Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Placemaking – Making it Happen

Saturday Market (Photo via Wikimedia licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
The AIA-Southwestern Oregon Design Excellence Committee continues to produce outstanding talks for its series of Making Great Cities events. The 2016 edition was no exception as a packed house at the Hult Center Studio gathered last Wednesday to hear from Fred Kent on the subject of placemaking, and how relying upon the input of community members is necessary to create well-used and loved public spaces. 
Fred is the president and founder of Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. The PPS approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation, and serve common needs. Fred founded PPS in 1975 to expand on the work of William Whyte, author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Since then, PPS has completed projects in more than 3000 communities in 43 countries and all 50 U.S. states. 
It was clear Fred took the time to explore some of Eugene before his presentation. He said he believes Eugene is “close to an enormous opportunity” and that now is a “wonderfully transformative time” for the city. Given this may be true—and I agree that it is—we certainly should capitalize upon and avoid squandering this opening. The next few years may determine whether Eugene will develop truly effective public spaces or continue to suffer without enough of them because we failed to come together to make it happen.  
We immediately recognize a great public place when we see it. Fred characterized great ones as places that breed affection. They attract people, who in turn attract even more people, further enlivening the place. They each have their own distinct identity. They make people feel welcome and comfortable. Most significantly, the community of which they are a part had a hand in creating them. After all, the members of the community are best equipped to understand what they want and need from the spaces they share. Successful public places instill a sense of pride and ownership in those who live and work in the areas surrounding them. 
A ubiquitous impediment to creating great community places is our tendency toward addressing problems in less than holistic ways. Urban design problems and the means to solve them are often tackled independently by disciplines all too dedicated to their areas of specific expertise. As Fred said, “each discipline has become its own audience,” its discourse conducted within an ideologically disconnected echo chamber. For example, much of our public realm has become defined by the needs of and dedicated to motor vehicles, thanks to the diligence and laser-focus of municipal traffic engineers. Efficient flow of traffic is what’s important to them. The problem for Eugene is this blindered view of the world has meant many of our streets are terrible places for human beings; “a disgrace,” Fred called them. Streets should be used for going to places rather than merely through them, he says. 
Fred picked on traffic engineers because the consequences of their decisions are especially impactful upon our cities, but too many bureaucrats (and also architects) with the power to shape our public spaces are likewise afflicted by the silo mentality. Eugene has few benches to sit on as we’re too afraid of who will use them and law enforcement wants to discourage loitering. We lack the kinds of multiuse buildings that activate sidewalks because our land use regulations have prohibited or failed to mandate them in many instances; and so forth. 
So, how do we get everyone to crawl out of their comfortable silos and collectively think about how to make Eugene’s public spaces vibrant and attractive? How do we shift the mindset and culture toward those that foster the creation of the kinds of places we’ll all be proud of and want to use again and again? Fred’s answer to these questions is to converge on the notion of place, because when you focus on place, you do everything differently. 
Fred identified 11 key principles useful to transforming public spaces into vibrant community places. These principles are: 
  1. The community is the expert
  2. Create a place, not a design
  3. Look for partners
  4. You can see a lot just by observing
  5. Have a vision
  6. Lighter, quicker, cheaper
  7. Triangulate
  8. They always say “it can’t be done”
  9. Form supports function
  10. Money is not the issue
  11. You are never finished
Each of these principles is succinctly explained on the PPS website. Of these, looking to the community for expertise, creating a place rather than a design, and starting lighter, quicker, and cheaper stand out for me. Resources are always limited, so top-down (as opposed to community-led) and expensive solutions are often neither possible nor desirable. Simpler, bottom-up, low-cost processes may be equally or more effective means for achieving the kinds of public places we yearn for. Managed properly, simple processes don’t result in impoverished solutions but instead embrace the real complexity of vital and vibrant spaces and the manner by which they support both programmed and spontaneous social gatherings. Making things happen with lighter, quicker, and cheaper means entails at once both less risk in terms of capital outlay and more risk-taking by a community members emboldened by a vision of their own making for what a successful, active, public place can be. 

