Monday, February 29, 2016

AIA Young Architects Award

Seth Anderson, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
The American Institute of Architects released the names of the 12 winners of this year’s Young Architects Award. The award recognizes architects who have been licensed for no more than 10 years and “have shown exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the profession early in their careers.” The Institute awarded two fewer recipients this year than last year. One of this year’s recipients is AIA-Southwestern Oregon’s own Seth E. Anderson, AIA, of Ascent Architecture and Interiors in Bend. Congratulations Seth! 
Seth is presently a member of the AIA-SWO Board of Directors, serving as the director of Extra-Metropolitan Affairs for the chapter. Until recently, there was little representation for Central Oregon AIA members in AIA-SWO affairs. Since joining the chapter, Seth has helped bring educational programming and other AIA functions to the area. He’s provided a multimedia conference room in his office to host virtual events produced by the AIA at all levels. 
Seth is also a founding member of the Central Oregon Professional Architects Network (COPAN), working to galvanize the architectural scene in Central Oregon. COPAN organized the first-ever Central Oregon Architecture Showcase, which put architects’ work on view to the public during a Friday night art walk in Bend’s downtown. 
In addition to design excellence, Seth has striven to create a positive and collaborative environment in his office where architects and designers continue to grow and work on meaningful projects. Seth formally outlined his business plan in 2014; it finished in third place (out of 51 entries) in the national Charrette Venture Group’s Architectural Business Plan Competition. While the plan is ever evolving, it features a shared leadership model with little hierarchy but clearly delineated responsibilities, a 36-hour workweek to encourage work/life valance, time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and a comprehensive community and nonprofit giving program. 
Seth is the second recent AIA-SWO member to receive prestigious recognition by the Institute as a recipient of the AIA Young Architects Award. Karen Williams, AIA of PIVOT Architecture was an award winner in 2014. 
The jury for this year’s award was chair Albert Rubeling, FAIA, senior vice president of Rubeling & Associates; Lenore Lucey, FAIA, principal at LML Consulting; Virginia Marquardt, AIA, a senior associate at DLR Group; Raymond Post, FAIA, principal at Post Architects; John Sorrenti, FAIA, president of RS Architect; and Edward Vance, FAIA, founder and design principal at EV&A Architects.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

C3 Product Show

Mark Monroe of VaproShield explaining his company's product line to Junica Cushing at the C3 Products Show, February 25, 2016 (my photo)
I’m a strong supporter of everything the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute does to promote communication and collaboration between members of our local architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) community. This past Thursday’s C3 Product Show was no exception, so I cleared my calendar and headed to the Eugene Hilton Conference Center to spend as much time as I could there with each of the participating vendors.
I was accompanied by Junica Cushing, a graduate student in her final year of the Interior Architecture program at the University of Oregon, and presently gaining practicum experience with Robertson/Sherwood/Architects (my office). Junica also holds down a part-time job as an online technical advisor for a large producer of floor coverings, so she definitely has an affinity for the manufacturers’ representatives displaying their wares at the product show. 

Though by no means the biggest of its type, this year’s exhibition did present us with a broad range of products and services to learn about. Those taking part were: 
  • AEP Span
  • AIA-Southwestern Oregon
  • Ausland Group
  • Benjamin Moore Paint
  • Dea Mor
  • Green Feathers
  • Guardian Industries
  • Ideate
  • Knife River
  • Metal Sales MFG
  • MSW Plastics
  • RainBird
  • RedBuilt
  • Rodda Paint
  • Solus Inc.
  • The Toro Company
  • VaproShield
To a person, each of the vendors was cheerful, enthusiastic, and highly informative. It was great to hear about the latest and greatest from each of them. 

As an incentive for show-goers to visit as many of the vendors as possible, CSI-WVC offered a variety of gift baskets stuffed with all sorts of enticing goodies. Junica and I ensured our eligibility to win one of the baskets by dutifully stopping by the requisite minimum of ten displays and having our scorecard initialed by each representative. Alas, neither of us was among the lucky winners. 

