Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Dilemma Approaching Crisis-Level

Two of the Conestoga huts at the Nightingale Conestoga Camp in southeast Eugene (my photo).
Another busy weekend, so this contribution to my blog will have to be short and sweet. And sweet it is to see evidence of a growing appreciation for the problem posed to the Eugene/Springfield community by the shortage of affordable housing, particularly for those whose lack of resources is most acute. Citizen support for a variety of solutions has been encouraging, albeit prompted by a dilemma approaching crisis-level. The following are modest steps toward addressing a vexing and complex challenge, one that cities everywhere are confronting: 
Nightingale Conestoga Camp
My wife and I attended yesterday’s open house event at the Nightingale Conestoga Camp, located just down the street from our home in southeast Eugene. The Nightingale Health Sanctuary has successfully operated a City-authorized rest stop program for over two-and-a-half years. They moved to the location at 3500 Hilyard Street in the Good Samaritan parking lot earlier this year. NHS, Community Supported Shelters, and the Vulnerable Populations Working Group have been working to secure safe, emergency shelter for our most vulnerable populations in response to the homelessness crisis. While not a permanent solution, the Nightingale Conestoga Camp provides safe shelter for those in need during a period of transition in their lives. 
Springfield ADUs
Here’s a link to a Eugene Weekly blog post by Camilla Mortensen. She writes about the City of Springfield’s enlightened decision to waive some systems development charges for accessory dwelling units. SDCs are disproportionately burdensome for “tiny houses” and thus tend to discourage their creation even if the land use code is amenable. ADUs inserted within established neighborhoods take advantage of the infrastructure already at hand (as opposed to requiring the extension of roads and other utilities), so it only makes sense for cities to encourage such an efficient utilization of existing resources. 
Emerald Village
Finally, here’s a link to an article by Register-Guard reporter Derek Maiolo about Emerald Village, a tiny house community where people with very low incomes will have the security and benefit of a permanent home within a stable community. Now taking shape, Emerald Village is a project by SquareOne Villages, a non-profit dedicated to creating self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny homes for people in need of housing. Additionally, Emerald Village is in no small part the product of the generosity and dedication of the participating design-build teams and contractor partners, many of whom are members of AIA-Southwestern Oregon. 
We may never entirely solve the housing affordability quandary, but I am encouraged to see momentum build toward real solutions on a number of fronts.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Guest Viewpoint: Sheldon Wolfe

Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CID, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC
Self-professed “curmudgeon” and “heretic architect,” Sheldon Wolfe is a construction specifier who works in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and a Construction Specifications Institute stalwart and cheerleader for many years. He’s also a prolific writer, having penned more than three-hundred construction-related articles. His TechNotes series discussed CSI technical documents, specifications, and coordination of construction documents; GUI Bytes explored how computers, email, and the Internet can be used to prepare construction documents; he wrote Mr. Wolfe Goes to Washington, about CSI Board activities, during his term as Institute Director. Since then, he’s been well-known to CSI members for his Curmudgeon’s Corner column. In addition, Sheldon maintains two blogs: Specific Thoughts, dedicated to day-to-day musings, and Constructive Thoughts, where he offers more in-depth posts. 
With Sheldon’s permission, I’m publishing here on SW Oregon Architect a recent contribution of his to the CSI-Connect online community forum. Always the zealous advocate, he pointedly and persuasively argues from his perspective why CSI’s certification programs are the surest path to proving a level of knowledge critical to being an effective and competent construction professional. As the chair of the Willamette Valley Chapter’s Certification Committee, I likewise want to see everyone I work with pursue their CDT credential, and beyond that CCCA, CCS, or CCPR certification as appropriate to their circumstances. 
Certification – It’s all about me
I want you to be certified. Becoming certified is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, but to be perfectly clear, I want you to do it for me. Of course, if I never work with you it probably won't affect me, but if you and I are going to work together, I'd like to have some confidence that you know what you're doing. 
What is it that makes certification important? Nearly everyone can, through working with others, through trial and error, and through the School of Hard Knocks, learn about their jobs. But wouldn't it be smarter and faster to acquire that knowledge through study and certification? Although experience may be the best teacher, that teacher doesn't always get it right. Experience might teach you that some things work, but those things might not comply with applicable codes and standards, and might even be illegal. 
Knowledge you may have gained through only experience cannot be verified unless we work together and you have the opportunity to demonstrate what you know. Certification, on the other hand, comes only after proving that you know your stuff. It's true that certification does not guarantee that a person knows something, but it provides a level of confidence that will make it easier for someone else to accept your knowledge and that will shorten the time it takes to build an important relationship. 
If you are certified in your field, I immediately know two things. I know that you care enough about what you do to demonstrate your knowledge. And, by passing the examinations, I know that you have studied and understand those things that are required for your certification. 
Regardless of what product or service you offer in the construction industry, though, you can and should take part in CSI's certification program. To get the CDT, CSI's entry-level credential, you must have a good understanding of the AIA general conditions of the contract, of the relationships between contract documents, and of how the entities involved in construction should interact. I consider this knowledge to be essential, and when meeting new product representatives, the first thing I do is look for CDT on their business cards. If it's there, they have immediate credibility. If it's not there, I explain what it is and why it will be important for them when dealing with other specifiers. 
CSI's advanced certifications show a greater commitment to providing superior service. The CCS, CCPR, and CCCA show that a person knows even more about construction documents and about the roles and responsibilities of manufacturer, supplier, and other members of the construction team. It's important to note that the CCS is not limited to specifiers and should be considered by those who write specifications, such as hardware representatives, for their companies.
I want you to enjoy the benefits of certification, but I also want you to be as good as you can be when we work together. Specifiers have a simple job: know everything. Unfortunately, I can't know everything about the countless products and processes involved in construction, nor can any specifier. So please, give us a hand—learn as much as you can and prove your knowledge through certification!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Our Changing Downtown: What’s Going to Happen?

