Sunday, July 15, 2018

Gothic City

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York (all photos by me)

New York is a thick forest of towers, many of them distinctive and running a gamut of styles. Its dystopian doppelganger is the imagined Gotham City of the Batman comics, in its consummate form the dark Gothic vision of Tim Burton’s Batman movies. The equally dark and romantic monumentality of Hugh Ferris’ moody, chiaroscuro-heavy renderings further the mythos of New York as an enigmatic metropolis whose primary axis is the vertical. The layering of architectural styles is remarkable and yet, in my mind at least, Manhattan is the epitome of a contemporary Gothic city: breathtakingly perpendicular, grotesque, and compact. Like a work of Gothic architecture, the complex whole is ordered and coherent, even as its constituent parts teeter on the brink of chaos. 

I’ve always been drawn to Gothic architecture despite my decidedly modernist upbringing. I believe it’s an instinctual response. It’s a response that comes naturally to non-architects, one that many designers since the advent of Modernism have struggled to reconcile with their education and biases. The Gothic style relied heavily upon its ability to convey a narrative, most often of an ecclesiastical nature, striving for spirituality through lightness of form and a lavishing of expressive and didactic ornamentation, in contrast with the relatively spare ponderousness of the Romanesque forms that preceded it. The Gothic vocabulary would come to be distinguished by pointed arches, rib vaults, flying buttresses, large stained-glass windows, and elaborate tracery. 

Of course, all the “Gothic” buildings in New York (and elsewhere in North America) are not actually Gothic but rather derivative and historicist. They are “Neo-Gothic” or “Gothic Revival.” The resurgence of the Gothic style during the 19th century was championed by A.W.N.Pugin, John Ruskin, and others claiming it was the style of the great age of faith and thus inherently superior to other forms. Even architects who were more secular in outlook would deem the Gothic appropriate for a variety of new applications, particularly those for which stylistic precedents did not exist. Thus, train stations, university buildings, parliament houses, country estates, and ultimately skyscrapers around the world would all utilize the style to imaginative effect. 

Despite my characterization of Manhattan as Gothic in character, the actual number of buildings genuinely designed in the Gothic manner is small. I visited several of the most noteworthy examples while I was in New York for the 2018 AIA Conference on Architecture. These included St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Saint Thomas Church, and the Woolworth Building. 

Nave, St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral 
Definitely one of the highlights of my A’18 experience was a tour of the recently restored St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Members of the restoration team from Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects provided a wealth of informative details about the 3-year, $150 million project, which included 30,000 individual repairs to the stonework, plaster, wood, and stained glass. 

Originally designed by architect James Renwick and constructed between 1858 – 1888, St. Patrick’s was upon its completion the tallest structure in New York (and remains the largest neo-Gothic Catholic cathedral in North America), which seems remarkable now that it is completely overshadowed by the bulky towers of the neighboring Rockefeller Center. The cathedral’s exterior is largely comprised of Tuckahoe marble and richly ornamented in a highly unified and consistent Flamboyant Gothic style. 

Inside, the cathedral does indeed soar, appearing much larger than I’d imagined as I approached the cathedral from outside. The restoration repaired decay in the roof structure and removed decades of accumulated candle soot on the ceiling over the nave. The interior is bright, lofty, and very impressive. 

West facade, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
Looming over the Morningside Heights neighborhood, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is the largest Episcopal cathedral in the world, and the fifth largest Christian church overall. Its list of superlatives includes the longest Gothic nave in the country, the largest rose window, being taller at its interior crossing than the Statue of Liberty, and seven apsidal chapels (a nod to the different national origins of various immigrant groups the church initially welcomed). It is, in other words, enormous. 

Choir, Cathedral of Staint John the Divine

The cathedral has mockingly been dubbed “Saint John the Unfinished” because construction and restoration has continued ever since the first cornerstone was laid in 1892. Unlike St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Saint John the Divine is a mish-mash of styles. The original architects, Heins& LaFarge, intended the building to be of Romanesque-Byzantine design. Following the death of George Heins, the Cathedral Trustees elected to hire Ralph Adams Cram to complete the design along neo-Gothic lines. Saint John the Divine suffered a large fire in 2001, which destroyed part of the north transept. The south tower on the west fa├žade has only partly risen, while the north tower lags even further behind. It’s immediately evident the cathedral remains a work in progress. 

