Saturday, October 25, 2014

Silent Sentinels

Local photographer Dennis Galloway recently emailed me a batch of his latest images about a favorite subject of his: grain elevators. 
Dennis just returned from (as he described it to me) a “long quixotic trip to north central Washington” to search for some exposed timber grain elevators he’d discovered online that he “just had to photograph.” He checked in with the county museum in Waterville and could not get a single lead to anyone who knew anything about these buildings. He would have knocked on some doors to ask people about them but doors in that part of Washington are all twenty miles apart! 
Dennis did find several obliging subjects on his journey. Most of these shots are from the Waterville Plateau. The last two are at Pratum (latin for "meadow"), OR, east of Salem. 
I’ve previously blogged about Dennis’ affection for grain elevators. His use of black & white photography is perfectly suited to documenting these silent sentinels of broad horizons. This is because monochromatic imagery relies heavily upon shadows and chiaroscuro to define shapes, details, geometry, and volume. I’m certain his photographs would have nowhere near the same impact if they were rendered in full color. Color would introduce a distraction, taking attention away from the visual building blocks Dennis chooses to emphasize: texture, tonal contrast, shape, form, and lighting. 
Dennis utilizes digital image editing to enhance his work but he does so in a way that is entirely unobtrusive. Your attention is entirely drawn to the structure of his photographs and his mastery of light and shadow. 
His photographs poignantly document the unaffected authenticity of grain elevators. They remind me of Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos of Depression-era migrant farm workers, but in this instance the subjects are buildings and not people. Regardless, they evoke an emotional response, heightened by Dennis’ skill with light and composition. Grain elevators are plain, pure examples of form following function without any architectural pretensions; they're eccentric, and hauntingly beautiful. Dennis is dedicated to preserving this vanishing heritage in his pictures. 
For more of Dennis Galloway’s work, check out his Flickr photostream.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 People’s Choice Awards

Guests socialize prior to the presentation of the 2014 People's Choice Awards, October 15 at the Oregon Contemporary Theatre in Eugene (my photo)
Each year, the American Institute of Architects, Southwestern Oregon Chapter (AIA-SWO) in collaboration with the Willamette Valley Section of the American Society of Landscape Architects (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 by AIA or ASLA members. The program demonstrates to the public the role of the architectural profession in enhancing the built environment. 
Unlike previous years where the People’s Choice Awards balloting occurred during the Eugene Celebration(1), AIA-SWO asked the public to vote for their favorite designs at the Lane County Home Improvement Show, which took place October 10-12 at the Lane Events Center. A total of 30 entrants organized in nine categories comprised the display. 
The show proved to be an excellent opportunity for AIA-SWO and ASLA members to showcase their best recent projects, as a record number paused to enjoy the People’s Choice exhibit. Ultimately, the organizing committee gathered 350 completed ballots, tallied the votes, and identified the following winning projects: 
First Place: Rose Cottage - Willard C. Dixon, Architect
Second Place: Coburg Hills House – Arbor South Architecture 
First Place: The Andy – 2fORM Architecture
Second Place: Eagle Landing Apartments – Bergsund Delaney Architecture & Planning PC 
First Place: Hop Valley Tasting Room – envelop design
Second Place: Wildcraft Cider Works – Willard C. Dixon, Architect 
Veterans Affairs Clinic, White City, OR – Rowell Brokaw Architects 
Arbor South Office – Arbor South Architecture 
First Place: WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza – City of Eugene Public Works 
Second Place: Opal Whiteley Park - Architectural Associates and Andrea Mull
First Place: “Fire & Light” – Stangeland &Associates, Inc.
Second Place: “Star Farm” – Lovinger Robertson Landscape Architects 
First Place: Connors Garden House – Willard C. Dixon, Architect
Second Place: 33 East Broadway – Rowell Brokaw Architects 
First Place: Eugene Riverfront Arts Center – Daniel Rosenthal
Second Place: Whidbey Island Visitor Center – Eli Nafziger 
Hop Valley Tasting Room by envelōp design , winner of both a 2014 People's Choice Award and a 2014 Colleague's Choice Award
Ancillary to the People’s Choice Awards were two additional programs that have likewise become annual mainstays for AIA-SWO. 
The “Colleague’s Choice” vote is meant to be a fun way for our AIA-SWO and ASLA members to weigh in on the question of which of their peers’ projects are most worthy of recognition. 
For the fourth year in a row, Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy presented her “Mayor’s Choice” awards. An enthusiastic public advocate for design excellence, sustainability, and smart growth, Kitty is a great friend of the local design community. 
Here’s the listing of the recipients of the Colleague’s Choice and Mayor’s Choice awards: 

