Saturday, October 27, 2012


Innovative Multi-Story Wood Architecture
Short notice but if you’re free this coming Monday, October 29 at noon don’t miss what is certain to be an informative and interesting presentation on a very current topic by Joseph Mayo, Assoc. AIA. Joe was the 2011 recipient of the AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals research fellowship. He traveled widely to study the culture of wood architecture in Europe and Canada, and is in Eugene for a talk drawn from his research and case studies. 

Joe’s presentation accompanies TimberCity, which is an exhibit dedicated to innovative multi-story wood architecture. Documenting new developments in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Canada, it offers insight not only into wood construction and design, but also regional variations in the culture of wood, both historic and contemporary. In these countries, architects, engineers, and designers are challenging conventional notions with novel approaches to age-old problems including durability, stability, and fire safety. In so doing, they are leading a renaissance in the use of wood. 

The Pacific Northwest, like Europe, is grappling with the 21st century realities realities of curbing carbon emissions, promoting density, smart growth, and fostering an architecture of place. The use of wood in architecture offers a partial solution to these issues. TimberCity seeks to reconnect the Pacific Northwest with local, low-embodied energy materials and the latest thinking, design, and scientific wood research from North American and abroad. 

Joe’s presentation and the TimberCity exhibit are sponsored by WoodWorks ( Pizza and an AIA Continuing Education credit come with your attendance. Learn why people are saying timber is the new concrete.

What:      Presentation by Joe Mayo, Assoc. AIA of Mahlum Architects, Seattle 

When:     Monday, October 29 from 12:00-1:00 pm

Where:    206 Lawrence Hall (Student Services exhibit space), University of Oregon, Eugene   

Monday, October 22, 2012

October AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The charter document of the Southwestern Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, October 1952
Last Wednesday’s October AIA-SWO chapter meeting marked the sixtieth anniversary of the organization. The occasion's guests included many of the chapter's members emeritus, retired professionals whose contributions have shaped the chapter and local architecture over six momentous decades of existence. 
The meeting’s focus was a panel discussion involving eight AIA-SWO members who have all played an active role within the organization. Four of the members are past leaders (Dan Herbert, Otto Poticha, Grant Seder, and Dick Williams), while the others are currently active members of the boards of directors for AIA-SWO or Architects Building Community (Kurt Albrecht, Will Dixon, John Lawless, and Jenni Rogers). The panelists offered their personal reflections upon architecture, the profession, and the communities served by AIA-SWO members. Together, they painted a vivid picture of the chapter’s history. 
Since its formation in October of 1952, AIA-Southwestern Oregon has grown from a pioneer group of nine charter members (list below) to nearly 200 members, associate members, and affiliates today. 
Charter members of the Southwestern Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Architects: 
  • Eyler Brown
  • Charles W. Endicott
  • Fred T. Hannaford
  • Cleo H. Jenkins
  • V. Eugene Jeppesen
  • Sidney W. Little
  • Marion D. Ross
  • Herbert R. Sinnard
  • H. Robert Wilmsen
Five of the original members were members of the University of Oregon Department of Architecture faculty; two others were from Corvallis; and the remaining duo was from Eugene. At the time, back in the early ‘50s, there were only perhaps 25 to 30 architects total within the chapter boundaries. Regardless, the few active AIA-SWO members would make an outsized impact, setting a high bar for the generations to follow. 

A master plan for a government center in downtown Eugene, circa 1955.

Ambition and thinking big was not in short supply during the heady early days. For example, one group of chapter members converted the vacant space above the old Hoffman Jewelers store into a shared atelier. There they volunteered a year of their time to fashion a vision for a new government center in downtown Eugene. One fruit the plan would ultimately bear was the two-stage competition to design Eugene’s new city hall. The competition drew 59 entries, of which four were chosen for the second stage. Stafford, Morin & Longwood won the competition but only after reportedly violating the competition rules! 