Saint Thomas Church

Saint Thomas Church 
Like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Saint Thomas Church is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, and like the Cathedral of Saint John Divine, Saint Thomas was designed by Ralph Adams Cram (along with his partner Bertram Goodhue). I was previously familiar with the building because of an essay written by Gerald Allen in the book Dimensions, co-authored with Charles Moore. In that essay, Allen explained how Cram and Goodhue designed the church in a way that addressed the particulars of its site within a modern city, as well as its general purpose as a place of worship. The result is an oddly asymmetrical design allied to its specific corner location at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 53rd Street. 

As Gerald Allen wrote, Saint Thomas does not make the kind of coherent, self-contained sense that architects typically strive for in their designs. I like Saint Thomas’ consequent eccentricity. Cram and Goodhue demonstrated their mastery of the Gothic Revival style, expertly adapting it to its location within Midtown. The church confidently stakes claim to its location without attempting to compete with much taller neighbors. 

Woolworth Building

Woolworth Building 
The Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world when it was topped off in 1912. Architect Cass Gilbert, a leading proponent of the neo-Gothic style for tall buildings, designed the richly ornamented 60-story tower, which would aptly be nicknamed “the Cathedral of Commerce.” The building’s piers, pinnacles, pointed arches, and patinated copper roof all draw one’s eyes skyward. Gilbert over-scaled the Gothic detailing on its upper reaches so they remain legible from the street level far below. The design exploits the Gothic style’s use of vertical elements to emphasize its height. Somewhat incongruously, Gilbert used Romanesque forms for the building’s elegant two-story lobby. 

While following Louis Sullivan’s adage that a skyscraper should be “every inch a proud and soaring thing,” the Woolworth Building also admirably functions as an urban block. Its lower 27 floors are configured around U-shaped floors that define the public space on all sides, while bringing daylight to the center of the plan by means of a central court open to the west. The Woolworth Building, like most pre-WWII towers, manages to work effectively at both the pedestrian level and as part of Manhattan’s impressive skyline. 

Other New York skyscrapers employing features reminiscent of Gothic architecture include the American Radiator Building, the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, the Lincoln Building, and the General Electric Building. Following the completion of the General Electric Building in 1931, architects would largely eschew the Gothic Revival style in favor of the more fashionable Art Deco or Modernist idioms. The asceticism of most post-war skyscrapers may have reached its apogee (or nadir depending upon your point of view) with the completion of the astoundingly banal 432 Park Avenue in 2016, a supertall and slender tower that rises 1,396 feet without relief or any sense of proportion or grace. 

432 Park Avenue

I’m no architectural revivalist or historicist; however, I do admire architecture regardless of style that inspires, is rich in detail and meaning, and joyous in character. Neo-Gothic works like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Saint Thomas Church, and the Woolworth Building greatly contribute to New York’s appeal and coherence as an incredibly diverse amalgam of memorable places, images, and ideas. I favor identity over anonymity, and architecture that connects people with their environment rather than alienating them from it.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Architecture is Awesome #16: Skyscrapers

Empire State Building (all photos by me)

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

Our desire to build tall, whether in the service of God or mammon, appears to be innate. We’ve built soaring church spires, minarets, and pagodas to reach for the heavens. We design skyscrapers that tower even and ever higher, profit-driven embodiments of economic ambition and optimism. Skyscrapers in their truest sense seemingly defy gravity, determinedly rising floor over floor as if yearning for a spiritual connection with the firmament above. We crane our necks as they draw our eyes skyward towards pinnacles that merge hazily with the clouds overhead. Our greatest skyscrapers and skyscraper cities inspire jaw-dropping wonder, astonishment, and admiration. 

Skyscrapers are immodest symbols of our technological advancement and prowess, their impressive height serving as potent avatars for human striving and risk-taking. The ability to build ever taller was the product of a series of engineering breakthroughs during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which included the advent of load-bearing structural frames, safe and convenient elevators, and lightweight building enclosures. Chicago architects and engineers may have pioneered many of these advancements, but it was their New York counterparts who perfected the art of skyscraper design. In particular, New York’s Jazz-era, Art Deco masterpieces—among them the Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center—provided definitive forms that were modern and unprecedented, befitting the new vertical order of the emerging metropolis. 