The lobby of the Oregon Contemporary Theatre provided a marvelous venue this past Wednesday for the presentation of the various awards. Essex General Construction hosted and sponsored the gala event. Essex president Jon Texter and marketing director Jodi Sommers presented a special extra prize to each of the People’s Choice, Colleague’s Choice, and Mayor’s Choice Awards recipients in the form of a wonderful afternoon of wine tasting and socializing. They can all look forward to savoring a well-deserved afternoon away from the office in the comfort and safety of a party bus provided by Essex while enjoying the company of friends and colleagues. What an unexpected treat! Thank you Essex General Construction! 

Thanks too to the members of the People’s Choice Awards committee, who contributed so much toward the success of the 25th annual edition of the event, and also to all of the AIA-SWO and ASLA members who volunteered their time to staff the display during the Home Improvement Show.
(1)  The Eugene Celebration did not take place this year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday A&AA!

I guess I haven’t been paying attention because the University of Oregon’s announcement of its planned celebrations marking the School of Architecture and Allied Arts 100th anniversary came as a surprise to me. That’s right—my alma mater is a century old. Amazing! 

A&AA has organized a yearlong set of special events, lectures, symposia, and exhibitions to mark the milestone. Fittingly, the school scheduled the kickoff on Homecoming, which is next weekend, October 17-18. It all begins on Friday, October 17 at 1:00 with a 100th Birthday party, complete with a birthday cake, an open house to visit galleries and studios, and an all-school photo shoot. The school wants everyone who’s been a part of A&AA’s history to attend and enjoy the festivities. It’s urging all alumni and friends, current and emeritus faculty members, staff, and students to join in the festivities. I’m certainly planning to be at Lawrence Hall for the commemoration. 

The history of A&AA is richly fascinating. The website My School of Architecture features an excellent accounting of the school’s early beginnings, particularly the Department of Architecture: 

The University of Oregon School of Architecture and Design was founded in 1914 by Ellis Lawrence. From the beginning, the school was unique among its contemporaries for its non-competitive, individual approach to learning and for its affiliation with the allied arts (painting, crafts, sculpture, etc.), rather than with engineering. 

When W. R. B. Willcox became the architecture curriculum head in 1922, he developed a program that became a prototype and eventually led a reformation in American architectural training. Willcox believed that architecture, along with other arts, is an expression of the values, aspirations and character of the society that produces it. Therefore it is incumbent upon the architect to have a broad understanding of culture and society, and, beyond this, to be an influence in forging those values, aspirations and character. 

Oregon’s long tradition of non-competitive, individualized education places great emphasis on student self-direction and motivation. Willcox stated these goals in writing an article for the AIA Journal in 1923: “In education, the aim, it would seem, should be the development of one’s own endowments, and not to surpass another, merely, who strives for the same goal. What higher motive than the first can there be, and why should a lower one be accepted as a necessary stimulus? With such an aim, the goal is open to all at the same time; it is not an arbitrary fixed standard of excellence, but a relative one. Its attainment can be measured only with respect to growth, not with respect to another’s attainments.” 

The department still sees its educational mission as rooted in Willcox’s visionary realm of ‘freedom and responsibility.’ The curriculum is design-centered. Comprehensiveness is available through introductory coursework in the subject areas and substantial breadth and depth in the advanced courses. The integration of subjects is aided by the design process skills’ courses and practiced in studio. The faculty has substantial freedom with respect to curricular innovation and research. Faculty are expected to maintain their area of expertise and share in the collective responsibility toward maintaining an integrative and comprehensive design program. This duality, perhaps only a contemporary version of the Willcox legacy, is often cited as the department’s greatest strength and key to excellence. 

The Department of Architecture faculty embodies the pluralistic intent of the School’s founders. No single background or philosophy dominates. Faculty are encouraged to maintain a professional practice and/or make regular scholarly or research contributions to knowledge in the field. Of the regular faculty members, most are registered architects or engineers; many are members of AIA and are NCARB certified. The interior architecture faculty are, likewise, members of ASID, IIDA and/or IDEC. 

As part of its centennial commemoration, A&AA collected 100 Alumni Stories about alumni from all the decades of the school’s history and posted them online. Each story is unique and demonstrates the important contributions of alumni who worked or currently work with the built and natural environments, the arts and culture, and in public leadership and service. The inspiring stories showcase the accomplishments of individual graduates and convey the values rooted in Ellis Lawrence’s unique approach to design education. 