The West Park Block on a recent sunny afternoon (my photo)

In addition to the proclamation of 2017-2018 as Paul Edlund Year and the presentation of the annual chapter awards, last month’s meeting of the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute featured a presentation on the City of Eugene’s efforts to make its downtown safer, cleaner, and more welcoming to all.

City Planner Will Dowdy and Facilities Director Jeff Perry began by enumerating the reasons why downtown is important. Too many people, they said, do not understand why a vibrant downtown should be an imperative and fail to recognize its importance to the overall vitality of the community. The bottom line is downtown Eugene is the civic heart of the region: the city’s economic engine, cultural center, and living room. In the reality of today’s economy, a vital downtown is critical to attracting the talent and capital that in turn bring well-paying jobs, economic prosperity, and the positive feedback that accelerates further investment.

Will and Jeff described how the City of Eugene commissioned New York-based Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit planning, design, and educational organization renowned for its work around the globe helping communities bring about catalytic changes through the creation and implementation of specific placemaking strategies. PPS founder and president Fred Kent brought to the task the detached perspective of an outsider, immediately recognizing how Eugene should seize upon a “wonderfully transformative time” by boldly implementing a suite of short-term interventions with the goal of spurring long-term changes.

PPS canvassed citizens regarding what they perceived to be downtown’s strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side of the ledger, they saw downtown as ripe with potential, a “great destination,” very walkable, and attractive to creative and engaging people. On the flip side, the seeming lack of public safety, and the absence of opportunities for family and child-friendly activities were noted as shortcomings. Prompted by the feedback it gathered, PPS generated a series of recommendations for effecting immediate improvements intended to transform the public’s perception of downtown.

The proposed improvements are of the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” variety often espoused by PPS as highly effective means to inject life and energy into a community’s public space. The core principle is that simple, short-term, and low-cost solutions can have remarkable impacts on the shaping of neighborhoods and cities. The most successful of these interventions have resulted in lasting and profound changes that bring life and amenities to previously lifeless and forlorn public spaces, foster civic pride, and generate enthusiasm for further investment (both public and private).

PPS focused upon four of downtown’s key public spaces:

They envision the Park Blocks, in conjunction with the new City Hall, an expanded Farmers Market, and the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, reemerging as the “Heart of Eugene” in the manner of its historical incarnation as the city’s public green. The West Park Block would become the civic plaza, providing a daily home for food & beverage vendors and games, while the East Park Block would offer activities for families with children and a versatile performance space.

