Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunspaces in the Land of Fog and Moss

Passive solar heating illustration.Image via Wikipedia

For its first meeting of 2011, the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is pleased to host building scientist Alexandra Rempel, Ph.D., M.Arch., of Solarc Architecture and Engineering. Her presentation is entitled "Sunspaces in the Land of Fog and Moss: Thermal and Architectural Investigations of Passive Solar Heating in Northern Climates.” The free lecture will take place at BRING's Planet Improvement Center, 4446 Franklin Boulevard, Glenwood on January 5, 2011, beginning at 7 PM.

Alex will pose the question of whether passive solar heating can be worthwhile in a cool, wet, overcast climate. In 1981, researchers at the International Solar Energy Society showed that as latitude increases, the need for heat rises more rapidly than the solar resource diminishes. They concluded that passive solar heating is actually more valuable at higher latitudes than lower ones, even in rainy climates. Ironically, our regional building culture largely overlooks passive solar heating, even as months of cloudy skies compel people to design for optimal daylighting.

Alex's discussion will set the stage for a combined mathematical modeling and field study, beginning in January, which has the goal of understanding sunspace characteristics in Eugene's climate. Those who attend the presentation are encouraged to share their experiences and opinions.

The SW Oregon (Eugene) Chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild has provided hundreds of free public events on the subject of sustainable design. Past topics have included passive solar design, cellular concrete, and earthen buildings. The Guild provides open-source educational tools to the construction industry and the general public in order to encourage building practices that dramatically reduce carbon emissions, are self-sustaining, contribute to local economies, and create optimal conditions for human health and community. If you’re not already a member and are interested in networking, sharing, and learning with others sustainable builders, visit and join the Guild.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

December AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Ho, ho, ho!!! Holiday cheer in abundance at OPUS VII during the December 2010 AIA-Southwestern Oregon chapter meeting. (my photo)

This year’s AIA-SWO Holiday Party took place at OPUS VII, previously the site of the 2010 AIA-Southwestern Oregon People’s Choice Awards display and awards presentation. The space provided a perfectly jolly backdrop during this season of generosity and good will. The holidays are all about being with family; in this case it was over sixty members of the AIA-SWO family that gathered to enjoy the cheerful festivities. We shared the gift of each other’s company, good food, and good design, courtesy of OPUS VII’s proprietor, Kaz Oveissi.

The purpose of OPUS VII is to recognize, reward, and showcase mastery in art, architecture, and design. It is a space built to introduce the community to the creative world and win the hearts and minds of every guest. Kaz’s hope is that visitors will be surprised by what they see at OPUS VII, and leave with a sense of possibility. He envisions OPUS VII bringing to Eugene the power of authentic and creative ideas.

Featured during the AIA-SWO Holiday Party was OPUS VII’s display about the work and process of Ziba, the Portland-based design and innovation consultancy. Ziba is renowned for its cutting-edge design of many inventive products, environments, and interactive experiences. The OPUS VII display lays bare the creative process Ziba uses to design products for companies such as Microsoft, Sirius, Umpqua Bank, KitchenAid, and Memorex. The many parallels between the design processes employed by Ziba and those used by architects are very much in evidence. If you haven’t already done so, you owe yourself a visit to OPUS VII to see the Ziba show before the end of its run on December 31.

On deck at OPUS VII is GO, DESIGN, GO!, an exhibit that will explore cutting-edge design in the transportation industry. This immersive, dynamic, and multimedia-focused installation will showcase nine local and regional experts dedicated to innovation in transportation technology. Kaz describes GO, DESIGN, GO! as a hands-on, interactive exhibit that will continue OPUS VII’s commitment to showcase beautiful design that makes an impact on our everyday life. The new exhibit will open Friday, January 7, 2011 and continue through the end of February.

OPUS VII holds great promise as a vessel for mutually beneficial and productive cross-fertilization between art, architecture, and design. Kudos to Kaz Oveissi for bringing creative people of all stripes together, injecting design energy into downtown Eugene, and producing museum-style exhibits that appeal to a broad audience.

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Our December program sponsor was Summit Bank. Summit Bank is a Eugene-based enterprise dedicated to meeting the banking needs of small businesses and professionals in our community. Led by CEO & President Anne Marie Mehlum, its management team knows that small businesses like AIA-SWO member firms are the bedrock of our local economy. Summit Bank wants to help AIA-SWO members succeed and offers a full range of personal and commercial banking services at the best rates and lowest costs.

