Sunday, July 19, 2015

Building as Landscape

I haven’t frequently showcased the projects of Robertson/Sherwood/Architects, the firm I work for, on my blog. This is partly due to my reticence for tooting our own horn. I started SW Oregon Architect primarily as a means to share news relevant to AIA–Southwestern Oregon members during my tenure on the chapter's board of directors. Since then, I’ve continued to mostly write on topics of broad interest to the modest readership I’ve garnered since I began blogging in 2008. 
There have been a few exceptions. I dedicated a series of posts to a case study of our design for the VA Roseburg Healthcare System Community Living Center. Likewise, I chronicled the genesis, design processes, and construction of the University of Oregon’s Student Recreation Center Expansion, the Eugene Public Library and the Lane Community College Downtown Campus. In each instance, I believed it was worth describing the challenges the design problems posed, sharing our approach to addressing those challenges, and celebrating the projects’ noteworthy achievements. 

Approach to the building's entrance.
With this post I’m featuring RSA’s recently completed Lone Rock Resources office building in Roseburg. I do so not because it breaks new ground architecturally or because it will have an outsized impact upon the community of which it is a part. Instead, the relatively small project is simply a fine example of our work and a vindication of our approach to architecture. 
Lone Rock Resources is a family-owned timber company with a proud past and forward-looking future. The company responsibly manages more than 128,000 acres of forest lands for the long term. Lone Rock has championed sustainable forestry practices ever since Fred and Frances Sohn set up shop on the banks of the South Umpqua River in Roseburg in 1950. Today, the culture the Sohn family established through investment in people, research, equipment, and technology remains integral to the company’s success. Lone Rock Resources is a quintessential forestry company for the 21st century. 

View looking toward the GIS/Mapping/Survey wing.
Working for good people and having the right team are the key ingredients of any successful project. We genuinely enjoyed working with Lone Rock’s management team, who made certain we thoroughly understood the company’s history, culture, and vision for the future of the timber industry in Oregon. The project was also blessed to have Harmon Construction of Coos Bay as the general contractor. For our part, we entrusted the primary design responsibility for Lone Rock’s new headquarters to RSA associate Scott Stolarczyk.  

Scott Stolarczyk, AIA, CDT, GGP, LEED AP BD+C
Scott is one of our firm’s most talented architects. He’s also the office’s go-to resource for all things related to sustainable design, LEED and Green Globes certification, and integrated, whole-building design practices. In addition to Lone Rock’s facility, Scott designed the Regional Health & Educational Center for Planned Parenthood, the Giustina Resources office building, several branches for LibertyBank, the Veneta Municipal Pool, and a variety of food services facilities for the University of Oregon Housing Department (check out our website for images of these projects). Scott was eminently suited for the Lone Rock project because of his unique skill set, past experience, and ability to work effectively with a like-minded and amenable client. 

View within the "Watershed" courtyard.
We consider every one of our design commissions a unique opportunity and work with each of our clients to arrive at creative solutions that exceed expectations. For Lone Rock, Scott wanted to ensure his design for the new company’s new offices was truly expressive of the company’s ethos. Beyond Lone Rock’s commitment to sustainably managing the lands they control, this meant creating attractive, clearly organized, and highly functional workspaces to empower the company’s greatest resource: its employees. This also meant honoring Fred Sohn’s legacy: his passion for innovation, belief in the importance of investing for the future, and respect for the environment. 
Floor Plan (click to enlarge)
The functional program for Lone Rock’s new building was straightforward: Provide suitable accommodations and support for its management, sales, accounting, and engineering staff, as well as a home base for the more-transient foresters (who spend much of their time in the field). Create a functionally and energy-efficient facility that consolidates a disparate and dispersed assortment of existing offices within approximately 11,000 square feet of space. Wrap it in an attractive package Fred Sohn would have liked. 
We learned that Lone Rock’s employees are characteristically humble, certainly not inclined toward favoring fancy digs. The foresters in particular expressed some discomfiture at the prospect of working within a precious or extravagant new building. Accordingly, Scott purposely designed it as a low-slung, modestly scaled structure nestled down the slope from and parallel to Old Hwy 99. Views toward the hills across the South Umpqua River to the west and up the slope across the highway to the east would also shape the plan, as would the inclusion of two interior courtyards. Scott’s emphasis upon access to views and daylight would become a key shaper of his design, rather than any desire to create an architectural statement. Instead, the form of Lone Rock’s new office building would largely appear to merge with the sloping profile of its site and become part of the landscape. 
"Watershed" Courtyard.
Furthering the building as landscape concept, Scott imagined the building as an analog for the Umpqua River watershed. The sloping roofs became abstractions of the hills flanking the river, while the courtyards represented the valley, its floor traced by the path of the waterway. Toward this end, Scott’s efforts were enhanced considerably by David Dougherty, ASLA, principal of DLA Landscape Architects. David detailed the courtyards to incorporate paving, native plantings, water features, and patterning that allude to the real landscape without appearing hokey. The courtyards provide visual oases, as well as access to light and fresh air. 
Of course, showcasing natural wood in the design was a given. Scott clad the building with a rainscreen system utilizing a combination of Western Red Cedar horizontal siding (treated with a clear alkyd oil finish) and vertical accent siding (featuring a fire-charred finish). Additionally, Scott incorporated large peeled-wood columns to support the larger roof overhangs. He worked with wood’s inherent properties to maximize the aesthetic effect of its natural beauty and warmth. The prominent display of wood, which continues inside, helps express what Lone Rock Resources is about. It symbolizes the company’s respect for a renewable and sustainable resource that has meant so much to western Oregon’s identity and economy. 

The slopes of the building's roof planes echo those of the hills behind them.
Scott complemented the expressive Western Red Cedar by cladding portions of the building with a stone masonry veneer. The cool grey color of the “Black Forest Mica” cultured stone by Coronado Stone Products harmonizes perfectly with the warm red tones of the wood. 
The interior design likewise features a harmonious blending of materials, of which wood is again prominently featured. The plan combines private enclosed offices with open workstations in flexible groupings, arranged as required to support changing needs. Pervasive throughout the interiors are the omnipresent views to the exterior, either outwardly toward the picturesque surrounding landscape or inwardly to the Zen-like courtyards. 
Conference Room.
Shareholders' Meeting Room.
Overall, Scott’s design exemplifies RSA’s belief that every project is one-of-a-kind. Working with Lone Rock Resources provided us with the opportunity to develop a design solution we believe is beautiful, inspiring, and unique to the company, a true representation of its heritage and guiding beliefs.  We’re confident we have provided Lone Rock with the first-rate workplace it was looking for, and we’re proud of our effort. 
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In addition to Scott, David Dougherty, and Harmon Construction, the other contributors to the success of the Lone Rock Resources project include the following:  

I took the photographs featured here during the June 9 Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” grand opening celebration for Lone Rock’s new building. In my opinion, the limitations of my smart phone's camera and my amateurish skills have failed to adequately capture (particularly for the interior shots) how satisfying the completed design is. We eventually hope to commission professional photography to do it proper justice.


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