Sunday, October 15, 2017

Architecture is Awesome #15: Building a Legacy

The Acropolis, by Leo von Klenze [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is another in my series of posts inspired by 1000 Awesome Things, the Webby Award winning blog written by Neil Pasricha. The series is my meditation on the awesome reasons why I was and continue to be attracted to the art of architecture.

If architects do their jobs well, the buildings they design will be sturdy, functional, and beautiful. If they are, the buildings will be well-used, cared for, and lasting. And if the buildings are lasting, they will outlive their authors, setting the stage for many lifetimes beyond those of the original players involved in their conception. The most-cherished, most-useful, and long-lived buildings are bequests from one generation to those that follow. They comprise the legacy their original owners, builders, and architects leave behind for others to enjoy.

Architects bear a responsibility to pour their lives into the making of places and buildings that will have repercussions for many years. This responsibility is not unlike the tremendous one parents bear when raising their children; each child must be cherished and nurtured to become loving, valued members of the family and society. Parents pass on their thoughts and beliefs to their children, and they in turn to future generations, so they live on as a tradition and culture. In this sense, children are a continuation of the lives of their parents, a biologic and symbolic form of immortality. Buildings likewise provide architects with a creative symbolic immortality, as buildings have the capacity to change the lives of others long after their designers have passed on.(1)

Ultimately, only the greatest of edifices are spared from turning to dust, and their enduring permanence sometimes comes at the cost of losing the vitality spurred by their initial purposes. Whether they will last for fifty years or a thousand, the buildings we design tell as much about ourselves as they do the place, time, and culture of their origin. What we make reveals, in some measure, who we are and were. To paraphrase the Athenian statesman Pericles, what we leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. The important thing is to envision the profound and positive impacts our buildings will have upon those who will use and encounter them.

Life, as we all know, is a precious thing. We all have so much potential for good. It’s incumbent upon us to do something meaningful and beneficial with the short time each of us has on this planet. The responsibility is humbling. The legacy every architect builds during his or her lifetime should be important, respectful, and of help to the lives of the generations it will touch. If it is, that legacy becomes a significant part of humankind’s epic, wondrous, and AWESOME heritage.

Next Architecture is Awesome: #16 Skyscrapers 

(1) Read more about symbolic immortality here.


Monday, October 9, 2017

2018 CSI Certification Classes


For the 36th consecutive year, the Construction Specifications Institute –Willamette Valley Chapter (CSI-WVC) is pleased to offer a series of classes on Construction Contract Documents in addition to another set covering Construction Contract Administration. While the principal purpose of the courses is to assist those planning to take one or more of the CSI-sponsored certification examinations, they’re also beneficial to anyone in the AEC industry seeking foundational training in the preparation and use of construction documents. Additionally, the classes can be of significant value to architectural interns and to the firms for whom they work, as well as very helpful to those preparing to take the State Architectural Licensing Exams.

The evening classes begin in early January and continue weekly through the first part of March.

Click on the following link to navigate to the CCCA/CDT/CCS Seminars page and locate detailed information about the classes, dates, fees, and registration:


New this year, the venue for both classes will be the Eugene Builders Exchange, located at 2460 West 11th Avenue in Eugene. CSI-WVC is looking forward to what is certain to be a long and fruitful partnership with the Exchange.

Both courses can help students develop a conceptual understanding of the entire construction process, and concrete skills in: 

  • Construction documentation development and administration 
  • Specification writing and enforcement 
  • Product research and sourcing 
  • Communication with the design and contracting teams

The Construction Documents program provides a comprehensive overview for anyone who writes, interprets, enforces, or manages construction documents. Being able to understand and interpret written construction documents helps architects, contractors, contract administrators, material suppliers, and manufacturers' representatives perform their jobs more effectively. Understanding the roles and relationships of all participants improves communication among all members of the construction team. The Construction Contract Administration course goes further to emphasize the specific knowledge and skills necessary to administer and enforce construction contract documentation. While not necessary, some students may find it helpful to have completed the Construction Documents course before taking the Construction Contract Administration program.