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December marks my last month as past-president for AIA-Southwestern Oregon and as a delegate to the AIA-Oregon Board of Directors. I originally started SW Oregon Architect as a forum for the discussion of items that might be of interest to chapter members when I joined the AIA-SWO Board of Directors in 2008. Even though I no longer will be a member of the chapter board, I’ll carry on blogging about AIA-SWO activities. I will also continue commenting about architecture in general. My hope is that AIA-SWO members will stick with SW Oregon Architect for many years to come. If you haven’t already done so, bookmark SW Oregon Architect or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Happy Holidays everyone! And my best wishes to all of you for 2011!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

University of Oregon Faculty Position

University of Oregon logo.Image via Wikipedia
Associate or Assistant Professor in Architecture
University of Oregon

The University of Oregon Department of Architecture seeks an innovative colleague to teach design studios and design communication courses. It wants to add an educator with expertise in integrating traditional and emerging digital media into the design process, from initial concept generation to final building presentation. The appointee will be expected to pursue a well-defined research agenda in an area such as architectural representation, digital fabrication, building information modeling or other computational methods. Previous teaching and professional experience in architecture or a specialty related to design communication are desirable. Candidates should hold an appropriate advanced degree and demonstrate the potential for achievement in both teaching and research.

The University of Oregon Department of Architecture is a national leader in sustainable design. It would especially welcome applicants whose design media approaches could enhance sustainability education and research and their relationship to other areas of our program. This appointment will begin in September 2011.

The Department of Architecture also has these distinguished visiting positions open:

Frederick Charles Baker Chair in Architectural Design. The Baker Chair is an endowed chair with a special focus on the study of light and lighting as a phenomenon in architectural design.

Pietro Belluschi Distinguished Visiting Professor in Architectural Design. Belluschi professors are prominent architects and architectural educators who will bring true distinction and unique opportunities to the University of Oregon.

Margo Grant Walsh Professorship in Interior Architecture. This professorship supports a prominent visiting designer, architect, or educator to teach, lecture, and counsel future generations of design students.

Julie Neupert Stott Visiting Professor in Interior Architectural Design. This professorship supports an internationally recognized scholar and/or professional in the field of interior architecture to teach and lecture design students.

For more information, see:
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Electronic Plan Review

The City of Springfield (Oregon) Development Services Division is in the process of developing a system for electronic plan review.

Submitting electronic permit documents for review and approval by the City of Springfield could offer significant benefits for all parties involved. These benefits include the potential for greater efficiency, accuracy, and clarity. In addition, a complete history of the plan review process could be readily archived. The City is committed to supporting and developing this process, and looks forward to collaborating with the local design community to make it the best it can be.

Plans would need to be submitted to the City in a pdf format. Many CAD programs have the option of saving the drawing as a pdf file. Submitted in this format, reviewers can add comments and notes without changing the underlying drawing. An added benefit is that electronic submission of plans could save customers hundreds of dollars in printing costs, not to mention more than a few trees.

Many other municipalities across the country have already adopted electronic plan review. For example, Bend, OR and Mercer Island, WA have implemented such systems.

The City of Springfield is currently defining the policies and procedures for this process, and would like to have a mailing list or other means to keep the design community informed of developments. It plans on comparing the electronic and traditional permit application processes by conducting parallel reviews of simple single-family dwelling or small commercial projects.

If you’re interested in offering your views about the prospect of electronic plan review at the City of Springfield, contact Chris Carpenter at the City of Springfield. The City would welcome your input regarding communications and process development. Chris’ contact information is below:

Chris Carpenter
Plans Examiner
Springfield Community Services
225 Fifth Street
Springfield, Oregon 97477
(541) 744.4153
(541) 726.3676 Fax

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Facilities Vision for A&AA

The University of Oregon’s School of Architecture & Allied Arts (A&AA) is presently spread across 13 to 15 campus buildings, but its physical heart has always been Lawrence Hall. The consensus of school administrators and faculty is that Lawrence has ceased to meet the growing needs of the school. Accordingly, the University plans to develop a new home for A&AA. As an alumnus of the school, I am very interested in all aspects of its long-term future and its prospects for retaining the high national regard it currently enjoys.