The quality of the mid-century work created by AIA-SWO firms attracted widespread attention, leading to a feature article in Architectural Record. The progressive, optimistic, and uniquely Pacific Northwest brand of Modernism exercised by local architects would garner high regard nationwide. 

During this same period, the deprecatingly named GDA (“God Damned Architects”) began meeting every Wednesday at the Branding Iron Restaurant on Franklin Boulevard. Over lunch, they would engage in the kind of informal, non-competitive collegiality that bonds like-minded professionals together: exchanging advice, commiserating with one another, and enjoying one another’s company. 

One of the significant actions during AIA-SWO’s early history was the establishment of the Craftsmanship Awards. The overarching purpose of the awards program was and is to ensure that the time-honored ideals of craftsmanship are sustained and passed along. By extolling the virtues of fine craftsmanship by anyone in the building trades—cost estimator, fine cabinet maker, job site superintendent, and all the others—the chapter acknowledged the dedication and skill of these individuals. It’s noteworthy that the launch of the Craftsmanship Awards program predated both the chapter’s Honor Awards for Design and the People’s Choice Awards programs. 

The ‘60s and early ‘70s witnessed the decline of Eugene’s commercial core as retailers fled for the new-fangled Valley River Center, prompting calls for something to be done to ensure downtown’s continued vitality. The widely accepted prescription was the transformation of streets to pedestrian malls in the fashion of many similar projects nationwide, such as an example in Fresno, CA. As Otto Poticha, FAIA recalled, the City of Eugene’s mandate was to “unroll Fresno like a carpet.” History has proven the measure of success (or lack thereof) of Eugene’s own version. 

Throughout the years, some AIA-SWO members believed it was the profession’s civic duty to actively address matters of controversy related to the built environment. At the same time, there were those who believed the chapter’s active engagement in politically charged issues to be at once both less than decorous and presumptuous (as architects do not always speak with a single voice). The result was the formation of the AIA-SWO Local Affairs Committee (LAC). With respect to stances it might take on contentious issues, the LAC would be careful not to represent itself as reflecting the opinions of the general membership or the chapter board. Today, the mantle of the LAC is assumed by the past chapter presidents, who most recently have very publicly advocated in favor of the West Eugene EmX Extension

The Franklin Corridor

On many occasions, the chapter’s civic service would take the form of design charrettes. Typically visionary in scope, these events would often highlight the potential latent in the neglected elements of our urban fabric. Perhaps the most ambitious was the production of the Franklin Corridor design charrette in 2007, AIA-SWO’s highly successful contribution to the Institute’s sesquicentennial celebrations that year. 

An important milestone in the chapter’s history was the publication of Style and Vernacular: A Guide to the Architecture of Lane County, Oregon. Championed by Dick Williams, the comprehensive monograph was a monumental effort on the part of dozens of AIA-SWO volunteers and others interested in documenting the area’s architectural heritage. Upon its first printing in 1983, Style and Vernacular would become the definitive text on the subject and a heavily utilized scholarly resource.(1) 

The volatility of the Oregon economy during the 1970s and 80s took a heavy toll as many talented designers would leave the chapter area or the profession altogether. To their credit and benefit, younger architects and interns became increasingly active participants in AIA-SWO activities. Rather than merely waiting “their turn,” they stepped up, assumed leadership roles, and broke down the walls of the old boys club. 

The institution of mandatory continuing education and the Intern Development Program during the 1990s hastened the chapter’s increased emphasis upon professional development. Recurrent recessions and the emergence of sustainability as a guiding principle underscored the importance of educational programs and the role the AIA could play in fulfilling and maintaining licensure requirements. 

The difficult economic times of a generation ago are being reprised today, to similar effect. Jobs and opportunities have been lost but our younger members, associates, and affiliates are better organized and motivated than ever before. During the panel discussion, Jenni Rogers, Assoc. AIA chronicled the history of DesignSpring, AIA-SWO’s association of interns and young architects. Initially, DesignSpring chose to not hitch its wagon to AIA-SWO, instead opting to open its membership to a broader spectrum of young professionals.(2) Eventually though the DesignSpring leadership recognized the synergistic benefits of a close association with the chapter. 