Midtown Manhattan

We find New York’s Art Deco towers appealing because we can imagine ourselves occupying their upper reaches. We also easily ascribe personalities to these buildings. We instinctively anthropomorphize them, picturing them in conversation or otherwise interacting with one another, as Madelon Vriesendorp cheekily suggested in her painting Flagrant Delit. These towers arose within a relatively short period of time during the 1920s and 30s and are increasingly overshadowed by newer, less elegant skyscrapers, yet they remain central figures defining what makes New York the city the world knows. We romanticize these buildings because they so readily induce such sentimentalizing. 

Louis Sullivan famously said of skyscrapers: 

The chief characteristics of the tall building is that it is lofty. It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation so that from bottom to top it should be a unit without a single dissenting line.” 

The best skyscrapers soar heavenward but also firmly root themselves within their urban contexts. They bring vitality and a bustling energy to the surrounding streets. The best skyscrapers engage the public realm, rather than standing aloof from it. They exhibit visual interest across a variety of scales, from small to large, ensuring geometrical coherence and ordering at the urban level. Referring again to New York’s classic skyscrapers as examples, their architecture communicates with us and helps connect them with neighboring buildings and districts. Outstanding skyscrapers are essential to the identity of and appreciation for our major cities as complex, interacting wholes. 

Chrysler Building

Of course, skyscrapers are also monuments to hubris, ego, and plutocratic capitalism. So many of today’s crop are merely big rather than truly tall, scaleless rather than attuned to the anthropometrics of human beings. These behemoths are too often overweening phalluses, overly proud, engaging their skylines with a pronounced lack of grace. They frequently do little to engage or return life to the streets below them. Many of the most prominent and celebrated recent examples are byproducts of overly simplistic and arbitrary computer algorithms that yield “contemporary” designs devoid of actual sophistication or nuance. 

Perhaps the biblical tale of the Tower of Babel will repeat itself, though rather than halt the building of a single massive tower, God will see fit to end the proliferation of skyscrapers that thoughtlessly speak the same undifferentiated language without regard for the specifics of their place. Instead, new towers would arise in their place exquisitely tailored to the cities of which they would be inextricable parts. Given their impressive size and prominence, the design quality of our tallest buildings truly matters.

1 World Trade Center

Skyscrapers are undeniably breathtaking engineering marvels. They cannot help but vie for our attention. They continue to push the limits of our technology and imagination. For better or worse, skyscrapers stand tall as powerful symbols. There’s no doubt they are among the most AWESOME examples of architecture humans have ever produced. 

Next Architecture is Awesome: #17 Utopian Visions

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wright’s Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum, New York (all photos by me)

Visiting New York for the first time last month made me feel like a kid in the biggest imaginable candy store, one offering urban delights and fantastical architecture of all sorts for my delectation. There was so much to see. Without a doubt, one confection I craved that did not disappoint was Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, completed in October of 1959. Wright had passed away earlier that year, so he never did see his revolutionary design in actual use, but I’ve no doubt he would have been pleased. As much as any other single building in his oeuvre, the Guggenheim is an embodiment of Wright’s grandiloquence, genius, and stature as the greatest American architect of his time. 

The Guggenheim is unlike any museum that came before it, and arguably unlike any that have followed. Its primary design conceit—the spiraling ramp—unapologetically dictated its exterior expression and how visitors should experience the works of art inside. Next to its genteel Upper East Side neighbors and across from Central Park, the museum appears as a revelation, an anomalous and subversive form that should not have been unexpected from an architect who openly loathed New York and its density. 

The story of the museum’s long gestation and the opprobrium the design received when Wright unveiled it have been well-chronicled. Many—including a number of the contemporary artists whose work was to be showcased in the building—believed the idiosyncratic building would overshadow the art and only serve the architect’s ego. Critics cited the limitations imposed by the sloped plane of the spiraling ramp, the canted walls, the low ceilings, and the shallow dimensions of the display niches. Some likened its form to a snail’s shell, while to others the Guggenheim resembled nothing if not a giant toilet bowl. Wright dismissed the detractors as unable to appreciate how it was possible to make a museum and the work it displayed an “uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before.” He regarded a collection’s physical home to be as crucial a part of the museum experience as the work itself. 

In the rotunda, looking up . . .

. . . and looking down.