We spent a couple of hours at the show, between about 2:30 and 4:30 PM. Attendance during the time we were there was disappointingly sparse. The same was true for the six educational seminars, which, despite the continuing education learning units they offered, were likewise poorly attended. Regardless, all of the vendors we spoke with believed that by participating their time and money was well-spent no matter the number of people they could flaunt their wares to. I’m hopeful the turnout picked up considerably after we left, during the social hour, dinner, and keynote presentation by economist Brian Rooney that followed (unfortunately, I could not stay for these events as I had another obligation). 

The Willamette Valley Chapter definitely appreciates all of the participating vendors. Of course, the chapter is also very thankful for the generous contributions from the following C3 sponsors: 
  • AEP Span
  • Ausland Group
  • Benjamin Moore
  • Contractors Electric
  • DeaMor
  • RainBird
Big props to CSI-WVC president Marina Wrensch and House Committee chair Linn West for shouldering the lion’s share of the duties organizing the C3 show. The logistics of contacting prospective vendors, lining up sponsors, coordinating with the venue, identifying a keynote speaker, promoting the event, etc. are overwhelming. I can’t let these all too often thankless tasks go unnoticed. 
Mariel Taviana Acevedo of Solus Lighting talks about security and safety lighting during her seminar presentation (photo by Marina Wrensch) 
It’s fair to ask whether a construction products show is an anachronism in a world where information is only a mouse-click away. After all, why leave your office when the all-mighty power of Google and the ability to learn about virtually anything you want are right at hand? The answer is clear in my mind: Nothing beats face-to-face contact and being able to shake someone’s hand when it comes to developing lasting professional relationships. The show’s namesake three C’s—construction communication and collaboration—truly are the key. Nurturing these relationships most effectively begins with the trust you can establish by meeting someone in person. Being able to rely dependably upon someone you know can pay dividends over many years and for many projects. Getting to know the people you work with is why I believe shows like C3 should never disappear.  


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Biophilia & Healing Environments

Nikos Salingaros recently informed me about a collection of essays he wrote on the topic of biophilia and how it embodies healthy principles for designing the built world. The essays are available online as a handy, printable booklet (PDF) through the Terrapin Bright Green website.(1) 
I’ve previously mentioned Nikos and my admiration for his work, which brings his mathematical perspective and applies scientific principles to the study of how architectural and urban forms may be generated. Underlying this is his belief in fundamental rules governing certain generative patterns that resonate with human beings because they are consistently found in the natural world. 
The biophilia hypothesis, first popularized by Edward O. Wilson, suggests there is an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems. According to Wilson, our affinity for nature is innate, shaped primarily by our genetic inheritance rather than by cultural influences. Upon its introduction, Wilson’s hypothesis was a point of controversy. Nikos and others have taken up the biophilia mantle from Wilson to advance the belief that our biology should play a principal role in the design of the physical settings we inhabit. To the extent this belief may remain controversial puzzles me because the precepts that underlie the hypothesis appear not only convincing but also intuitively obvious. 
Simply put the goal of biophilic design is the creation of places supportive of biological organisms. Presuming our affinity for nature is ingrained in our genotype, truly supportive and healthful built environments should viscerally connect us with the natural and biological forms the human species developed within and still resonate most consonantly with. As Nikos asserts in one of the published essays, human sensory organs and systems evolved to respond to natural geometries, which are characterized by colors, fractals, scaling, and complex symmetries. Citing extensive research as evidence, he says we react negatively—becoming anxious or ill—when restricted to settings deprived of these geometries. 
It’s important to understand the principles of biophilia and how we apply them to architecture because many of us have turned our back to them for far too long. Their importance is a direct consequence of more than a century’s worth of design culture that, consciously or otherwise, largely rejected our inherent, natural impulses in favor of a minimalist, unnatural aesthetic implanted by ideologues and self-appointed tastemakers. Nikos describes this approach as so unnatural that it is actually “biophobic.” 
So, how do we apply biophilic design principles in our work? The answer is not an easy one and may demand a willingness to abandon a lifetime of inculcation within a failed paradigm. This is where the ten-part series of essays written by Nikos and published online by Terrapin Bright Green may be helpful. They are persuasive, concise, and yet comprehensive, covering aspects as diverse as human scale design, neurobiology’s preference for complex geometry, and the link between ornament and human intelligence. If you haven’t previously been aware of Nikos’ work, they also serve as a primer for his other writings and investigations, which may come as a revelation to designers unfamiliar with the relevance of generative rules, adaptive structures, and systems theory to architecture. 
The challenge for architects is to fully understand the principles of biophilia. It’s far too easy to simply give lip service to them and superficially apply “organic” motifs while engaged in willful form-making. Truly biophilic design dives deeply, applying actual rules and lessons from nature to generate life-enhancing, healthful environments. Biophilic design isn’t an ego-driven, top-down approach but rather one that works from the bottom-up, rooted in patterns from which both complexity and wholeness at many scales can arise. 
The paved path winding around the Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece. Designed by Dimitris Pikionis, 1957. Sketch by Nikos Salingaros
Despite the general perception that architects are broad-minded and draw from a vast pool of knowledge, we tend toward being too insular as a profession. When it comes to architectural theory, we navel-gaze incessantly and mostly listen to the ramblings and utterances of our own. We should welcome the contributions to architecture of others representing diverse perspectives. A mathematician and not an architect, Nikos Salingaros is one of these voices. I highly recommend his Biophilia & Healing Environments essays. Regard them with an open mind and you may find you’ve discovered a view of architecture that is at the same time both original to you and yet timelessly founded upon the very stuff of nature itself.