Be part of the historic moment and join the party. Visit to see special events, news, and the 100 Alumni Stories---all part of the yearlong anniversary activities. 

What:      A&AA's 100th Birthday Party
When:     Friday, October 17, 1:00 p.m.
Where:    South entrance, Lawrence Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene


Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Future of Power Transmission


The future of power transmission is here. More and more people, institutions, government agencies, and others are looking to microgrids to satisfy their energy needs. Microgrids are small-scale power production and delivery systems co-located with the loads they serve. They’re rapidly gaining acceptance as the nation’s power grid becomes progressively more dated, expensive, and susceptible to a variety of threats (such as earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, and manmade catastrophes like sabotage and cyber attacks). 

Microgrids generate, distribute, and control the flow of energy to consumers. They encompass multiple types of energy generation resources, storage systems, and efficiency programs, allowing for optimal utilization of renewable energy resources and facilitating advanced energy management, demand response, and load reduction solutions. Developers and owners of microgrids can sell excess power generated by their systems to utility companies. They can also design their microgrids to operate as power “islands,” offering power resilience when the utility grid is not available. 

The relatively small scale of microgrids facilitates more localized sources of power generation. Their introduction lowers demands on existing transmission infrastructures. Smart microgrids are an ideal way to integrate renewable resources on the community level and allow for customer participation in the electricity enterprise. They offer improved efficiency, predictable energy costs, and reliability. They’re good for the environment because they widely use renewable sources of energy, such a solar and wind power. They exemplify the ethos of thinking globally and acting locally. 

Eugene-based Green Energy Corp is one of an increasing number of businesses around the world providing microgrid power production and distribution solutions. The company is certain to be a major player in the rapidly growing field of regenerative and resilient technologies. 

Green Energy Corp’s Senior Vice President for Business Development, David Yuen Tam, sat down with me last week and introduced me to his company and the vast market it is set to capitalize upon.

David described how Green Energy Corp has established an “enterprise platform” to package complete solutions for sustainable management of power, water, and agriculture. In addition to building and operating microgrids for its customers, the company offers toolsets that help third party developers create premier microgrid solutions. Its flagship product, GreenBus®, enables microgrids to operate at their peak efficiency levels and connect to or disconnect from a larger grid. Green Energy Corp is targeting developers and the country’s growing number of eco-districts for its services. 

Green Energy Corp. holds the only system-wide microgrid patent in the U.S. It has designed thirty microgrids, built four, and owns three of them. Its products are based on open source software, cloud computing, and extreme scalability—allowing Green Energy Corp to rapidly deploy microgrids and complete eco-districts. The company currently has a $3 billion pipeline of vetted projects in various states of readiness. 

It’s noteworthy that Green Energy Corp relocated its headquarters earlier this year from Raleigh, NC, to here in Eugene. David explained it made the move in part to more effectively exploit the Asian and Pacific Rim markets. North America may currently be the leader when it comes to microgrid projects under development or in the proposal process, but the potential of locales in countries like India and China is huge.

David’s background makes him eminently suited to his role as Green Energy Corp’s head of business development. He has specialized in foreign and direct investment management, joint venture and foreign strategic partnerships, technology licensing, sustainable business development, real estate consulting, and investing, with many years of experience helping U.S. and international firms grow and expand. As the founder of Tam Global Consultants, he has helped global companies by providing relevant and up-to-date information pertaining to the various aspects of business development and market information. 

David also happens to be one of the partners of Glenwood H&CC Development, the partnership of local business people who are proposing to build a 95,000 squarefoot riverfront hotel and a 46,000 square foot conference center behind the Ramsey Waite equipment dealership on Franklin Boulevard. He envisions the project as a possible showcase for Green Energy Corp’s microgrid solutions; if it moves forward the development may ultimately encompass a state-of-the-art eco-district. David and his development partners certainly have the necessary vision, patience, and appreciation for Glenwood’s prime riverfront to also implement a freestanding microgrid power system. 

I like the fact that Eugene is now home to a company that is a leader in one of the hottest markets today. The widespread advent of microgrids bodes well for Green Energy Corp and, by association, Eugene. Microgrids will be a big part of the future of power transmission, both domestically and abroad, and everyone in Eugene stands to gain if Green Energy Corp realizes its considerable promise.