Will and Jeff described the city’s plan to build a new dining deck (quickly and inexpensively) at the south edge of the West Park Block. The goal is to have the deck in place within the next month. Their hope is it will serve as a measure of what the Park Blocks might become, perhaps presaging more substantial and permanent improvements as public support builds and funds become available.

The City of Eugene's proposed dining deck, to be installed this summer at the south end of the West Park Block.

PPS imagines Broadway Plaza (Kesey Square), as the center of the shopping and entertainment district—the commercial focal point of the downtown. It would include an outdoor café to activate the space from morning until night.

The City’s initial proposed intervention is a cable-suspended fabric awning that would cover the space, providing shelter from the hot summer sun and rain during inclement months. I’m enthusiastic about how positive an impact upon the life of Kesey Square the awning might prove to be, perhaps more so than for the proposed dining deck at the Park Blocks. I simply believe this similarly inexpensive action will have an outsized impact upon the character of the space for the better. With luck, the awning may prove to be an act of “tactical urbanism” at its finest, albeit perhaps a fleeting one. Like the dining deck, the City hopes to have the awning in place later this summer.

The proposed cable-suspended fabric awning over Kesey Square.

PPS pictures the Library Plaza as consisting of all four corners at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Olive Street. Visible, positive activity would welcome people to Eugene, creating the sense of a “gateway to the downtown.”

The role PPS sees for the Hult Plaza would be to continue its role as the outdoor presence of Eugene’s premier cultural magnet; however, the propose rebuilding it to be more visible and flexible, so that uses will expand to include convention-related activities.

Already established, ongoing projects the City has implemented include pressure-washing of the sidewalks and maintenance (using eco-friendly means) of the hanging flower baskets that adorn lamp posts throughout downtown. The City provides an attended, mobile restroom by the Park Blocks, and friendly park ambassadors who oversees maintenance and programming of the activities there.

The key to the success of all the proposed projects is to attract a critical mass of people downtown through programming and activation. PPS has found that programming and activation of public spaces, whether through special events or everyday activities, can go a long way toward attracting a broader population downtown, improving safety, and supporting local businesses.

The corollary to programming and activation is the need for robust management. The most successful parks and public spaces in the country are remarkable not only in terms of sheer popularity, but also because they have developed successful organizational structures that are able to bring together a vast array of stakeholders under one umbrella. Will and Jeff say the City of Eugene acknowledges the need to work with partner organizations (such as the County, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Eugene, Inc., and the Downtown Eugene Merchants) to establish the necessary management structure to ensure the success of their efforts.

I’m cautiously optimistic the various projects will build momentum toward lasting changes that will finally help us achieve the downtown we’ve always wanted. The remedies need to be holistic. For example, we can’t simply view what ails downtown solely through the lens of law enforcement; the issues are much, much broader in scope. Approaching the problems from a wide-ranging perspective that encompasses place-making, business development, the role of public agencies, the issue of homelessness, and crime deterrence is necessary if we’re to be successful.

Thanks to Will and Jeff for a timely update on what we can look forward to soon in downtown Eugene!

*    *    *    *    *    *

As I mentioned above, the June chapter meeting featured the announcement of the annual CSI-WVC awards. Congratulations and thanks to award recipients David Jones, Marina Wrensch, Kate Miller, Rhonda Tiger, and Linn West for their outstanding service. The June meeting also marked the changing of the guard as outgoing president Jim Chaney handed over the ceremonial gavel to Tom Jordan and the reins of the chapter to Tom’s incoming board of directors. Let Tom know if you’re interested in volunteering for a chapter committee. I have no doubt great things are in store for the next chapter year!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Paul Edlund Year

Me with CSI legend Paul Edlund, FCSI a few years ago at the 2014 CSI West & Northwest Regions conference in Portland

A definite highlight of the annual meeting of the CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter held last Thursday was the presentation of a very special resolution and its passage by the members present. By passing the resolution, the members pronounced the twelve months of the 2017-2018 chapter calendar as “Paul Edlund Year” in honor of its most decorated member on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

Paul was a charter member for the chapter at the time of its establishment in 1965. Since that time, he served tirelessly as the chapter’s sage, heart, and soul. There is no doubt he influenced, taught, mentored, and befriended more WVC members than any other single person in the chapter’s long history. In addition to his immeasurable contributions at the chapter level, Paul has also played a significant role in helping CSI flourish at the region and national levels, serving on various institute technical committees, the national board, and more.