Fred went on to describe PPS’s placemaking process and its tools. One of these is the “Power of 10.” This concept is used to facilitate placemaking at multiple city scales. Having a range of reasons to be in a place—such as reading a book, people-watching, listening to music, eating food, meeting others—makes it a place. Some of the activities that regularly occur there will set it apart as unique and particular, reflecting the culture and identity of the surrounding community. When the range of reasons to be there numbers ten or more, the place thrives. 

During the placemaking process, participants not only start at the small scale by identifying the 10+ things to do, they also locate ten or more places within what can become a destination: corners, edges, centers, and other subspaces that layer a variety of activities upon one another. No single type of use or user dominates the space. The synergistic and incremental outcome is a set of workable ideas the community can implement (perhaps with a minimum of means). Ultimately, a city with ten or more great destinations is on its way to becoming a more resilient setting for urban life at its best. 

Fred presented numerous images of successful, enthusiastically embraced public places. All of these featured cheery people bathed in obliging sunshine. What? You say it rains in Eugene and people tend to shun outdoor spaces when it does? “Weather is a perception,” Fred says, meaning our rain is an impediment to enjoying a good public place only if we allow it to be. If anything, a vital and vibrant space shines through even when the sun cannot. 

While creating effective public places is often difficult, Eugene definitely has all the ingredients necessary to develop its fair share of them. We have an engaged citizenry, neighborhoods with distinct and emergent characteristics, and, as Fred pointed out, we simply need to adopt the necessary mindset and focus first and foremost on the notion of place. I’m enthused by the opportunities in front of us, and I’m hopeful we’ll seize the brass ring by coming together to create the lively, inclusive, and attractive places our city deserves.

*     *     *     *     *

Kudos to the Design Excellence Committee for putting together such a great event. And big thanks to Dustrud Architecture, The National Association of Realtors, The American Planning Association, Lease Crutcher Lewis, the City of Eugene, and Patricia Thomas for supporting the Making Great Cities speaker series with their sponsorship contributions.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Walking the Progressive Path

Wanda Dunaway

The May meeting of the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute featured an excellent primer on green building product attributes presented by Wanda Dunaway, Director for Education & Government Markets at Shaw Industries. Wanda impressed me as someone who is clearly passionate about sustainability and the duty of the manufacturers of building materials to exercise environmentally responsible processes. Her presentation highlighted the importance of recognizing my role as an architect in driving the use of green building products. She also helped me understand the characteristics of healthy building materials, and brought to my awareness the tools available to assist in the selection and specification of healthful products. 
Many segments of the construction industry have embraced the need to provide transparency, translation, and leadership when it comes to communicating what constitutes healthy building materials. Toward this end, manufacturers have become increasingly sophisticated in bringing together thinkers, creators, builders, makers, and connectors to develop the most effective means to transfer useful knowledge to their customers. After all, informed clients (who include designers as well as building owners) make educated decisions, and it is these decisions that lead to healthy building material specifications. The transactional energy of new and more demanding specifications can powerfully shape the marketplace. 
Wanda stressed how we need to raise discussions about human health and wellbeing to the same level energy efficiency and life-cycle cost analysis have occupied for many years now. All of these factors are capable of bearing dramatically upon the triple (social, environmental, and financial) bottom line. To offer a case in point, she quoted Jane Henley, CEO of the World Green Building Council, by saying even modest improvements to employee health and productivity attributable to the selection of healthful building materials can have a dramatic impact on organizational profitability. From this perspective, healthy building products are not only good for people but good for the balance sheet as well. 
It is important to note the place of material health within the overall context of sustainable building. Material health is but one slice of a larger pie that also includes renewable energy, water stewardship, material revitalization, and social responsibility. The selection of green products has evolved from a time when aesthetics and cost were the principal factors influencing choice, to later when LEED and recycled content were dominant considerations, to today when material chemistry has come to the forefront in our decision-making. 
So, what are the resources at our disposal inside the product transparency toolbox? 
Wanda described a few of the certification tools available for our use. Each of these evaluate the health of building materials by inventorying their ingredients, screening those ingredients, assessing their risks to human health and the environment, and optimizing those with healthful attributes. Wanda summarized these programs as follows: 
  • The Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an independently certified and registered life cycle assessment that quantifies the environmental impact of a product. EPD declarations include information on the environmental impact of raw materials acquisition, energy use and efficiency, and materials chemistry and content. In a nutshell, EPDs describe the effect a product has upon the Earth. LEED awards one point for using at least twenty permanently installed products sourced from at least five different manufacturers that meet EPD declarations conforming to specific disclosure criteria. 
  • Declare is a product labeling program that relies on the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) “Red List” as its primary basis for material evaluation. In creating a Declare label for a product, a manufacturer must disclose all of that product’s constituent chemicals to the designated 100 parts per million (ppm) threshold. There are three compliance levels, which are: 1) LBC Red List free, meaning the product is free of all Red List ingredients; 2) LBC compliant, meaning the product contains some chemicals the ILFI has designated as Red List exceptions; and 3) Declared, meaning the product is not compliant. The Red List represents “worst in class” materials, chemicals, and elements known to pose serious risks to human health and the greater ecosystem. These ingredients include alkylphenols, asbestos, BPA, lead, mercury, PCBs, phthalates, PVC, and VOCs (in wet-applied products). 
  • The Health Product Declaration (HPD) is a standard format for transparent disclosure of building product ingredients and associated hazards. An ad hoc, multidisciplinary industry group developed the system with the objective of establishing a standard format to report building product content and associated health information. HPDs are not third-party certified, and do not include optimization or risk assessment; they are merely inventory of the product’s constituent chemistry and its attendant impact on human health. 
  • The Cradle to Cradle Certified program is a third-party eco-label that assesses a product’s safety to humans and the environment and future life cycles. It requires an optimization plan to remove harmful materials and practices from the product. Additionally, it is a multi-attribute certification, considering material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. Like the ILFI’s Declare program, Cradle to Cradle also includes a list of banned ingredients or products.
Any one of these product transparency tools may help ensure a project meets sustainability goals by helping us align our product selections with the project’s requirements. In some respects, their output is analogous to the nutrition labels we find on every package of processed food we purchase. 

