountain, and the Boy Scouts. He was careful to point out that each one of the groups he has worked with is unique. In his role as an advisor to these non-profits (who often lack the necessary savvy and experience themselves), Gary helped identify options and endeavored to make sure the agencies achieved their goals, which were likewise unique. With his assistance, they proceeded into construction with a high level of confidence about what the projects would ultimately cost. Happily, Gary reported that every one of the projects for which he has served as an advisor was completed under budget. 
Gary referenced yet another recurring theme during the panel discussion, which is the importance of discussing design issues with the AHJ early on. He particularly lauded the City of Springfield, which commits itself to standing by any decisions made during its pre-development meetings with project teams. 
*    *    *    *    *   
Cynthia, Mark, and Gary opened the floor to the audience following their presentations. In response to a question asking whether owners should give design teams more time (and fees) up front so that construction-period issues might be reduced, Gary offered up the old maxim of “pay me now or pay me later.” He believes owners need to be willing to invest as necessary to allow design decision-making to occur within reasonable timeframes. A failure to do so might lead to consequences down the road, which inevitably are more costly than a critical amount of additional design time would have been. 
All three panelists asserted having the right people at the table at the right time is always beneficial. This means owners committing to the success of their projects by ensuring they have experienced, empowered representatives sitting there. I couldn’t agree more. 
*    *    *    *    *   
The October and November Willamette Valley Chapter CSI meetings will extend the Working Together for Successful Projects series by addressing the topic from the Contractor’s and Architect’s points of view, respectively. Don’t miss what are certain to be informative and thought-provoking discussions!

Monday, September 9, 2013

10square v.6

10square - September 6, 2013 (photo courtesy of Dan Abrahamson, Assoc. AIA and DesignSpring)
Downtown Eugene was absolutely hopping this past Friday night: The sidewalks were brimming with people following September’s First Friday Artwalk, and bustling with an upbeat vibe validating the patience and efforts of those who recently invested so much faith and money in our urban core. I’m more confident than ever that a tipping point has been reached and an economically vibrant and diverse downtown has finally emerged after decades of disinvestment and neglect. 

It was against this lively backdrop that DesignSpring hosted its sixth 10square, this time in the foyer of the new home for the Oregon Contemporary Theater at 194 W. Broadway. A large audience was on hand to see wide-ranging presentations from an exceptional group of creative, talented thinkers and doers. Each inspired, informed, impressed, and amused using the now-familiar fast-paced, breezy 10 designers x 10 slides format characteristic of every 10square event. The following is a brief synopsis of the individual presentations: 

Joe Valasek

Originally trained as a traditional wood carver & sculptor, Joe Valasek now enthusiastically embraces the potential and precision of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) routing in creating his bas-relief carvings. CNC routing allows Joe to focus upon his art rather than the physical challenges posed by his chosen medium. He produces intricate, precise designs (often inspired by nature motifs) that are otherwise impossible to craft by hand. Fascinated by pattern and texture, Joe’s decorative fine art panels and artwork can be found in luxurious custom homes as well as commercial settings. 

For more about Joe’s work, check out his company’s website at

Yuliya Dimitrova-Ilieva
Yuliya is a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate attending the University of Oregon. For 10square she showcased her thesis project, a monument to courage, memory and life, honoring those lost to the Holocaust in her native Bulgaria. Using the cherga—traditional Bulgarian textiles made from a great number of brightly colored, interwoven threads— as a metaphor, Yuliya sited the monument in a historically Jewish neighborhood in Sofia. Richly layered and accented by useful objects (such as a bench in the form of an open book), her project’s intent is to create an open dialog about a tragic past. 

Michael Bowles, Assoc. AIA

By day, Michael Bowles is an unassuming intern who works with Willamette Architecture 360. By night, though, he is a dynamic lighting designer and events production manager who creates custom, interactive LED and laser light effects. His designs transform light into kinetic sculptures, integral to the vibrant performances of which they are a part. 

Mark Lavin

Mark is dedicated to the tenets of permaculture, particularly its core beliefs in the power of regenerative systems and nature’s resilience. He believes there is much we can learn from nature and that the only limit to a system is the extent of a designer’s imagination. 

Vertecology is a portmanteau (VERTEgreentruevertex, hubvertical + ECOLOGY) coined by Mark as his name for the design and invention studio he operates. The Vertecology Hanging Garden is Mark’s brilliantly simple solution for those who long for an organic farm but are short of space. Made entirely of knotted rope, rigid platforms and simple hardware, the Hanging Garden is a vertical column of nature, utilizing stable geodesic forms that hold rigid as a system. It can hang from any 3 connection points able to take its weight, and provides 1.3 square feet of planting, growing, soil-building, air-freshening space per level.