Paul couldn’t attend our meeting but I’m sure he is at once deeply flattered by the chapter’s gesture and grateful for the opportunities CSI presented him throughout his rewarding career. Thanks Paul for all that you’ve done for the Institute and, on a more personal note, for being a wonderful mentor to me for so many years!

Here’s the full text of the resolution:


WHEREAS, Paul Edlund was instrumental in the organization and chartering of the Willamette Valley chapter in October, 1965; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund went on to lead the chapter in 1967, to serve on Institute committees for over 20 years commencing in 1969, and has continued to serve, inspire, and mentor the chapter for well over 50 ensuing years; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund was the first member of the Willamette Valley chapter to be elevated to Fellowship in the Institute, the first to be named a Certified Construction Specifier, and has performed exemplary service in high positions such as Region director and Institute vice-president; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund has brought recognition to the chapter and himself through uncountable awards, including the highest awards given by the chapter, the Northwest Region, and the Institute, including being one of only 13 individuals in the history of the Institute to be named a Distinguished Member; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund has made unparalleled contributions to the continuous improvement and development of design and execution in the construction industry, exhibiting at all times the highest levels of professionalism, humilty, integrity, intelligence, and good humor;

NOW THEREFORE, on the occasion of Paul Edlund's 90th birthday, and on the occasion of the 51st annual meeting of the Willamette Valley chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute;

BE IT RESOLVED that, in honor of PAUL EDLUND, FCSI, CCS, Distinguished Member, the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute hereby resolves and declares that the 2017-18 chapter year is designated PAUL EDLUND YEAR, in grateful appreciation for Paul Edlund's many and notable achievements and unparalleled contributions to the success of the chapter and the design and construction industry at large.

By resolution of the Willamette Valley Chapter, at its meeting held this 29th day of June, 2017 by acclamation of the members attending.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Joe Valasek

AIA-Southwestern Oregon’s June chapter meeting was a real treat. Not only were the winning Eugene Parklet design competition winners announced, but attendees also enjoyed a tour of the studio wood carver Joe Valasek set up in Glenwood for his company Carveture. Though trained as a carver & sculptor using traditional hand tools, Joe is now a leading proponent of the potential and precision of automated CNC routing to create intricate bas-relief carvings.

Joe fully exploits the capabilities of 3D modeling software, 3D scanners, and computer-controlled industrial machinery to explore the artistic potential of textured surfaces and innovate carving techniques. Joe photogrammetrically translates the projective geometry of objects and textures he finds interesting to digital information he can then creatively manipulate and transfer to Carveture’s CNC machinery.

The large scale of many of Carveture’s projects would be incredibly time-consuming and thus expensive to produce without the benefit of these technologies. Joe works with various species of wood, MDF, metals, stones, plastics, and other materials. A lucrative market for Joe’s work is Hawaii, where developers of resort hotels and high-end homes prize his island-themed carvings. Using indigenous woods (such as koa or ironwood), many of the designs feature abstractions of natural motifs—leaves, waves, ripples in sand, and others.

Joe described the history of the studio Carveture now occupies. Famed master pipe organ builder John Brombaugh designed the building in 1977 specifically to accommodate the fabrication of large pipe organs. Brombaugh would go on to build dozens of spectacular organs for installations worldwide. He intended the lofty height of the main shop area precisely to allow the assembly and testing of the tallest instruments; it now provides a commodious and pleasant work environment for Carveture. The building’s remote location at the end of N. Brooklyn Street overlooking the Willamette River is likewise a world apart and an apt setting for Joe’s creative work.

The potential applications of Carveture’s decorative fine art panels, ornaments, sculpted doors, and carved and painted walls in architecture are limitless. As architects renew their interest in the aesthetic and symbolic potential of ornament, I expect the demand for products generated by Carveture’s automated technologies will grow exponentially.


Big thanks to Joe for hosting AIA-SWO’s June chapter meeting. His presentation, offering a sneak peek into Carveture’s work processes, and the tour of Carveture’s studio, were thoroughly informative and enjoyable.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eugene Parklet Competition Winners

The four downtown Eugene parking spots to be transformed into "parklets" this summer.

