Sunday, January 29, 2017

Eugene Civic Park

Many people in Eugene know there are plans to redevelop the historic Civic Stadium property in the heart of Eugene. Indeed, the Eugene Civic Alliance (ECA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, purchased the Civic site in 2015 (before the terrible fire in June of that year consumed the landmark wooden grandstand) with the goal of building and operating a communal sports and entertainment venue. ECA proposes to name the facility Eugene Civic Park. Now that ECA has widely circulated renderings of the proposed development, I feel free to say more about its design and my involvement with the project. 

Leading ECA is a large group of prominent citizens well-known for their service to the Eugene-Springfield community. They all share the same conviction, that our population isn’t as physically active as it needs to be, and that there is shortage of adequate places for children and adults to participate in recreational sports. Youngsters need places where they can learn key movement skills and develop “physical literacy” (the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments, benefitting the healthy development of the whole person). Adults require accessible and attractive facilities where they will sustain healthy levels of activities for a lifetime. ECA is acutely aware how much the dearth of decent gyms and playing fields—in addition to the trend toward reduced physical education time in our schools—is contributing to troubling increases in obesity, diabetes, and an assortment of other preventable conditions. In the words of Kidsports executive director Bev Smith, developing Civic Park “is fundamental to our ability to raise healthy kids and have them grow into active adults . . . without enough functional, available space to play, most kids miss out on what is truly the most cost-effective and practical form of health care. We can’t fail them.” 

Kidsports is one of the key partners in the Civic Park project and will serve as an anchor tenant at Civic Park. Kidsports provides youth team sports experiences for all children, giving all a chance to grow socially by learning teamwork, sportsmanship, and fair play. The organization offers football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, softball, and baseball programs—because growth in multiple sports is vital to kids becoming well-rounded athletes. 

Another year-round anchor tenant will be Lane United FC, a member of the Premier Development League (PDL) of the United Soccer League. Aside from its own games and practices, the team runs youth soccer camps and a recreational 30+ soccer league. 

A wide variety of other local club and recreational sports organizations have expressed interest in what Civic Park will offer. These include City of Eugene recreational leagues in soccer and ultimate Frisbee, youth soccer clubs, local rugby clubs, the Azul semi-pro women’s soccer team, and Northwest Christian University’s men’s and women’s soccer teams. 

To summarize, ECA’s goals for Civic Park are to: 
  1. Improve the health and fitness of children in our community, ensuring equitable access for all 
  2. Build indoor courts and a playing field to fix a shortage of safe and decent places for sports and exercise 
  3. Create a community place that will host tournaments, special events, and minor league soccer 
  4. Ensure that Civic Park operations are financially and environmentally sustainable 
  5. Strengthen the community’s sense of civic solidarity and pride 
ECA selected the team of Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc (RSA) and Skylab Architecture of Portland to lead its design effort early in 2016. To date, our synergistic collaboration is proving to be a great success. 

As with many of our larger projects, RSA is performing the role of executive architect/architect-of-record for Civic Park. In this capacity, we provide project oversight, technical expertise, and a leadership role in ensuring an integrated project process. We also bring to the table our knowledge of local conditions, established relationships with authorities having jurisdiction and familiarity with their processes, and a rapport with our construction team partners. RSA has contributed significantly during the Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, and Design Development phases of the project, and will increasingly assume a greater share of the project burden as we move forward with Construction Documents. My specific role is to be the design team’s project manager. 

Skylab is well-known in the Portland market for its cutting-edge aesthetic. The firm, as its website touts, is “about optimism and exploration; futurism with a touch of irony.” Its portfolio includes such striking projects as Yard, the Columbia Building Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Owl Creek Residence, and the massive Nike World Headquarters Expansion. Despite Skylab’s undeniable design acumen, it was firm associate Jamin AAsum’s pro-bono connection with the Civic Park project prior to ECA’s purchase of the site that favored Skylab’s involvement with the project. 