As mentioned above, both classes serve as excellent means to prepare for CSI’s certification exams. Certification as a Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) means you have demonstrated ability to prepare, use, and interpret construction documents. CDT certification is a prerequisite to CSI’s advanced certifications, which include Certified Construction Specifier (CCS), Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA), and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR).

CSI offers its certification examinations twice annually, in the spring and the fall. Taking the 2018 Willamette Valley Chapters classes this winter would set you up nicely to register for the spring set of exams.

The classes are especially beneficial for emerging design & construction industry professionals, and to the firms for which they work. They’re also particularly helpful to aspiring architects preparing to take a State Licensing Exam.

By taking either of the classes, fully fledged architects can earn up to 20 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours to apply toward maintaining Oregon State Board of Architect Examiners professional licensure; AIA Members can earn up 20 Continuing Education Learning Units (LU) which CSI will report directly to AIA/CES.

I’ll once again be one of the instructors, along with Linn West, Larry Banks, Jerry Boucock, Tom Deines, Brian Hamilton, and Jim Chaney. Together we bring nearly three centuries of cumulative professional experience to the table, which means we have stories aplenty to share with our students. Notwithstanding that it also means we’re old(!), the curriculum for the classes is up-to-date and as relevant as ever to the challenging realities of today’s construction industry.

Hundreds of local AEC professionals have already benefitted immeasurably by taking one or both CSI certification classes. Do the same and you’ll learn about the importance of clear, concise, correct, and complete construction documents, and more fully understand how projects unfold from conception to delivery. Best of all, you’ll advance your career prospects and become a highly valued member of any project team.

If you have any questions, please call me at 541-342-8077 or send me an email at rnishimura@robertsonsherwood.com

Sunday, October 8, 2017

To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere


Photo collage by Uoregon14 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The following piece will appear as the AIA-Southwestern Oregon Committee on Local Affairs' contribution to the 2017 Design Annual (Register-Guard insert), to be published next month. The theme of this year’s edition is “Technology.”

Few shifts in the cultural landscape have so profoundly impacted our shared conception of the public realm as the advent of the Internet, smart phones, and social media. The smart phone has changed every aspect of our social interactions, with profound implications for the future of communities everywhere. Just as the automobile prompted the decline and replacement of much of the productive urban fabric of our cities (think urban renewal, freeways, parking lots, and exclusionary zoning), the Internet and, more specifically, social media now jeopardize the reversal of that decline.

The irony of social media has been an attendant rise in loneliness, depression, and a sense of detachment among its heaviest users. For the compulsively addicted, virtual spaces become more attractive than real ones, virtual exchanges more appealing than in-the-flesh interaction; entire worlds are just a keystroke or finger-swipe away. The 2,000-year-old words of the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca—who speaking in his time of the price paid by obsessive travelers—now aptly describe this contemporary condition: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

Nowhere is not where anyone should want to be. Nowhere is not a place. Being nowhere means lacking the prospect of progress or success.

The risk posed to cities by a collective preoccupation with virtual communities is the possibility we may eventually forget what it takes to make real places: successful civic, public spaces that are accessible, comfortable, sociable, and truly used. We made this mistake during the Age of Automobiles and paid the heavy price; we cannot afford to make a similar mistake again. If we do, we’ll surely struggle to retain our community identity and sense of place, much of which may have only been regained and/or established in the past few years.

So, what is a realistic future for our cities, Eugene in particular? In the face of stresses that would topple dominant urban planning paradigms, how do we avoid being both everywhere and nowhere at once?

The answer is to redouble our efforts to maximize the public realm as a shared interest because it is our public spaces that most effectively differentiate here from everywhere and nowhere. This means recognizing what makes Eugene’s cultural, physical, and historical context unique. It means countering the banality of many of Eugene’s public spaces. It means stressing the importance of physical structure and identity—the vividness of unique elements and conversely a grasp of the whole—by celebrating design excellence. It means building upon the recent revitalization downtown, which is a more vibrant place today than it has been in many years.