(1)  Terrapin Bright Green is a sustainability consulting and strategic planning firm that helps organizations make smart decisions that lead to environmental and financial sustainability through research, planning, guidelines, and product development. Terrapin will soon make the booklet available in paper form as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

C3 Conference 2016

Once again, the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute is making construction communication and collaboration the focus of the biggest event on its 2016 calendar. The annual C3 Conference will take place on Thursday, February 25 at the Hilton Hotel & Conference Center in downtown Eugene. If you weren’t already planning to, mark your calendars and be sure to attend the construction industry event of the year! 
As with previous editions of C3, this year’s conference program offers a products show, free educational seminars, and an economic forecast dinner. The seminar offerings include a total of three pairs of topics from which to choose. Each of the six sessions qualifies for one AIA learning unit (or other industry continuing education credit), so those of you who are currently short of your requisite yearly total should definitely plan on attending. No pre-registration is necessary for either the product show or the educational seminars: just show up and you’re in! 
Exhibitors expected to feature their latest products and/or services at the show will include:
  • AEP Span
  • Assa Abloy
  • Atez
  • Ausland Group
  • Benjamin Moore
  • Central Print
  • Dea Mor
  • Green Feathers
  • Guardian Industries
  • Ideate
  • Knife River
  • Metal Sales MFG
  • MSW Plastics, Inc.
  • RedBuilt
  • Rodda Paint
  • Solus Inc.
  • The Toro Company
  • VaporShield
If you're interested in becoming an exhibitor, there are only a few spaces left. Click here for an application.

And this year’s lineup of seminars is as follows: 