Jamin’s long history with Eugene—he attended the University of Oregon and was a member of the track & field team as a middle-distance runner, and he owns property today near the campus—means he thoroughly understands our community and its culture; indeed, while Jamin now lives and works in Portland for Skylab, he considers Eugene a home away from home. Along with Matt Scheibe, principal of Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning, Jamin helped ECA develop its initial list of facility requirements and a visionary plan for ECA prior to its purchase of the Civic site. Jamin’s relationship with many of the key ECA leaders and his thorough awareness of the organization’s goals provided our team with a running start on the project. 

Aerial view from the northeast. The Kidsports field house is in the foreground and the stadium is beyond.

Our design for Civic Park is at once simple and complex. We looked at site connections and forces: site contours, views to the hills, location along transit corridors. A 2,500-seat stadium with a multipurpose, all-season synthetic turf field, plus a field house accommodating four indoor basketball courts (and two outdoor courts), administrative offices, and storage space for Kidsports, are the principal project components. Together, they will provide ECA with an economical sports complex that fulfills all five of the organization’s stated goals. 

The simple part is how logically we ultimately arranged the program elements about the site. The topography, which drops off quickly from its edge along Willamette Street and then more gradually toward its boundary at Amazon Parkway, prompted us to locate the stadium’s elevated concourse and grandstand on the west side, while the playing field occupied the center of the property. This limited our options for siting the field house. Eventually we accepted the inevitability of placing the field house on the eastern border of the site, thus forming a contained space. Experientially it will be a bowl or a “nest” with a clear sense of place rather than one with ill-defined boundaries. Berms at the north and south corners of the stadium will strengthen the sense of containment. The design suggests togetherness, an intimate environment, and a shared experience. At the same time, it will invite views from passersby on Willamette Street across the stadium’s concourse and onto the field. It maximizes what makes the site unique, integrating the architecture with the topography.

Site Plan (click to enlarge)

The design accommodates the possibility of doubling the stadium seating capacity sometime in the future. 

The complex part is ensuring our design for Civic Park meets everyone’s high hopes for the project. These include expectations that the memory of Civic Stadium will not be allowed to simply fade away. We have proposed several subtle moves to ensure its history and significance to many generations are an essential part of the new Civic Park. Budget permitting, these include such gestures as repurposing the old stadium’s salvaged light poles, using board-formed concrete at some of the exposed retaining walls to recall Civic Stadium’s wood siding, incorporating interpretive displays documenting the site’s history, and ghosting the baseplates and pitcher’s mound on the stadium turf with a faintly contrasting turf color. ECA also salvaged the old stadium scoreboard and pieces of structural steel twisted by the intense heat of the destructive fire; how we incorporate these items into the project remains to be determined. Civic Stadium may be gone but we will not let it become forgotten. 

The project is additionally complicated by ECA’s obligation (defined by the purchase agreement for the property) to incorporate a “pocket park” to be maintained by the City of Eugene, as well as a multimodal transportation (bicycles, pedestrians) path traversing the site in the east-west direction to ensure Civic Park is well connected to existing circulation routes in the surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, the city’s off-street parking requirements have demanded a creative response in the form of a project-specific Transportation Demand Management plan (to address the site’s inability to accommodate the full number of vehicle parking spaces required by the Eugene Code). The plan will include a shared parking arrangement with South Eugene High School. 

Kidsports field house Level 1 plan (click to enlarge)

Our proposed design attempts to evoke movement and dynamism. Gestures including syncopated window patterns, angled walls, sloping berms, and shifts in the rib spacing of the metal siding on the field house will all contribute to this illusion. Generous circulation and public gathering spaces will also encourage movement through the site. Regardless, thriftiness is the order of the day: the field house will be an inexpensive pre-engineered metal building, and the stadium grandstand will be a lightweight aluminum and steel bleacher system. A significant portion of the construction budget will be consumed by site improvements, including mitigation of undesirable soil conditions, relocation of buried utilities, site demolition, and new retaining walls. 

Speaking of the budget, the estimated direct construction cost is $26.7 million, which is modest given the extensive scope of the project. As of the completion of the Design Development phase, our design remains right on target. ECA recently directed us to proceed with the preparation of construction documents. If the organization’s fundraising efforts are successful, everyone’s hope is to see groundbreaking occur late this coming summer. If you can, do not hesitate to contribute to ECA’s campaign. Doing so will help keep the project on track. 