AIA-Southwestern Oregon 2017 president Katie Hall, AIA and organizing committee chairperson Carolina Trabuco, Assoc. AIA announced the winners of the inaugural Eugene Parklet competition at the June AIA-SWO chapter meeting. Though the competition itself is only the first phase of the Parklet 2017 initiative, it’s clear from its auspicious results the project will be nothing less than a great success.

As I mentioned previously, the Parklet Competition is a byproduct of a partnership between the City of Eugene Parking Department (EPark) and AIA-Southwestern Oregon, with the support of downtown merchants, Toolbox Project, CSI Willamette Valley Chapter, and ASLA Oregon. The organizers goals for the project include reimagining the potential of our downtown streets, encouraging non-motorized transportation, enhancing pedestrian safety and activities, and fostering community interaction.

The competition is more than just a visioning exercise. The City of Eugene is providing up to $2,000 to each of the winning designs for materials and related construction costs to radically transform four downtown parking spaces. Three of the parking spaces are on Broadway: one each in front of Townshend’s, Starbucks, and the Bijou theatre; and one parking space on Olive Street in front of the University of Oregon’s new innovation hub RAIN. Once built, the parklets will remain in place for 1-2 months before disassembly. The current schedule anticipates installation occurring during the latter half of July, in time for the July 30 Downtown Sunday Streets event. The parklets will additionally be featured destinations for the August 5 First Friday Art Walk.

The members of the competition jury were Will Dowdy (City of Eugene), Jen Bell (Bell + Funk), David Dougherty (Dougherty Landscape Architects), Eric Gunderson, and Brian Cavenaugh (Architecture Building Culture). The jury evaluated a total of 13 submissions, ultimately selecting four outstanding schemes:

SIT (im.a.bench)

SIT (im.a.bench)
PIVOT Architecture (Kelley Howell, Kari Turner, Tom Moss, Clayton Arrowood, Shirin Majlesien, Craig Runyon, Angela Wilson)
Recommended site:  A

Design Narrative:
Just like the idea of a parklet occupying a parking spot, the IM.A.BENCH design is as whimsical as it is simple. Its vibrant colors and playful design will encourage people to pause for a moment, interact with one another, and enjoy a different experience downtown. Keeping patrons engaged and active downtown will enhance the livability and encourage people to visit more regularly. Safety is a paramount factor in the design and people of all abilities will be able to use the structure by either using the letters as a seat or pulling up alongside it. The words “Open to the Public” are displayed across the vertical wall to boldly invite everyone to utilize the public realm in which the installation occupies. The form of the structure allows for visitors to spend time enjoying a beverage from a local business, reading a paper, sharing conversation, or simply enjoying the opportunity to relax and enjoy downtown Eugene! It is seen as a natural extension of the public sidewalk and encourages a vibrant node of activity alongside local businesses.

The structure will consist of smooth plywood with a colorful veneer coating that encourages patrons both through its design and message: “Sit.” The vertical letters will be constructed of pre-painted sheet metal resting on a plywood base that is flush with the curb and treated with slip-resistant paint. The supporting understructure would consist of reclaimed wood pallets. The plywood would be locally sourced with no added formaldehyde. The design is digitally modeled to optimize the fabrication of the materials and reduce waste. Construction scraps will be recycled.

During construction and decommissioning of IM.A.BENCH, the surrounding areas will feel very little impact. The project will be constructed in modules off site and reassembled during off-peak times to minimize disruption to the important thoroughfare. Once the parklet is slated to be removed, it will be very quickly deconstructed. The project can be transported and reinstalled virtually anywhere. The construction is easy to assemble with minimal tools and utilizes straightforward details.

With slip-resistant lettering that continues onto the sidewalk as an option, the parklet will be attention grabbing and engaging. Outdoor seating for the businesses that occupy the adjacent areas will reap the most reward by having access to valuable outdoor space during the summer months. The parklet can also serve as a showcase during Downtown Eugene events such as First Friday or EUGfun!