C3’s can’t miss dinner program will feature Brian Rooney, Regional Economist for the State of Oregon Employment Department. His current responsibilities with the Employment Department include covering the economic conditions of Douglas and Lane counties, estimating current employment by industry, and trends in occupational wage growth. He has spoken to numerous groups statewide on a variety of economic topics, including industry employment forecasts, wage and income data, and demographic statistics. Mr. Rooney is a graduate of Oregon State University with a Master’s degree in economics; and of George Washington University with a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Prior to his work with the state, Mr. Rooney worked as an analyst for ICF International Consulting, a Washington D.C. based engineering and economics consulting firm.
An event like C3 can only take place with the support of generous sponsors, who this year include AEP Span, Ausland Group, Benjamin Moore, Contractors Electric, DeaMor, and Rain Bird. Thank you sponsors!
Join me and many others by attending the C3 Conference. It’s sure to be a great event and will only be more so with your participation. See you there!
What: C3 Conference 2016
When: Thursday, February 25, 2016
  • Seminars & Product Show: 1:30-5:00 PM
  • Social Hour: 5:00 PM
  • Dinner: 6:30 PM
  • Program: 7:00 PM
Where: Hilton Hotel & Conference Center, 66 East 6th Avenue, Eugene, OR
  • Seminars & Product Show: FREE
  • Dinner & Program: Professionals: $38  Students: $10
RSVP via Eventbrite

Questions? Contact: Linn West or Marina Wrensch

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Imprintability and Changeability

A tenet Bill Kleinsasser held to throughout his long teaching career is the notion that the best places gracefully accept constant refinement and reshaping by their occupants. Others—notably including Stewart Brand and Christopher Alexander—have spoken of how buildings should be allowed to adapt over time to changing uses and circumstances, not to mention their own, inevitable physical deterioration. Bill’s perspective focused not only on the macro scale of a building’s life span, but also how amenable it may be to the micro scale of far more immediate and fleeting needs. Bill believed architecture should be able to welcome the scruffiness and unpredictability of people’s lives. In his mind, truly supportive architecture could not be too precious or exacting simply because if it were it would be too impersonal. He preferred malleable, loveable architecture, especially when pretense or hubris were uncalled for. The following excerpt from Bill's textbook Synthesis expands on this theme. 
We feel that our places belong to us (are part of us) if we can shape them to suit our purposes and personalities. Through many acts of personalization (which need to continue through time) general spatial conditions become particularized, more appropriate, and more meaningful. Buildings and places should be made to accept and invite such personalization; they should be made to be imprintable and changeable. 
People have always needed to shape their places to better suit their purposes and personalities. There is widespread evidence of this in all societies. Needs and purposes are too diverse and too unpredictable to be accommodated well by places that cannot be changed. Also, places become more personal if their occupants can shape them again and again to suit themselves. It is important for places to be able to accept change, to invite it, and to maintain opportunity over time. 
The most inclusive form of initial imprinting is building something yourself. One of the best experiences of my father’s life was building his own house (with my mother’s help) and making it the way he wanted it. It took fourteen months of hard work (at age 67 and 64) but has remained a tremendous source of satisfaction and pride. 
The problem is this kind of imprinting is not always possible. When it is not, conditions should be established to allow as much continuing imprinting and change as possible. Some conditions which have worked include:
  • Moveable parts
  • Parts and surfaces that are receptive to (that in fact suggest) change
  • Organization of sub-spaces so that many spatial combinations are possible
  • Establishment of small enough and rich enough sub-spaces so that individual people may identify with them, select them, use them, and return to them
  • Establishment of public and semi-public places where imprinting is obviously okay
  • Establishment of (or preservation of) diversified and richly suggestive spaces (including many fine sub-spaces) that engage the imagination and invite involvement (both physical and cerebral)
  • Establishment of places whose use has not been overly specified, but which do contain helpful cues and characteristics for multiuse
  • Establishment of a precise abundance of space (but not wastefulness)
  • Storage space of many types and of ample quantity
  • Establishment of other opportunities for collection and display of personal symbols and treasured items (including furniture)
When we feel that we possess a place, we feel that it is ours, that it is right, that we want to be there and remain there.

Usually, if we use places much or if we stay in places for long periods of time, places become part of us no matter what their physical character. We possess them through longevity of association. When this is the case, even though the places may be inadequate and unsupportive, they have become ours and are, in measure, us. And even though we feel the inadequacy of the places and even the need to change them (in fact, we often do change them), we nevertheless are reluctant to give them up or accept any criticism of them. The need to possess the place we use and inhabit is very strong indeed. 