Sarah Bush

A transplant from Vermont, Sarah now feels perfectly at home here in Oregon. She’s found a receptive and fertile environment in which to further develop her art. For 10square, Sarah presented her ongoing work on a collection of sheet metal sculptures collectively entitled We’re Not Made of Metal. The pieces explore and express her concern with the trend toward mechanized dehumanization and how it negates the importance and value of the individual. She developed her ideas during a time when she was losing herself in a push toward mechanization and achievement, forgetting what is important and special about simply being human. 

We’re Not Made of Metal is currently on exhibit at the Oakshire Public House at 207 Madison Street in Eugene. 

Jeffrey Luers
Jeffrey’s interests “bridge the gap.” Notoriously associated with environmental activism, he now directs his energy and passion toward the pursuit of a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon. 

Jeffrey views cities as integral parts of the natural landscape: his Block 112 project posits knitting Portland’s north and south park blocks together at a critical nexus of the downtown grid. Likewise, he has imagined transforming Springfield’s Booth-Kelly mill site, examining its potential for redevelopment and identifying how the site can become a destination location with a pedestrian-friendly appeal. 

Alex Daniell

I previously blogged about Alex’s invaluable contributions toward the success of Eugene’s Opportunity Village, a transitional village for homeless individuals and couples located at 111 Garfield in west Eugene. Alex described his designs for a series of compact, simple, safe, secure, and transportable dwelling structures, clustered together to encourage community cohesion and security. 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. Thanks to considerable contributions from various supporters, the homes average a mere $850 in material costs plus another $850 for labor. 

Richard McConochie, Assoc. AIA

Richard McConochie has answered a unique calling: he’s become a professional pumpkin carver. His work runs the gamut from portraiture to landscapes, business logos to abstract designs. Many of his projects take upwards of six hours, are created using customized hand tools, and often feature kaleidoscopic projection. 

The Zen of pumpkin carving offers lessons to those who follow its ways. Richard enumerated them for the 10square audience: 
  • Temper your patience 
  • Know your tools 
  • Embrace innovation 
  • Reach deeper to shine brighter 
  • Celebrate the 4th dimension 
  • Learn to let go (what you create lasts but a short time) 
  • Face your fears 
  • Teach your students to surpass you 
  • Do what you love
There is beauty in the evanescent existence of Richard’s chosen medium of expression. 

Alex Froehlich

Insurgent design is an ethos that fuels Alex Froelich’s work. He is committed to social, economic and ecological responsibility in design. He actively explores holistic and collaborative design processes, both conceptually in his current thesis work, and in practice with designBridge, the student-run community design-build organization at the University of Oregon. Alex firmly believes in the power of design to change entrenched paradigms, and likens design to an autoimmune response to urban ills.

Alex managed a group of between 5-20 people over six months in the construction of a large structure for a local cooperative of Latino farmers. The 20’ x 40’ building now shelters a tractor, walk-in fridge, and vending area, and was constructed with a modest budget of only $5000. 

Jim Givens, Assoc. AIA

I’ve known Jim since back in the 1980s when we were both B.Arch candidates at the University of Oregon. He’s an incredibly thoughtful and talented designer, whose work I greatly admire. He shared the importance of focusing upon elevating the ordinary moments—looking out a window, mounting steps, and so forth—to ones of transcendence in our lives. Repeated as they are over a lifetime, from the first to the last act, the physical settings in which these moments occur become emblems of our being in the world. Jim’s designs celebrate the act of simply living well in the best humanist tradition. 

Andika Murandi, AIA

Andika is preternaturally talented at sketching and hand-drawing, skills that too many young architects today fail to possess. His sketches appear effortless; they’re immediately accessible, and evocative. Each of Andika’s ten slides was a window into his mind’s eye, a rich pathway to his view of the world. I wish I had an ounce of his flair and aptitude with pen and ink. Very impressive.  

*    *    *    *    *    *
If you kept count, you’ll have noticed that 10square v.6 actually featured eleven speakers rather than an even ten as the event’s name would suggest. I can’t imagine anyone objected to the bonus presentation; if anything, this year’s 10square only whetted our appetites for more. 