Today, DesignSpring is a vital component of AIA-SWO. The group has directed invaluable support, energy, and enthusiasm toward a number of chapter programs, including design charrettes, the 2010 Northwest & Pacific Region Conference, and various AIA-SWO social events. The diversity of DesignSpring’s membership is a measure of the strides the profession as a whole has taken to embrace the entire spectrum of contemporary society. 

As AIA-Southwestern Oregon grew over the years, fulfilling its mandate to be the resource its members deserved would increasingly become a challenge. AIA-SWO needed help, and in response the chapter engaged the Lane Arts Council to perform administrative and promotional duties. This role is now assumed by the chapter’s intrepid executive director, Don Kahle, who since 2007 has probably done more to help AIA-SWO reach its full potential than anyone else. Don is our membership’s biggest advocate—truly someone who believes what we do is important, meaningful, and exhilarating. 

Moving forward, AIA-SWO president-elect Will Dixon, AIA staked out a vision for his coming term in 2013. “Rethink, rebuild, and re-inspire” are his watchwords. He repeated the oft-cited quote that “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” The recent unveiling of the Octagon as the new home for AIA-SWO is a case in point. I’m confident that under his leadership the chapter will continue to come into its own. 

The October meeting was a fascinating reflection back upon a celebrated past, sixty years young, but also served to show us who we are today. There is much more for AIA-SWO to look forward to, including writing many more chapters in a story that becomes more enthralling with each passing year. Thanks to all of the panelists for sharing their insights and perspectives. 

(1)  As a side note, Dick will host an hour-long discussion about the book, the lessons learned, and what we might do to update an important resource that is now thirty years old. In a future post I’ll provide more information about this meeting, which will occur at noon on Tuesday, November 6 at the Octagon, 92 East Broadway in Eugene. 

(2)  At the outset, DesignSpring opened its membership to not only emerging architectural professionals, but also engineers-in-training, interior designers, and landscape architecture interns.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about an issue of global importance on the same day (Monday, October 15). It’s an opportunity to witness the power of participatory journalism marshaled toward a common cause. The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a worldwide discussion.

This is my fourth Blog Action Day:  For 2011 the issue was Food; in 2010 it was Water; and in 2009 it was Climate Change.

The theme this year is “The Power of We.” It is intended to be a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around the world. I’ve decided to profile a friend of mine who is doing what she can to make a difference.

Brook Meakins

Brook Meakins is an attorney with a solo practice in Berkeley, CA providing advocacy services for her clients.(1) While she is committed to conflict resolution and everyday justice for her Bay area neighbors, Brook's true passion is fighting on behalf of the global community.

After a near-death experience in the Pacific Ocean in 2010, Brook had an epiphany about the struggle and the imminent threat that people who occupy low-lying islands live with everyday. Some leaders in these low-lying countries now refer to climate change as a "slow-moving tsunami," or use descriptive words like drowning or disappearing. People in coastal communities have a special, very vulnerable relationship with the water. Climate change threatens to wipe out these timeless places, as well as the people who call these islands home.

Brook now spends a significant amount of her time listening and learning from those in climate-threatened communities, and then sounding the alarm about their plight and telling their stories. She has conducted fact-finding and personal story-gathering missions in countries all over the world, including the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, San Blas Archipelago in Panama, Fiji, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. She has partnered with these communities to fight global warming and to build awareness around the threat to their existence.

Brook with a member of the Kuna tribe on the San Blas Archipelago, Panama (photo courtesy of Brook Meakins)

The impact of climate change upon the people who live among the low-lying coral atoll island nations is imminent and devastating. These coral atolls lie only a few feet above the sea, rendering them vulnerable to intensifying storm surges, spoiled or depleted fresh water and food reserves, ocean acidification, an ever-lengthening dry season, and an increasingly extreme wet season. Brook asks “what happens to a country if the entirety of its landmass slips below the water?”