But, when we attempt to design possessible places, we cannot assume “longevity of association.” The objective becomes to make places that immediately invite more complete possession by those who use and occupy the places. To accomplish this objective, our places must be changing, surprising, ambiguous (capable of being interpreted in many ways), complex, intriguing, fascinating, mysterious, magical, and they must offer choices: 
  • Choices of preconstruction elements and organization 
  • Choices of post-construction conditions and arrangements (the options of making places and changing them must be offered in many degrees; some people can do much for themselves but others can do little) 
  • Choices of things to do (by means of what our places allow or invite us to do); choices of paths to take 
  • Choices of places to be (through recognition of potentialities of places)
Possession cannot exist in a barren or impoverished context, nor can it exist within a threatening context. Balance is the problem. Some places need to be explicit in their supportiveness. Others need to be implicitly supportive and capable of many interpretations and many uses. 

A designer could strive to make the following: 
  • Places that suggest uses or modes of use, evocative places in which people can discover possibilities on their own 
  • Places that are incomplete in the sense of allowing many ways for people to finish them or change them (and varying in degrees of difficulty and required commitment or investment) 
  • Places made with people; that is, allowing users to participate in the design of places from the start 
  • Places that are measurably or dimensionally compatible with the purposes, sizes, and states of mind of people 
  • Places that offer a wide range of physical changeability
The need for diversity and choice in the built environment comes from the inevitable collision between the relative permanence of what is built and the changing circumstances surrounding it. Activities, purposes, values, and people all change. The changes range from minor, inconsequential ones to those which seriously erode the very foundation of what has been built. Because of this, the built environment must be able to flex—to accommodate what is new. One way to accomplish this is to build in diversity and choice. By providing an open, opportunity-rich framework at the outset—one offering many possibilities and many suggestive cues—it is possible to establish longevity, thus sustaining both the usefulness and the meaning of the place over time.

WK / 1981

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tom Nice

Tom Nice, with grandson Benjamin on his lap, Christmas 2015

The Robertson/Sherwood/Architects family was deeply saddened by the news that our very good friend, Tom Nice, passed away this past Thursday morning. We’d been aware of his valiant struggle with throat cancer—Tom was in the middle of an aggressive radiation and chemotherapy regimen to combat the disease—but we were all staggered by the news nevertheless. 
Tom was husband to Rosie, our longtime office manager who retired from RSA a little more than a year ago. The two of them shared an incredible joie de vivre, always determined to live life to the fullest. Tom was likewise retired, following a lengthy and rewarding tenure with 2G Construction, during which he acquired the affection and respect of everyone he worked with. In his retirement, he enjoyed busying himself with numerous projects, which provided him with a joyous outlet for his creativity. 
Tom had been in considerable pain as a result of the radiation treatments. He’d lost weight and strength because he was unable to swallow without discomfort. He’d turned down his last two radiation appointments because of the pain. Regardless, Rosie was encouraged by the fact Tom did eat some food as late as Wednesday, so his abrupt passing early Thursday morning came as a complete surprise. In the end, Rosie believes Tom was ready and is hopeful he moved on without suffering. 
Rosie, daughter Lindsay, son Matthew, and the rest of Tom’s family and closest friends are in shock right now. Understandably, Rosie has asked for some space and time, and prefers to not have visitors for a while. She is not alone as her family and Tom’s are with her; they’re all together to support each other. If you do feel the immediate need to extend your condolences, please send those in an email message or a card to the family (let me know if you need an address to send to). 
Rosie did ask those of us at RSA to let folks in the architecture and construction communities who were friends of and/or worked with Tom know about his untimely passing. I’m happy to do my small part with this message on my blog. The family will be hosting a celebration of life for Tom at Tom and Rosie's house on April 9, 2016 (read the obituary below).
Tom & Rosie at Crater Lake
We’re all going to miss Tom tremendously. We grieve with Rosie and everyone in the family. Tom was always gracious, kind, and possessed of the best humor. In a nutshell—and please pardon the pun—Tom was the nicest guy you could ever hope to know, truly one-of-a-kind. 
Rest in peace Tom. We love you and will miss you. We’re all certainly better people for having known you.
*     *     *     *     *