As the region’s historic center for business, governmental, and cultural activities, the success of downtown Eugene is critical to our community’s sense of identity. We commend the City of Eugene for its promising efforts to improve the Park Blocks using the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” strategy to enliven public spaces promulgated by its consultant, Project for Public Spaces. If and when City Hall occupies the location of the “Butterfly” parking lot, the Park Blocks will assume an even more important civic role than they do now. We consider the public-private partnership that brings a high-speed fiber network to 120 downtown Eugene buildings equally promising. This project capitalizes on Eugene’s emergence as the “Silicon Shire,” one of Fast Company magazine’s “Next Top 10 Cities for Tech Jobs.” We’re encouraged to see developers regarding downtown as desirable ground for housing projects attractive to urban professionals and retirees. And we’re pleased downtown at last has its new Whole Foods outlet.

Downtown is starting to work, which is good news for the entire city. We’ve made great progress but much more remains to be done. Many people still consider downtown a dangerous place filled with undesirable people. Too many restaurants still close early each day. Evening activities remain disproportionately focused on the club/bar scene rather than encompassing a more diverse range of options. In the face of Internet shopping, retail businesses aren’t likely to return and once again dominate downtown. There are still far too many inactive storefronts, including those that ring the Park Blocks. Downtown Eugene needs to evolve in response.

Growing the resident population will help. When people live in the city's core, they become caring stakeholders who take ownership of its future. Supplying free public wi-fi throughout would draw people downtown, empowering those who otherwise lack affordable Internet access. Blending shopping with authentic experiences in unique, brick & mortar settings will set specialty retailers apart from their online competitors.

To sustain real progress will require learning how to adapt to the changes that threaten to overwhelm us. Social media may be here with us to stay, but this does not mean they can or should supplant the complex ecosystem that is an actual city. We contend the presence of real public spaces is important to the existence of any civil society and democracy. So too is differentiating those spaces so they are as unique, context-specific, attractive, and meaningful as possible. Investing intellectual and monetary capital in the public realm—such as in downtown Eugene where we as a community exercise our social and civic functions—is crucial. Ideally, the public realm will always remain free to use, accessible, and welcoming to all types of people from all walks of life.

As architects, we firmly believe a sense of place can foster civic engagement. We believe in the power of design as an antidote to the social disengagement abetted by today’s smart phones and computers. We’re not Luddites, but we do prefer living in and working for the betterment of our real world, as opposed to a virtual one. We believe in being present and engaged so that we can design genuine solutions for difficult problems. For the sake of today’s iGeneration and those who will follow them, we’re committed to ensuring Eugene will never become everywhere or nowhere anytime soon.

Austin Bailey, Scott Clarke, Eric Gunderson, Stan Honn, Randy Nishimura, and Travis Sheridan



Sunday, October 1, 2017

College of Design Launch Party


This past July, the University of Oregon rechristened its School of Architecture and Allied Arts as the College of Design. According to an announcement by Scott Coltrane, UO Provost and Senior Vice President, the name change was the outcome of a process for which the stated goals were the enhancement of the school’s programs, an increase in the value of the degrees earned, and positioning of students, faculty, and staff for greater success in the future. An additional goal of the process was to improve funding and philanthropic opportunities for the restructured entity.

Central to the change is the redefinition of the former School of Architecture and Allied Arts as a collection of schools under the banner of the College of Design:
  • School of Architecture & Environment
  • School of Art + Design
  • School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management
  • Department of History of Art and Architecture
If I correctly understand the classic definitions, a university is a higher education institution comprised of two or more colleges. In turn, a college is an academic unit with a focus of several closely related academic disciplines. In the university context, a school is typically associated with only one (perhaps two) academic specialties (eg. the School of Law). As a collection of schools, the new College of Design better aligns and organizes each program within the framework of the entire university.

To celebrate the rebranding and kick-off the new academic year, the College of Design invites all students, alumni, friends, and colleagues to celebrate at its Launch Party this coming Friday, October 6. The College promises food, fun, music, and more, so mark your calendars and join the celebration. The price is right too—It’s a free event! See you there!


When:  Friday, October 6 at 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Where:  Lawrence Hall courtyard, 1190 Franklin Boulevard, Eugene, OR

Cost:  Free