Rising seas have already swallowed up two uninhabited islands in the Central Pacific. On Samoa, thousands of residents have moved to higher ground as shorelines have retreated by as much as 160 feet. Islanders on Tuvalu are scrambling to find new homes as saltwater intrusion has made their groundwater undrinkable, while increasingly strong storm surges and ocean swells have devastated shoreline structures and ecosystems.

Other communities around the world, including low-lying coastal or riverside communities in the Arctic, Caribbean, Pacific, and in Bangladesh, face seemingly impossible-to-answer questions: How will these communities cope with the intensifying effects of flooding and erosion? Who pays for the increasing weather-related disasters? Where will people move if they are left with no choice but to leave their homes? Why does climate change deal its toughest blows to those that contribute to it the least?

As Brook points out, the low-lying islands are the canaries in the coal mine for what is to come. We can no longer pretend that we will forever be immune to what is happening to our neighbors. For many people, the effects are here and now. Climate change is far from hypothetical or tomorrow’s problem. It is no longer an issue for the next generation to solve.

Brook provides research and litigation support through pro bono humanitarian-focused representation to severe climate-impacted countries. Having organized and participated in several environmental law conferences, she is actively involved in bringing together the world’s leading environmental scholars in an effort to generate well-integrated and long-term solutions.

Brook also is enthusiastically and creatively committed to giving a voice to those on the front lines of climate change. As I mentioned, she has traveled widely to listen and learn from those most affected. Through her blog, Drowning Islands, Brook tells their stories, presenting firsthand accounts of lives on the edge. Additionally, she has written for the Huffington Post, Salon, AlterNet, and other online news and commentary outlets. She hopes her advocacy will raise awareness, particularly among people who can help those threatened by rising sea levels.

Coral atoll, Maldives (photo by Brook Meakins)

Brook believes she has been fortunate to walk among the residents of the drowning islands. She has continually been struck by their lack of blame and their sense of hope. They do not point fingers at Westerners, nor do they ask why we continue emitting greenhouse gases while knowingly warming the earth and hastening sea level rise. They do not talk of relocation funds or lawsuits. Instead, they simply want to share their stories with her and the appreciation they have for the land they inherited. They gently remind her that this is not just an island problem, but a global issue, as nothing is immune to the ocean.

For my part, I’ve previously blogged about the climate change crisis. As an architect, I know my profession has a part to play. We will increasingly design adaptive environments capable of mitigating the accelerating impacts of rising temperatures and coastlines. We’re on the vanguard of awareness about the strategies necessary to reduce our carbon footprint. We have a leadership role to play. We must also learn from the efforts of truly committed individuals like Brook if we are to effect real change.

Knowledge is priceless. The Power of We includes the sharing of knowledge with a wide audience in the service of a greater good. Brook Meakins is making a difference by leveraging the potential of the Internet and social media to spread the story of the drowning islands. Doing so, she is chronicling the plight of those most immediately impacted by climate change.  

(1) Brook received her Juris Doctor degree from the School of Law at the University of Oregon, which is widely known for its environmental law program. Her husband, Andy, worked with me at Robertson/Sherwood/Architects.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Achieving Net-Zero Water in Buildings