Here is Tom’s obituary as published in the The Register-Guard on February 14, 2016, which would have been his 70th birthday: 
Thomas Anthony Nice
Thomas Anthony Nice was born in San Francisco on February 14, 1946. He was the fifth child born to Irma and William Nice, whose brood came to number ten children—all reared in San Mateo, CA.
Tom joined the US Air Force at the age of 17 and served one tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He returned from the war as a confirmed pacifist, and began his studies at San Francisco State University where he received a BA in Literature.
An adventurer and seeker, he traveled the country and the world by motorcycle, car, plane, and hopping trains, making friends, gathering experiences, and escaping near death encounters. Tom spent many years working and living in Alaska and eventually made his way to Oregon.
He met his future wife and soul mate, Rosie, at the Eugene Celebration and they married one year later in 1986. Tom had a bright, curious mind, the spirit of an artist, and a miraculous green thumb. A talented stained glass artist, writer, and carpenter—to name just a few of his talents—he spent much of his time (when not working, parenting his two children, or being a husband) reading, writing, building, making, and cultivating his garden. 
In the years following his retirement, he volunteered with Habit for Humanity and the Willamette Valley Cancer Institute. Tom was endlessly generous and kind. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a strong sense of right and wrong, and great compassion for all beings. He will be deeply missed by his family and many friends. 
Tom is survived by his wife Rosie; daughter, Lindsay; son, Matthew; daughter-in-law, Kayla; and grandson, Benjamin. He was preceded in death by his brother, Bill, but is survived by his four sisters, Anne, Edna, Irma, and Rose; and four brothers, Bob, Ed, Ralph, and Jim. 
The family will host a celebration of Tom’s life on April 9th at Tom and Rosie’s home in Eugene. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you support one of Tom’s causes: Vietnam Veterans of America, Willamette Cancer Institute, American Diabetes Association.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stellar Apartments Energy Study Presentation

Stellar Apartments Passive House building, by Bergsund DeLaney Architecture & Planning PC (photo from Bergsund DeLaney website)
The Cascadia Green Building Council invites everyone to an educational presentation detailing the results of a 2-year energy study of the Stellar Apartments, a 54-unit, 12-building multi-family housing project developed by the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County and designed by Bergsund DeLaney Architecture & Planning PC. The project is located in Eugene and provides affordable housing for low-income families and military veterans.
Bergsund DeLaney designed one of the twelve Stellar Apartments buildings to Passive House standards, focusing on extremely air tight and energy efficient construction. The energy study evaluated the health, environmental, and financial trade-offs of this type of construction by comparing it to another building on site with the same design and solar orientation, built to Earth Advantage standards. 
St. Vincent de Paul partnered with Alison Kwok at the University of Oregon, EWEB, and the City of Eugene  to monitor energy use and indoor air quality data between the two buildings and assess the value of pursuing the Passive House approach for multi-family projects. The presentation will include a background of the project, a summary of the Passive House philosophy and design principles, the results of two years monitoring the energy usage data, and a discussion of the lessons learned from this process. 
What promises to be an informative presentation will take place on Wednesday, February 24 at the NEW Barn Light East.  At 4:30 PM, directly prior to the presentation there will be a brief opportunity to network and enjoy light complimentary appetizers, with beverages available for purchase. The presentation will occur from 5-6 PM. Seating is limited, so please RSVP. And please walk, bike, share a ride, or take the bus! 
What: Stellar Apartments Energy Study Presentation 
When: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 – 4:30 PM-6 PM 
Where: Barn Light East, 545 East 8th Avenue, Eugene 
Cost: FREE