It’s true the limited dimensions of display niches along the ramp overly prescribe which pieces can be presented most favorably. The museum addressed this limitation by including more traditional, flat-floored and generously proportioned galleries in the 1992 addition designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates. Regardless, I did not find the fluidity and continuity of the space within and about the central rotunda distracting. The primary exhibition during my visit featured the distinctively attenuated figures sculpted by Alberto Giacometti. For these, what might have been curatorially restrictive instead seemed perfectly calibrated to the artist’s interest in existentialism and phenomenology and his frequent themes of melancholy and loneliness. Seeing the Giacometti pieces both up-close and from various levels across the rotunda, their frozen poses juxtaposed with the dynamism of the ramp and museumgoers, is exactly how I believe Wright intended the architecture and art should work together.

Part of the Giacometti exhibit

The Guggenheim is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind but is also a culmination of motifs Wright drew upon with regularity. His V.C. Morris Gift Shop in San Francisco likewise features a spiraling ramp, albeit at a much smaller scale, along which one’s perspective constantly shifts. Both designs are attempts by Wright to express the interrelatedness of time, space, and architecture through movement. 

Singling out a favorite building to highlight from my trip to New York is not unlike attempting to choose a favorite chocolate bar. The bottom line is the Guggenheim does stand out. I truly like Wright’s 5th Avenue folly. I appreciate the design’s audacity and the controversy that would become part of the building’s legacy to this day. My opinion may be that of an architect and Frank Lloyd Wright fan, but I don’t think this is a matter of acquired taste. The Guggenheim Museum offers a visceral experience that is universally appealing.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Courtney Griesel, Economic Development Director, City of Springfield

The June meeting of the Construction Specifications institute-Willamette Valley Chapter featured an excellent presentation by Courtney Griesel, Economic Development Director for the City of Springfield, about the city’s ongoing efforts to revitalize the Glenwood area. For decades, Glenwood languished as the poor stepchild of the Eugene-Springfield metro area until Springfield voters elected in 2004 to establish the 700-acre jurisdiction as an urban renewal district. Since then, the city has moved steadily forward with planning to transform Glenwood into an attractive district in which to live, work, and visit through the implementation of forward-thinking, innovative strategies and projects. Ultimately, the hope is Glenwood will become a dynamic place rather than a nondescript traffic corridor to be traversed as quickly as possible between Eugene and Springfield. 

Courtney leads several of the city’s highest profile projects, which include the promise of catalytic developments in Glenwood. She explained how the City of Springfield regards Glenwood as integral to the larger metro economy. Its location along the Willamette River is central to the city’s vision of the district, which includes river-oriented development with public access to the riverfront and green fingers extending into the community. Current plans depict a mix of commercial and residential developments of relatively high density to capitalize upon Glenwood’s prime location, proximity to I-5, and situation along the already established EmX BRT corridor. The proposed design patterns will foster compact urban forms interconnected by a network of walkable streets and inviting open spaces. Notably, the city envisions residential densities exceeding 50 dwelling units per acre. It also regards Glenwood as a model for sustainability. Among other requirements, the city will mandate all stormwater within the district be handled on site. This will necessitate open spaces sized adequately to entirely manage runoff onsite through infiltration, evapotranspiration, and capture and reuse of stormwater. 

Courtney emphasized that Springfield does not foresee the commercial components of the proposed Glenwood mixed-use developments competing with established retail centers in Eugene or Springfield (such as Oakway, Gateway, or the 5th Street Market District) but rather primarily serving the anticipated resident population. The goal is to minimize reliance upon vehicle trips by providing walkable access to needed goods and services. 

The New Franklin Boulevard 
The most visible project to-date within Glenwood is the just-completed first phase of the New Franklin Boulevard project at the corridor’s east end. Courtney described the challenging $13.5 million project in detail, from how the city utilized condemnation to acquire necessary right-of-way (paying above market-value to property owners) to its successful completion four months ahead of schedule. Its characteristic features are two large roundabouts arranged in a “dog-bone” configuration. Roundabouts remain somewhat of a novelty to local motorists, and perhaps confusing to some who may be unfamiliar with them; however, there are compelling reasons why they are sensible traffic-management solutions: 

Safer for Everyone
Modern roundabouts are the safest at-grade intersection. Pedestrians cross shorter distances and deal with traffic at slower speeds. The design of the new roundabouts, and eventually the entire New Franklin Boulevard, safely serves the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and motorists by physically separating the various modes of travel. Vehicular traffic speeds are moderated where the modes cross. 