Kudos to DesignSpring for another stellar 10square production. DesignSpring’s youthful initiative, energy, and vision have provided the local design community with a shot in the arm. The organization contributes greatly to the health and vigor of our local culture of creativity. 10square is a part of that culture, one that is becoming a welcome tradition. I enthusiastically look forward to next year’s edition.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Reading room of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris (photo © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons)

It’s time for another excerpt from the late Bill Kleinsasser’s self-published textbook Synthesis. In it Bill lays out his case for historical continuity in architecture. His writings sometimes read like a sermon—exhorting the truths of places that are plainly eloquent, poetic, and inclusive—and this passage is no exception. He succinctly and not so subtly reproves the cult of the new by making a compelling case for historical continuity. 
Like the other extracts I’ve featured here on my blog, Bill’s thoughts remain as relevant to us today as when he wrote them more than thirty years ago. I’ve grouped all of my posts devoted to his work under a new label: Synthesis.

The passage of time brings change, decay, and rebirth. Old lives are transformed into new lives. New lives reform and continue the old. In an unbroken chain, the living systems of our earthly existence are bound together through time. Our psyches know this. Whenever anything is completely destroyed we are shocked. Whenever anything is completely destroyed and replaced by something new, the new thing is in some degree shocking. The shock does not necessarily go away. We do not necessarily forget the parts of the old thing that had meaning for us. We feel a disorienting abruptness that assaults our sensibilities and our longing for dependable frameworks to support and clarify our experiences, memories, and understandings. The continuity that our psyches demand has been threatened or destroyed and we feel alien and afraid. 
Many say that such breaches of historical connection are sources of new freedom and independence, but experience does not always support this theory, and even if it is true, it is freedom and independence at a heavy price. Carl Jung has written that “inner peace and contentment depend in large measure upon whether or not the historical family which is inherent in the individual can be harmonized with the ephemeral conditions of the present. If we are held to the hour and minute of the present, we have no way of knowing how our ancestral psyches listen to and understand the present . . . in other words, how our unconscious is responding to it. Thus we remain ignorant of whether our ancestral components find an elementary gratification in our lives, or whether they are repelled.” 
If Carl Jung is correct, our psyches demand historical continuity; that is, frequent or simultaneous experiences of both the old and the new. As Jung put it, we need to live in “many times and places at once.” We can do this in three ways. 
  1. By frequent, direct experience with old places; but this experience is bound to be very limited (if the places themselves have not changed, their contexts certainly will have), and distance probably will work against this kind of experience and so will the difficulty of achieving enough experience to know what these old places were really like. 
  2. By the experience of new places that have been developed with as much knowledge of and respect for what had existed around them (developed so gradually and sensitively) that there is virtually no distinction between the old and the new. 
  3. By the experience of places that have embodied successfully the physical characteristics, spirit, and principles by means of patterns and imagery.
Carl Jung actually seems to achieve all three of the above in his own house (see “The Tower” in Memories, Reflections, and Dreams by C.G. Jung). He began with elements that literally were old. He added new parts that were old in the sense that they embodied important lessons of many old places. He continuously increased his knowledge of his place and its history, adjusting his house several times to be increasingly old in its essential spirit and basis, yet ever-new.
This has several important implications as we think about historical continuity:
  • That some old places, the best ones (certainly the archetypes) should be preserved. 
  • That the lessons and values of old places should be preserved—the important, timeless lessons and values from the standpoint of man-environment interaction and dependency. This means they should be studied, recorded, explained, and celebrated, which means they should be made a part of everyone’s consciousness as worthy, self-evident standards. 
  • That all new places should be developed with great care; care regarding what already exists, gradually and never with wholesale destruction, so as to preserve, strengthen, and continue the supportive characteristics that were already there.
Building onto what previously existed seems to a much wiser course than to start over each time something new is built. Not only do buildings and places built in previous times embody many lastingly good ideas, but they also test our values through their exemplification of different values. They provide a permanently vivid picture of other lives, other times, other traditions and customs. They give us a means of realizing the continuity of the human family. They may temper our tendency to be naïve, impetuous, and extreme. They may give us great reassurance by providing the security of shared experience and tested values. Without historical connections, without a sense of being together with all humanity in time, we are forced into an insular existence. This may become a nightmare.

We apparently need to sense the connections between ourselves and all things (how we belong to each other and to the world). Moreover, as we realize these connections, we expand our experience, we expand our conceptions of reality and life, and we expand our image banks; that is, we grow in our ability to imagine and to make a better world.