Jeff Kovel (left) and Jamin AAsum (seated) of Skylab Architecture, and Matt Scheibe of Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning during a Civic Park design charrette at Skylab's office in Portland.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other members of the large and talented project team working hard to make Civic Park a reality. These include Chambers Construction, the venerable Eugene builder performing the role of Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC). The team also includes Carole Knapel of Knapel + Associates, who is serving as ECA’s project management consultant. As with any undertaking of this size, the entire roster of project participants is long and broad in its scope: 
  • Executive Architect:  Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc
  • Design Architect:  Skylab Architecture
  • Landscape Architect:  Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning
  • Civil Engineer:  KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • Structural Engineer:  KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • Sports Facilities Design Consultant:  SportsPLAN Studio 
  • Planning Consultant: TBG Architects & Planners
  • Transportation Engineer:  Clemow & Associates 
  • Construction Manager/General Contractor:  Chambers Construction
  • Plumbing Design-Build Contractor:  Brothers Plumbing, Inc. 
  • HVAC Design-Build Contractor:  Comfort Flow Heating & Air Conditioning
  • Electrical Design-Build Contractor:  New Way Electric, Inc. 
  • Owner’s Project Manager:  Knapel + Associates 
Notably, the people of Eugene came together and built Civic Stadium during the Great Depression. There is no reason today why our community cannot rise again and extend its legacy by building Civic Park. Rising from the ashes, the new facility will create lifelong memories for everyone, particularly for kids who may never have known Civic Stadium. I’m truly honored to be involved with a project of such community significance.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

eBuild Training Sessions

The eBuild Permit System is the City of Eugene's online building permit application system. The system went live in January 2015 and according to city officials has been a rousing success. During the past year alone, the Building Division issued more than 3,200 permits through eBuild. Many customers recognize the advantage of saving trips to the Permit Center and reducing costs associated with printing multiple sets of construction drawings for review. For these and other reasons, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the new system. 
Using eBuild, you can:
  • Apply for building permits online.
  • Apply for demolition permits online.
  • Apply for trade permits, such as electrical, plumbing or residential mechanical, online.
  • Apply for multiple residential trade permits using a single application.
  • Submit plans for review electronically.
  • Pay fees associated with your project online.
  • Download your approved plans.
To further improve the plan review process and provide an efficient method for archiving of data, effective March 1, 2017 the City of Eugene will require submission of all commercial and multi-family building permit submittals through eBuild. If you have questions about the new requirement, please feel free to contact Kyle Richardson, Permit Review Manager at 541-682-5534. 

The Building Division is providing opportunities to learn more about eBuild and ask questions about the process of using the system. No pre-registration is required for the training. The upcoming training sessions, all of which will occur in the Sloat Room of the Atrium Building at 99 W. 10th Avenue in downtown Eugene, will take place at the times listed below. 

Using eBuild presents several advantages beyond merely saving trees and visits to the Permit Center. All business transactions associated with the building permit process can be accomplished 24/7 using one login credential (submitting, paying fees, scheduling inspections). Information about the status of an application is just a few mouse clicks away: team members always have access to the most current version of the approved drawings—even if the need to view drawings is from their office instead of the job site. eBuild standardizes and systematizes information management, and ensures the best possible communication between city staff and applicants. Replacing the paper-based plan review process with an electronic-based alternative is key to maintaining efficiencies and keeping pace with technology. 

Speaking of keeping pace with technology, I envision eBuild as merely the first step toward ever more sophisticated and efficient plan review processes in a not-to-distant future. With the increasingly universal application of BIM, I predict artificial intelligence will become relied upon to automatically perform comprehensive initial reviews of data-rich electronic building models. I for one welcome our new computer overlords if it means their arrival frees plans examiners and building officials to work creatively with applicants in developing solutions to challenging code problems, using the innate skills only humans possess. 