Statistical information suggests roundabouts reduce collisions overall by 37%, with a 75% reduction in injuries, a 90% reduction in fatalities. Pedestrian-related accidents are reduced by 40% and those involving bicycles are reduced by 10%. 

Saves Time 
By yielding at the entry rather than stopping to wait for a green light, delay is reduced by as much as 89%. 

Costs Less 
Modern roundabouts eliminate traffic signals and fewer accidents decrease public and private costs.

Better for the Environment
60% less greenhouse gas is produced due to reduced idling and delays, fuel consumption, and air pollution. 

Aesthetic Value 
The central island provides an opportunity for landscaping and art, and there are fewer above-ground wires and poles. 

As roundabouts are increasingly commonplace, everyone will become more comfortable with using them and appreciate their benefits. 

Courtney credits her colleague, City of Springfield project manager Kristi Krueger, for shepherding the demanding project to the successful completion of its first phase. 

Glenwood Riverfront 
The 47-acre River Opportunity Area occupies the parcels within Glenwood between Franklin Boulevard and the Willamette River, and will be the focus of the dense, mixed-use type of development proposed by the Glenwood Refinement Plan and the primary point of reconnection with the river. The current plans include what would be a first-of-its-kind parking garage made of cross-laminated timber (CLT). The structure would accommodate 370 parking spaces on four levels. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, testing of the proposed design is in progress, presently focusing upon measures to ensure the structure’s durability. Courtney mentioned funding for the project is coming from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Oregon Best (VertueLab), and the urban renewal district. 

In addition to the New Franklin Boulevard and riverfront planning projects, Springfield has worked on other fronts to give Glenwood a new lease on life. Leveraging proceeds from the urban renewal district, the city has paid to extend a main sewer line down McVay Highway and purchase property to facilitate development of two hotels (the Candlewood Suites and Fairfield Inn & Suites). The city granted Franz Bakery tax waivers to secure its commitment for a $20 million expansion of its facility in Glenwood, a key development toward ensuring Glenwood’s viability as a locus for employment. 

The momentum in Glenwood is clear and bodes well for the future of the district. It also presents us with an excellent case study about how to accommodate growth within the Eugene-Springfield metro area through compact and sustainable means. Glenwood is primed and ready for exactly the kind of development we need today. I’m excited to witness Glenwood’s continuing transformation. Thank you, Courtney for an informative report! 

*    *    *    *    *   

The June CSI-WVC meeting traditionally also includes a presentation of awards recognizing outstanding contributions by chapter members during the preceding year. Outgoing president Tom Jordan, CSI, LEED AP, bestowed the following awards: 
  • Chapter Services Awards: David Jones, Jim Chaney, Marina Wrensch, Michael Woodmansee, and me(!) 
  • Chapter Distinguished Service Award: Linn West (most definitely well deserved!) 
Current CSI Northwest Region president Perry White, CSI, CCPR was on hand for the meeting, and he took the opportunity to also present me with a Region Publications Commendation for my work on SW Oregon Architect, Twitter, and Facebook. Perry happens to be my blog’s biggest fan, never failing to retweet and promote my latest SW Oregon Architect posts. Thanks Perry! 

Additionally, the meeting witnessed the annual passing of the torch by the outgoing board members to the new, which include new chapter president Kate Miller, CSI, Assoc. AIA. Having just attended the CSI West & Northwest Regions Conference at the Alyeska Resort in Alaska, Kate announced the Willamette Valley Chapter will host the 2020 iteration of the bi-region event. The current plan is to conduct the conference at Sunriver rather than in Eugene, so that everyone (that includes you Willamette Valley Chapter members!) can enjoy several uninterrupted days learning, networking, and soaking in the Central Oregon vibe. I know I plan to be there and I hope all of you will as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A’18: New York, New York!

Just a very brief blog post this week: I’m in New York having just attended the 2018 American Institute of Architects Conference on Architecture, which concluded Saturday. This is my first ever visit to The Big Apple, a bucket list trip for me, and it’s been incredible, everything I’d imagined and more. I’m here until Tuesday, with much left to take in. 

Under the banner of a “Blueprint for Better Cities,” the AIA cast New York as the ideal setting for articulating a new urban agenda for the 21st century. Like other major cities worldwide, New York is facing existential challenges. As 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA said, the world is witnessing the dawning of the urban era. Most of the world’s population now lives in cities. Climate change has passed a tipping point, while social and economic inequities remain confoundingly persistent. The pace and scope of changes threaten to overwhelm us. New York’s destiny is one shared by many other American cities. How America’s greatest metropolis confronts its challenges will undoubtedly provide architects working elsewhere with useful lessons. 