Jury Comments:
  • It’s rare to see bold graphics in Eugene. We tend to be more about earthy colors and organic textures. It was nice to see something bold and colorful that will really stand out on the street.
  • A bold and singular place that will surprise and enliven downtown.
  • Simple and bold.  Eye catching and whimsical.
  • Simple and vibrant with bold imagery.  This parklet is sure to draw a crowd of sitters.
Vivid Summer
Vivid Summer
Lindsey Deaton and Christopher Becker
Recommended site: B

Design Narrative:
Eugene’s vibrant summer spaces support spontaneous sidewalk chats, people watching, and sunbathing. The VIVID SUMMER parklet is a community node day and night. Artistically, the parklet is a motif for the power generated when unique individuals form community, as distinct wood panels construct strong geometric shapes.

Bright canvas shading devices announce the presence of a new street feature and draw pedestrians to neighboring pop-up retail pods. The built-in seating supports a variety of activities as well as spaces for individuals, couples, and small groups. Wide ledges accommodate drinks and computers. A standing-height counter transitions pedestrians into the parklet.

As the sun sets, the VIVID SUMMER parklet begins to glow; daylight sensors trigger an internal network of embedded LEDs to bath the benches in soft tones. These lights cast a beautiful array of summer colors on the benches and increase the safety of the space by illuminating a potentially dark corner of the street. The lights are powered by a small, secure PV panel that can be attached directly to the parklet or a neighboring roof.

Jury Comments:
  • This was the only entry that gave much consideration to night time. The people downtown during the day and the ones here at night are generally not the same people. So it allows the people here for the nightlife to enjoy the parklets.
  • Vibrant and lively, The lighting will be a great place for evening selfies.
  • The sharp geometry and soft lighting crates an urban ensemble that will complement the existing Broadway streetscape.

Cameron McCarthy (Larry Gilbert, Justin Lanphear, Zach Rix, Nick Mercado, Vivian Schoung, Ali McQueen)
Recommended site: C

Design Narrative:
The great irony of public spaces is that they serve as locations to gather, experience urban environments, and deepen our understanding of place. Yet, often we lose this notion of experience and use public space as a means of getting from one point to another. We miss the opportunity to fully understand our urban environments.

The goal of pinYOUgene is to create a parklet that strengthens the social fabric of downtown by providing the opportunity to creatively engage with our community, sit and relax, bolster safe and interactive street-level activity, explore downtown, and share our stories.

This parklet is designed for one of the three Broadway locations. Sidewalk users are drawn into the parklet by an interactive downtown map identifying local examples of history, art, and landscapes that visitors are encouraged to explore; built-in seating surrounded by semi-transparent slat screens, both built from locally salvaged trees; vegetated planters; and a 3-D optical manipulation on the street side.

The floor of the parklet is painted with lines and words that lead to the metal chalkboard-coated map of downtown Eugene at the center of the space. This map depicts Google Map-inspired magnetic pins that correspond to examples of local history, art, and meaningful landscapes within downtown. The map also invites visitors to plot their own course using the magnetic pins to mark pivotal or meaningful locations in their lives. In addition, the interior walls of the parklet are coated with chalkboard paint (chalk will continue to be provided throughout the display of the parklet), and visitors can write or draw their experiences discovering Eugene.

Jury Comments:
  • This one tells a bigger story about downtown and encourages people to check out downtown landmarks.
  • Participatory and thoughtful.  Invites us to think about downtown places. 
  • Will bring an interactive experience to downtown that will provide entertainment for all ages, especially the all-to-frequently overlooked children.
  • The diverse yet unified materials are used in a compelling way to create space while interpreting the urban context. 
Framing Parklet