What:  eBuild Training Sessions 

  • Thursday, January 26, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
  • Thursday, February 16, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
  • Thursday, March 16, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Where: Sloat Room, Atrium Building, 99 W. 10th Avenue, downtown Eugene 

Cost: Free

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 Block Kids Competition

Eugene Chapter #77 of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), The Science Factory, and the River Road Parks & Recreation District are the co-sponsors of the 2017 Block Kids Competition, which will take place this year on Saturday, February 4 at Emerald Park in Eugene. NAWIC chapters across the country perennially produce the award-winning program, supporting one of the organization’s goals, which is to make a difference in the communities of which they are a part. 
Block Kids makes a difference by introducing children in Grades 1 through 6 to the possibility of careers in the construction industry. The contest encourages them to use their imagination to create a structure with a specific set of materials. Kids who participate explore how and why a structure is built, with the mentorship of judges hailing from all corners of the construction industry. There is no fee for the participants. 
The competition comprises a 45-minute period within which the budding designers and builders must assemble a structure of their choosing, provided it relates in some way to the construction industry. The organizers provide each contestant with a set of 100 interlocking blocks, as well as any three of four additional items (a small rock, string, foil, or poster board). Local construction industry professionals judge each entry. They ask each competitor to discuss his or her project, judging each for creativity and execution. Ultimately, the judges select first, second, and third place winners in each of three grade level groups (Grades 1-2, Grades 3-4, and Grades 5-6). All participants receive a goody bag. 
The judges will choose one project (regardless of the grade levels) for advancement to the subsequent regional contest. Each region will in turn select one semi-finalist for entry into the national competition, at which 2017’s top prizes will be awarded to three projects. 
Want to be a Block Kids judge?
I had the pleasure of being a judge at one Block Kids Competition a few years back. I was amazed and delighted by what kids can create. Their effort and enthusiasm are infectious, and their resourceful and inventiveness are refreshing. If you’re a local construction industry professional and interested in being a judge, the ladies of NAWIC Chapter #77 would love to hear from you. In addition to judges, the organizers also need volunteers to help with set up and other logistics. Contact Nancy Ograin at and let her know you’d like to help in either or both capacities. 
Do you have a child who would like to be a Block Kid?
The competition is fun, educational, and a wonderful way for your child to spend a winter afternoon. Advance registration by January 28 is required for each participating child. To sign up, fill out the online form. If you have difficulty with the online form, call 541-682-7888. 
You can fax, mail or drop off the registration form at the Science Factory. If you prefer, you can also register in person at the Science Factory (map). 
What: 2017 Block Kids Competition 
When: Saturday, February 4, 2017 (set up: 11:30 AM; competition begins at 1:30 PM

Where: Emerald Park,1400 Lake Drive, Eugene OR 97404 (map
Cost: Free 
Registration Deadline: January 28, 2017 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Times They Are A-Changin’

The turning of the calendar to 2017 brought with it a predictable flurry of crystal ball prognostications heralding the new year. I came across a particularly interesting piece on the website Construction Dive. Authored by Emily Peiffer and entitled "10 Construction Industry Trends to Watch in 2017," it was actually Trend #9 that I found most intriguing; here it is:

9. The sustainable construction movement will consider changing its message 

The incoming Trump administration has implications beyond infrastructure, as sustainable building leaders are now considering the possibility of altering their messaging to ensure the movement continues. 

"It’s really important not to lose the gains of the past by clinging to the way we talk about things," said Beth Heider, chief sustainability officer at Skanska USA. "It’s really important to look at the work that we’ve done under the umbrella of sustainability and continue with that work and just recognize that there are lots of ways to articulate what we’re achieving."

Heider said she believes the industry should put less emphasis on the climate change implications of sustainable construction and focus more on the bottom line, as resiliency and high-performing buildings can lower energy costs and create jobs. 

"The new administration has probably been a wakeup call to the nation that all perspectives don’t feel as if they’re heard," she said. "That also means you’ve got folks across the country who we aren’t communicating with. This gives us an opportunity to communicate the value of smart, high-performing buildings and infrastructure in a way that can be understood by more people." 

Both Heider and [Michael] Vardaro [managing partner at Zetlin & De Chiara] are optimistic that sustainable construction and the green building movement will continue to make strides in 2017. Vardaro said the year ahead will bring "the next step of building green," with more owners and tenants demanding energy-efficient features in new buildings. Sustainable construction, he said, will be more of the norm rather than the exception going forward. 