I was aware that the University sought to retain an innovative and broad-thinking team to facilitate discussions about A&AA’s future. After all, I had seen the Request for Proposals issued last August. However, I had not paid attention as the selection process unfolded. I did not know who the University selected to shape a “bold and precise vision to guide the development of new facilities for A&AA.”

So, I was intrigued this last week when I happened to read an online Oregon Daily Emerald article about the A&AA visioning process. The article reported that the University had selected a team of design and engineering companies headed by design firm Bruce Mau Design (BMD) of Toronto and Chicago. Joining BMD is Los Angeles-based architecture laboratory Yazdani Studio, as well as the international engineering firm Arup.

It’s important to emphasize that the University has not charged the BMD team to design the proposed new facility. Instead, the goal is to describe the design principles and vision that will inform whoever is eventually entrusted with the design of a new home for A&AA.

A&AA encompasses a unique and diverse range of disciplines, including art, architecture, landscape architecture, art history, product design, arts administration, historic preservation, and planning, public policy & management. The school encourages diverse approaches to teaching, research, and service. These attributes were among those that attracted me to the University of Oregon when I considered where to pursue my education in architecture.

A&AA’s diversity and broad scope finds a parallel in the association of Bruce Mau Design, Yazdani Studio, and Arup. The University’s selection is evidence of its commitment to enlisting an “innovative and broad-thinking team,” one that is replete with impressive credentials: 

"Visionaries use design to effect positive change in the world."
Bruce Mau
  • Bruce Mau Design is a design studio centered on purpose and optimism. Since 1985, BMD has evolved from a graphic design studio to a leader in breakthrough design thinking, applying design methodologies to a wide range of business and cultural organizations with challenges in need of creative solutions. Creators of Massive Change, the internationally acclaimed traveling exhibition, book, website, and interview series, BMD is an interdisciplinary studio made up of artists, architects, graphic designers, filmmakers, brand strategists, biologists, publishers, curators, and technologists.
    The Price Center, UC San Diego, by Yazdani Studio 
  • The Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design is a laboratory for exploration and excellence in architecture. Established upon the reputation and leadership of award-winning designer Mehrdad Yazdani, the Yazdani Studio integrates the best attributes of a design studio with the resources and reach of an international practice. From its primary office in Los Angeles, the Yazdani Studio combines the talents of a diverse team of architects, designers, and 3-D artists, technical specialists, and other creative thinkers who share a commitment to pushing the boundaries of design, from refining concepts of sustainability to the application of new technologies and urban initiatives.  
  • An Arup project: The Watercube, Beijing (photo by Ben McMillan)
  • Arup is renowned for its technical innovation, creativity, and collaboration with many of the world’s greatest architects. Arup’s team of engineers, designers, and consulting professionals work in integrated design groups within which sustainability is an integral focus. Arup’s knowledge of issues surrounding sustainable design enables it to advise clients and collaborators about the opportunities to develop green solutions appropriate to each project.
Some might question why the A&AA visioning project’s selection committee felt compelled to choose a team comprised of designers and thinkers with no apparent ties to Eugene or the University of Oregon. Is this another case of indifferent, albeit tremendously qualified, “carpet baggers” swooping in to take work away from deserving local firms? I don’t think so. In this instance, an outsider’s perspective may be most appropriate. BMD, Yazdani Studio, and Arup arrive with no preconceptions about the School of Architecture & Allied Arts, which is precisely as it should be.

Bruce Mau wrote an Incomplete Manifesto in 1998, an articulation of statements exemplifying his beliefs, strategies, and motivations. One of his admonitions is to “be careful to take risks.” With its choice of consultants, the University has taken Bruce Mau’s words to heart.

The BMD team has been on working on the project since October. It orchestrated one of its on-site workshops this past Friday, December 3. The visioning process timeline is relatively brief, so we should see the results very soon. In the meantime, check out the A&AA’s informational blog about the project at

The visioning process will figure out which parts of the school should be merged into a new space and which need to stay where they are. Deliverables for the project will include a clearly articulated design brief to guide future development and an inspirational vision document/presentation designed to be shared with stakeholders.

The one-hundredth anniversary of the School of Architecture & Allied Arts occurs in 2014. Many within the A&AA community hope to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new home for the School during that year. Ideally, the new facility will be designed upon principles and aligned with a vision that will be valid for one hundred more years to come.
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