Framing Parklet
Propel Studio (Sam Sudy and Lucas Gray)
Recommended site: D

Design Narrative:
Nestled in front of Townshends: Eugene’s Teahouse, this parklet would serve as an extension of the sidewalk, for passerby and tea drinkers to linger and converse. The concept for this parklet arose from the idea of frames: framing the city, framing nature, framing the pedestrian. Stacked together in a row, frames provide a series of filters, creating visual appeal as one looks down the row. Looking perpendicularly to the frames, small pockets of semi-private spaces become apparent, sandwiched between each frame. Made of everyday materials—rebar and wood—this parklet will be easy to construct. The four frames and the three platforms sandwiched between are independent units, allowing the entire parklet to be broken down and transported with ease.
From their base, the frames offer rigidity and a solid foundation of 2x2 purple-stained wood, both to provide seating and to enclose planter boxes. Plants such as lavender were selected, not only because they coordinate with the colors of the frames, but because of their durability within the local climate of Eugene, minimizing ongoing care and watering requirements.
Above the base, spray-painted rebar reveals a more delicate structure of plantings above, allowing for a visual connection between the sidewalk and the street while still providing a buffer for safety and ambience. At night, the glow in the dark spray paint highlights the grid of the rebar and continues its visual appeal through dusk and into the night.
Jury Comments:
  • This one is uniquely shaped, and the frames allow for visual connection between the sidewalk and the street. It also allows space for someone to sit alone (not on a shared bench), which for people who work downtown and might be on a break alone is appealing.
  • A spatial experience that allow claiming your own place in the city.
  • The blend of wood metal and plant fits into the urban garden of Broadway.
  • A pleasing composition of strength and elegance

*    *    *    *    *    *

Kudos to each of the winning teams. I’m looking forward to seeing your designs become reality! Congratulations too to Carolina Trabuco and the members of her Parklet Competition committee. You quickly organized and implemented the competition in impressive fashion.

During their brief appearance this summer, I predict the parklets will prove wildly popular, attracting enthusiastic use and the attention of local media. The project may prove to be among the most effective ever undertaken by AIA-SWO in its efforts to raise the profile of our design community and showcasing the value of skilled problem-solving applied in creative and imaginative ways.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Change, Challenges, and Responsibilities


Jim Robertson, FAIA, FCSI, and Carl Sherwood, AIA announced my promotion this past week from Senior Associate to Principal at Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc. I’m truly honored by the opportunity to work alongside Jim and Carl in this new capacity.

When I first embarked on a life in architecture, I thought I knew where it would take me or at least where I wanted it to. Since then, I’ve traveled a considerable distance down a steady professional track with few twists and turns along the way. Indeed, by several measures, I passed by the “mid-career” point a while ago without stopping to reflect upon how far I’d come or thinking much about my ultimate destination. I enjoyed the rhythm of my work, chugging away on project after project while doing what I could to keep each safely on the rails.

During the entire journey, I’ve been blessed to enjoy the company of outstanding associates and mentors. Jim and Carl have been tremendous in this regard, and I cannot thank them enough for this expression of confidence in me. I do hope I can reward them in turn by doing my part to ensure the continued success of the firm. Without a doubt, the future will be exciting. As I assume an increased leadership role, I look forward to helping Jim and Carl realize RSA’s full potential.

I was, and might still have been, very comfortable simply going along for the ride. Did I start out with ambitions of one day being in a position of firm leadership? Of course. Most who enter the profession do so with similar aspirations. I’ve also been paralyzingly risk-averse. I will need to do what I can to shed my risk aversion, a least a bit, if I am to become an effective principal.

I do anticipate new responsibilities, challenges, and raised expectations will accompany my changed role. I expect to remain who I am but also imagine stepping out of my skin a bit. For example, building the capabilities of our organization will become a focus of my work in the years ahead, as it is for most principals at architecture firms.

RSA’s hallmarks are attention to detail, focus on service, emphasis on the value of teamwork, and a supportive, family-friendly office culture. These form our core corporate ideology, and contribute significantly to the production of outstanding projects. Embracing change should likewise be part of our philosophy. As a new principal, I expect to work with Jim and Carl and the rest of our staff to visualize tomorrow’s version of our firm.

One thing our clients can count on is our continued commitment to provide them with the highest level of professional services. We regard every project as unique, taking pride in our ability to develop a clear and exceptional vision for each one. We constantly strive for creative solutions that exceed expectations. While always mindful of the intended use and budget constraints for the facilities we design, we also work toward the goal of creating buildings and spaces that will delight, inspire, and improve the lives of those that encounter them. We want our designs to express their function in meaningful and interesting ways. We want our projects to relate appropriately to their surroundings. We know who we are—our capabilities and why our clients come to us—and this will not change.

I arrived at this station of my life later than I originally expected to, if I expected to come to it at all following decades of secure contentment as an employee. Change always brings apprehension but it also signals opportunity and the potential for something new and wonderful over the horizon. As the train switches tracks and pulls away, I find myself on board looking forward to an incredibly fulfilling passage ahead.