At first, this interesting take on the radical change of the status quo since last November 8 rang true; however, after thinking about it more I believe the message was already evolving well before the Orange One assumed the mantle of president-elect. Few people, even among those for whom “sustainability” is a dirty word, would argue protecting our environment is not a worthy goal. It’s really when efforts toward that goal conflict with personal property rights or individual prosperity that people feel threatened by the concept. For the most part—notwithstanding cynical climate change deniers motivated by personal greed—everyone embraces the notion of minimizing harm to our planet and its biological systems. 

Increasingly, the buzzwords are resilience, adaptability, and transformability. They are complementary to and will progressively supplant the usage of “sustainability” when the topic is the future of construction and high-performing buildings. Discussing resilience, adaptability, and transformability appeal more directly to fiscally minded building owners, particularly those most interested in protecting valuable holdings. Designing for resilience means building in enhanced capacities to respond to unforeseen changes, including those changes that trigger tipping points beyond which the systems we’re accustomed to cannot be recovered. This is a bottom line concern shared by interests across the entire political spectrum. 

Designing for resilience also means buildings will necessarily be judged by more than rhetoric and advocacy alone. Actual performance, rather than green laurels and ratings, will be the measuring stick. This will be a good thing, as there is a growing backlash against green building products and developments that fail to deliver promised benefits despite anecdotal claims that they do. Few would fail to endorse sustainable design if its benefits are tangible. 

There’s no doubt we live during interesting times. Some believe the new political reality threatens their cherished beliefs and progress toward important goals; that’s a glass is half-empty perspective. I prefer to believe it is half-full. Sustainability as a mindset is too well-established in the minds of too many to simply disappear from our collective consciousness. Dogmatism and partisanship notwithstanding, I am conditionally optimistic. Though our times may be a-changing, changing the message may prove unnecessary.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Theory Base for Architecture

Kimbell Art Museum, by Louis Kahn (file licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)
Bill Kleinsasser strongly believed in the need for an inclusive structure of architectural principles. In his mind, this meant a coherent theory base (and values base) upon which architects and others could build genuinely good places for people. He rejected the view that the use of coordinated principles would reduce intuitive effort or otherwise impair creativity. Instead, he considered the principles he set forth as interesting and challenging, and as sources for inspiration rather than by-the-numbers solutions. 
It seems to me the present architectural discourse seldom attempts to be as comprehensive and at the same time as specific as Bill’s efforts were. It’s a shame this is the case, because today’s built environment too often betrays an absence of the consideration he implored designers apply to every project. Bill’s words about the need for a useful theory base (below) ring as true now as when he first committed them to paper during my years as one of his students: 
Architects today are under great pressure to respond exclusively to short-term economics, to technological and constructional expediency, and to the deceitful rules of ephemeral fashions. The discouraging results are all around us: places that are crude or pretentious or too private in their meanings, places that become obsolete too soon and then perpetuate unwanted situations, places that offer far too little of the poetry that people need in their essential seeking of memorable experiences and self-renewal. When we look at the built environment critically and honestly today, we do not see much that measures up to the best we can imagine and hope for, not much that is as good as it could and should be. 
Many people place the blame for this on society generally, arguing that society today wants no more than this, that society shapes architecture rather than the other way around, and that architects are trapped by society’s values. Of course there is truth in this point of view and it is comfortable logic for architects, but it has also led to an abrogation of professional responsibility. I believe that architects and architectural schools should contribute fundamentally to the shaping of values that will make the built environment—public as well as private—genuinely better. But the fact is that many architects and, worse yet, many architectural schools, have failed to develop the comprehensive theory base that must be present in the design of good places. 
[Synthesis] attempts to outline a theory base for architecture that will help make the built environment better. Deliberately concise as well as comprehensive, it presents eight objectives that seem to be basic to the design of good places for people. Its central and unceasing aim is to give assistance to the creation of genuine architecture, by which I mean those buildings and places that provide significant and lasting support for their inhabitants and users.

WK / 1983