I’ll leave New York greatly enriched by the experience and am grateful for having taken the opportunity. More to come in future posts.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018 AIA-Southwestern Oregon Design Awards

The 2018 AIA-SWO Design Awards ceremony was held at the Ford Alumni Center on the University of Oregon campus. The pre-event, well-stocked cash-bar was very popular! (Photo by AIA-SWO)

The purpose of the AIA Southwestern Oregon Chapter Design Awards is to celebrate achievements in design excellence by member firms, generate greater public interest in architecture, and honor the architects, clients, and consultants who work together to enhance our built environment. Because the awards program only occurs every four years or so, each one is truly special. The 2018 edition was no exception. The breadth and quality of the entrants reflected the continued improvement in the fortunes of the architecture and construction marketplace since the last program, and certainly met expectations bred by long years of anticipation since the last AIA-SWO design awards program in 2014. 

Big thanks to the Design Awards Committee—led by Jenna Fribley, AIA—which assembled an outstanding group of jurors to evaluate the design submissions for this year’s awards program: 

Gary Aquilina, AIA – Principal, CAS Architects 
Ruth Baleiko, AIA – Partner, Miller Hull 
Robert Hastings, FAIA (jury chair) – Agency Architect, TriMet 
Cassandra Keller – Principal, Clark Keller 
Carrie Strickland, FAIA – Principal, Works Progress Architecture 

2018 AIASWO DA Juror Intros from frank visconti on Vimeo.

The jury selected a total of 11 projects to receive awards. Of these, two are student projects, four are Citation Award winners, two received Merit Awards, and three are Honor Award recipients (the AIA’s highest commendation). 

Speranza Architecture + Urban Design was the evening’s big winner. The jury bestowed three of the Citation Awards and one Honor Award on the young firm. Principal and founder Phil Speranza, AIA—also an assistant professor at the UO College of Design, and a relatively recent transplant from the east coast—is someone to keep an eye on as his firm leaves its mark on the local architectural scene in the years to come. 

Past AIA-SWO president (2016) Stan Honn, AIA emceed the event. Current president Frank Visconti, AIA presented the awards to the recipients, while jury chair Bob Hastings, FAIA shared some of the jury’s comments for all the winning entries. 

Here is the list of the 2018 AIA-SWO Design Awards Program recipients: 

Honor Awards:

UO Student Recreation Center
Poticha Architects 
Owner/Client: University of Oregon 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“A wonderful achievement in unifying a series of existing buildings. The design utilized creative strategies to connect a disparate set of buildings who were built at different times, and with different program, materials, and construction. In particular the ceiling treatments created both a sense of continuity, while also providing for individual program activities. Strong visual connections between spaces and activities improved the sense of the community. The jury was impressed how active and contemplative spaces could be accommodated without compromise. 

“Environmental performance of the buildings’ systems actually enhanced the interior activities, while providing access and exposure of the external environment. The building’s external elevations, materials, and lighting create strong connections to the University urban design and enhance its qualities.” 

Arts and Technology Academy 
Owner/Client:  4J Eugene School District 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“A fantastic renovation of an existing school that interprets a new pedagogy for STEM curriculum with a new organization for this middle school. The result feels like a completely new institution that embraces open and transparent spaces for learning. New relationships are skillfully organized both in plan and section by providing places of learning for classes and well as small groups and individual spaces. 

“The result is a unifying whole of existing spaces, materials, and structure with the new additions that create a complete translation for the school. Particular skill was demonstrated in the architectural treatments that unify existing structure, materials, and spaces with the new construction. The end result is both robust and delicate…elegant and durable.” 

Push Pull House 
Owner/Client: Jeff & Victoria Wilson-Charles 
Location: Veneta, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“While simple and elegant in plan the house’s sections create a vibrant juxtaposition. Careful attention to the use of volumes for lighting, heating, and cooling results in poetic special contrasts.  The use of common materials…wood, plaster, concrete, and glass…have been masterfully orchestrated to create un-common spaces. 

“The jury commends the building’s craftsmanship, especially considering the modest construction cost, and how it accentuates the power of well design spaces. The overall effect creates a beautiful relationship between inner space and the surrounding forest environment.” 