This coming Thursday, October 18, the Eugene Living Building Collaborative & Eugene Branch/Cascadia Green Building Council will present Achieving Net-Zero Water in Building, a lecture and roundtable discussion about the Water Petal of the Living Building Challenge. 
This will be the inaugural event of the Eugene Living Building Collaborative, focusing on the Water Petal requirements of the Living Building Challenge. PAE Consulting Engineers of Portland will start the evening with a presentation of their work on the Bullitt Center in Seattle. Touted as the "most sustainable office building in the world," the Bullitt Center is the first large scale commercial building under construction in a dense urban environment that is designed to achieve the rigorous Living Building Certification.
Following the presentation, the Collaborative will host a hands-on learning experience about applying the Water Petal requirements in the Eugene-Springfield area. This round table discussion will focus on three case studies: a single family home, a multi-family development, and a commercial building, with a focus upon balancing a water budget, working with local codes and conditions and identifying and understanding the challenges of the Water Petal. This will be a chance for participants to roll up their sleeves and learn the steps to achieving a net-zero water goal. 
What:      Achieving Net-Zero Water in Buildings 
When:     Thursday, October 18, 2012; 5:00–8:00 PM Lecture to begin at 5:15, followed by the workshop. Light refreshments will be served during the workshop.
Where:    Gerlinger Lounge, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR. As always, please bike, walk, carpool or take the bus! 
Cost:      Free, but space will be limited so please RSVP to Scott Stolarczyk at (541) 342-8077 or email 
The Eugene Living Building Collaborative is a part of the world-wide Ambassador Network promoting the Living Building Challenge by providing focused opportunities to learn about and apply the Challenge to projects, and to help support active change towards a truly sustainable future.
Cascadia promotes the design, construction and operation of buildings in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live, work and learn. The Eugene Branch of Cascadia generates momentum towards a sustainable built environment by facilitating education and connections and celebrating our community. We host monthly lunchtime presentations and tours and quarterly evening events on the latest green building topics.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Living Over the Store

University of Oregon Professor of Architecture Howard Davis will present a lecture on Monday, October 15 on the subject of his latest book.  Living Over the Store: Architecture and Local Urban Life (Routledge Press) is the first scholarly account of buildings that combine commercial and residential uses—a kind of building that is increasingly important in current attempts at making sustainable, inclusive and humane cities. 

Combining investigations in architectural theory, architectural history, social history, planning, and urban geography, the book provides a cross-cultural and historical look at a building type that is among the most ubiquitous in cities around the world. It describes the fate of these buildings under the impact of zoning laws and development practices that supported the city of division rather than the city of inclusion and concludes with a description of architectural and policy efforts that support the reintroduction of this building to contemporary cities. 

Howard Davis' teaching and research focus on the social frameworks within which buildings are built, with emphasis on urban buildings and neighborhoods. This work is taking place in Portland; Guangzhou, China; and London. 

In addition to Living Over the Store: Architecture and Local Urban Life, Howard’s other publications include the coauthored The Production of Houses and The Culture ofBuilding, which was named “Best Publication in Architecture and Urban Studies” by the Association of American Publishers in 2000. He is also the recipient of the 2011 Thomas F. Herman Award for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Oregon, and the 2009 Distinguished Professor Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. 

What:   Lecture by Professor Howard Davis 

When:  Monday, October 15, 2012, 5:15 PM 

Where: 206 Lawrence Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene

Cost:    Free

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Octagon

Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy (left) officially opens the Octagon (all photos by me).

Another incredibly pleasant autumn evening this past Friday provided a perfect backdrop to showcase the Octagon, Eugene’s new center for architecture. Located at 92 East Broadway in the heart of downtown, the Octagon is now home base for both AIA-Southwestern Oregon and Architects Building Community (ABC). 

As a featured stop on October’s First Friday ArtWalk, the event attracted a large audience. Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy officially took the wraps off of the Octagon. Others who commemorated the occasion with brief addresses included 2012 Eugene Slug Queen Sadie Slimy Stitches, AIA-SWO president Kurt Albrecht, and ABC director Michael Fifield

2012 AIA-SWO president Kurt Albrecht, AIA cuts the first pieces of the octagon-shaped cake commemorating AIA-SWO's first sixty years as a chapter.