Merit Awards:

Roosevelt Middle School 
Owner/Client: Eugene School District 4J 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“The plan of the school strongly reflects its mission to provide places of learning, social interaction, and teacher – student engagement. Transparency between small group, corridors, and vertical transition directly correlate with the school’s educational purpose. Throughout the interior, glazing and openings are arranged to promote both the sense of connectedness, and how people come together. 

“The jury commends how this school helps students transition from child to young adult, by encouraging exploration and discovery in a wonderful learning environment. In particular, the jury was impressed by the thoughtful use of glazing, color, lighting, and wall materials to create a sense of permanence and transition.” 

1203 Willamette 
Owner/Client: 1203 Willamette, LLC 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“The adaptive reuse of a 1940’s era furniture store with limited relationship to the life of downtown Eugene, is a terrific case study of urban revitalization. The design decision to use removal rather than insertion proved to be an excellent strategy. By engaging both levels of the original building, it completely transforms the streetscape and greatly contributes to the City’s livability. 

“The jury commends the use of the building’s elements of wood structure, open fenestrations, and authentic materials to create lively interior and exterior spaces. In particular, the jury recognizes the careful proportions, scale of spaces, use of elemental materials, interior and exterior lighting, vertical circulation and layering of movement.” 

Citation Awards: 

Roseburg Forest Products 
Owner/Client: Roseburg Forest Projects 
Location: Springfield, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“What could have been another example of treating large box buildings as part of our disposable society instead became a wonderful revitalization. The plan to organize the perimeter of the triangulated building into open offices, while enlivening the center with gathering and meeting spaces, resulted in a compete transformation. The clear use of materials, color, natural and artificial lighting, and furnishings is exemplary. What is especially powerful is the creation of a central space that promotes and engenders equity.” 

Eugene Public Food Market 
Owner/Client: Three Muses 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“This proposed adaptive reuse of the former EWEB building could be a significant part of the City’s downtown transformation. This project proposal includes the leveraging of the existing building’s significant elements (most notably the bow-string trusses), but equally important is the programmatic role of a year-round, and night & day, public food market. 

“The jury’s challenge is to incorporate the proposed new tower, complete with LED lighting, as an urban marker for the Market.  It should contribute greatly to the Market’s character, the downtown’s ‘Great Loop’ initiative, and linking to the City’s neighborhoods.” 

Birch Fircrest House 
Owner/Client: Philip Speranza 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“While bold in form, the strength of this house design derives from careful analysis of its site and environmental factors. In plan, section, and elevation the house’s design is consistent in its formal response. 

“The jury is still out on the proposed exterior siding material, window size and placements, and site material treatments. These need careful consideration to achieve a holistic expression of distant and internal relationships.” 

Hult Center for the Performing Arts Plaza Renovation Study 
Owner/Client: City of Eugene Cultural Services 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
“This proposal seeks to enliven the Center’s exterior public space by transforming it into a dynamic series of outdoor spaces, emulating the nature of the Center’s performance hall. However, in this instance the audience becomes the performers. Through careful analysis and gathering of real time data the Plaza would express the qualities of its users. 

“The Jury commends the passion and desire to transform this urban space into something truly ‘world class’, and for supporting and contributing to the City’s ‘Great Loop’ initiative.” 

Student Awards:

The Arch at Hayward Field 
Nicole Giustino, August Lehnert, & Max Moore 
Client: University of Oregon 
Location: Eugene, OR 

Jury Comments: 
  • Innovative use of material(wood) to develop an elegant solution to a functional problem. 
  • Very compelling idea which combines traditional with new state-of-the-art technology. 

Sitka Sedge 
Benjamin Fuglevand 
Client: State of Oregon Visitors Center 
Location: Tillamook County, Oregon Coast 

Jury Comments: 
  • A modern, approach to farming, and teaching. Simple structure, formal response to climate, very believable in its execution and research. Energy modeling provides the designer with validation of design process and goals set for this work. 
  • A wonderfully developed scheme; well thought out and with a compelling brief. Excellent backup data and analysis too. 

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Design awards programs help us to celebrate what we do as architects. They are evidence our profession aspires to be the best it can be. They elevate the quality of our work by setting the bar high. I know I am not alone in looking forward to the next edition and once again recognizing and celebrating the best work of AIA-Southwestern Oregon member firms.