Everybody on hand appeared to thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to mingle with members of the AIA-SWO community, view the display of the 2012 People’s Choice Award winners, taste some outstanding wine or craft beer, and indulge in the octagon-shaped birthday cake celebrating AIA-SWO’s sixtieth birthday. It was a great time and a perfect debut for the Octagon. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Octagon’s name is a play upon the space’s unique shape as well as the namesake Octagon in Washington, DC—chosen by the American Institute of Architects as its headquarters in 1899 and now a National Historic Treasure. The providential coincidence of geometry and institutional allusion endow the modest structure with a measure of significance that AIA-SWO and ABC will make the most of. 

Travis Sheridan, Assoc. AIA and Will Dixon, AIA.

Huge credit for not only the success of the unveiling but also recognizing the potential of transforming the vacant space into the Octagon goes to AIA-SWO president-elect Will Dixon, AIA. He, along with his colleague Travis Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, did the heavy lifting when it came to setting up the People’s Choice display, securing sponsors and donations for the party, and generally ensuring the event’s success. Thanks Will and Travis! 

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Thank you to the following generous companies for providing goods and services for the Octagon opening and AIA-SWO 60th birthday celebration: 

"Folk-Grass" performers Damiana provided the evening's entertainment.

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With its tall glass walls, the Octagon will be a wonderful means to exhibit the work of architects and support ABC’s mission "to support public education, community outreach, and well-informed public involvement in planning design excellence for our communities and public spaces." In addition to exhibits programmed by ABC, the windows can also be rented by members of AIA-SWO and the broader community for the purpose of displays dedicated to design and architecture.

The Octagon is also available for anyone to use as a meeting space. With parking conveniently located immediately south in the Overpark, it’s perfect for downtown gatherings of 6-15 people. AIA-SWO has established a very reasonable rate chart for use in three-hour slots or by the day. Check out for more information about both meeting and public display opportunities.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Birthday(s) to Us!

Everybody loves a party, right? How about three parties in one? Join your friends and colleagues for a big, happy celebration this Friday, October 5! We’re commemorating not only AIA-Southwestern Oregon’s 60th anniversary, but also the first birthday of Architects Building Community and the grand unveiling of the Octagon, the new home for both AIA-SWO and ABC. 

Thanks to its membership, AIA-SWO is stronger and more active than ever before. Sixty years on, our chapter continues to fulfill its charter promise to unite our profession in fellowship while ensuring its members are of ever-increasing service to society. We all deserve a big pat on the back for the countless positive contributions we’ve made to our community’s built environment. 

Architects Building Community is one year old and starting to find its footing. If you’re not familiar with ABC, it’s a new, 501c(3) charitable organization dedicated to supporting public education, community outreach, and well-informed public involvement in planning design excellence for our communities and public spaces. Come to the party to learn more about ABC and its exciting plans. 

The Octagon’s name is a play upon the space’s unique geometry as well as the namesake Octagon in Washington, DC—chosen by the American Institute of Architects as its headquarters in 1899 and now a National Historic Treasure. Located at 92 East Broadway, the Octagon is destined to become a downtown icon, the center of gravity for architecture in southwestern Oregon. We imagine great things happening here. 

The party is also a gala for everyone, the third stop for October’s First Friday Artwalk in Eugene. It’s our chance as architects to step out on the town, strut our stuff, and share our joy for architecture with our neighbors. We’ll showcase the 2012 winners of the People’s Choice, Colleagues’ Choice, and Mayor’s Choice awards. Mayor Kitty Piercy will commemorate the occasion on behalf of the City of Eugene. There will be musical entertainment, and fine wine by Oakdale Cellars. And of course it wouldn’t be birthday party without a cake, an octagonal one no less, courtesy of Cornucopia Catering

So, mark your calendars and be sure not to miss the social event of the season. We’ll save a piece of cake for you! 

What:               AIA-SWO & ABC Birthday Bash 

When:              7:00 PM – Friday, October 5, 2012 

Where:            The Octagon, 92 East Broadway, downtown Eugene 

Cost:               Free!