An example of a Declare "nutrition label."
Nutrition labels on food packaging empower consumers to make healthier and more informed food choices. Of course, the standardized nutrition facts panel on food packaging has its share of critics, who argue it has been ineffective in improving public health and that a one-size-fits-all approach to labeling fails to address the varied dietary needs of different people. Their most damning arguments may be that food labels are too simplistic and therefore meaningless, utilize flawed metrics, and ultimately fail to address the vast complexity of the relationship between humans and their food. It hasn’t helped that nutrition science has proven so uncertain (Is dietary fat good for us or not? What about cholesterol?). 

Are the comparable building material evaluation tools and resources likewise unsound in fundamental ways? 

Some might suggest the real impetus for the trend toward environmental product declarations is a desire to minimize manufacturers’ product liability. Full disclosure does shift a substantial portion of the burden for awareness of the risks for using a particular construction material to the designer or specifier. That being said, architects have always shouldered this responsibility to a large degree. I’m inclined to believe the industry’s motivation for developing the various product transparency programs is first and foremost founded upon the desire to provide conscientious designers and building owners with an objective means to evaluate the healthfulness of manufactured building materials. By doing so, they have done all of us a great service and contributed toward our collective wellbeing. 

Most architects have welcomed the wealth of green building materials standards in recent decades. On the other hand, their proliferation does present us with challenges. Which standards, materials disclosure programs, and certifications are: a) most effective; and b) simplest to understand and implement? So far, I’ve avoided taking the necessary time to educate myself about how to objectively evaluate more healthful, earth-friendly materials technology. Clearly, this has been irresponsible of me. Architects undoubtedly must bear the burden of being informed and upholding the best interests of not only our clients but also our planet. My takeaway from Wanda’s visit with us is the necessity of being as knowledgeable as possible and becoming a change catalyst. There’s a clear path from education to influence I need to follow if I am to truly fulfill my public obligation as an architect. We can and must design for positive cause and effect. 

Big thanks to Wanda for taking the time to join us for our May chapter dinner and meeting!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Next Generation Downtown

I’m a member of the Emerald Executive Association (EEA), without a doubt the best business networking group in Eugene. We meet each Thursday morning over breakfast, most often enjoying a presentation by one of our members but we occasionally welcome outside speakers who provide news or programs of interest to our group. We had the pleasure this past Thursday to hear from Brittany Quick-Warner, the Director of Business Advocacy for the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, about her organization’s efforts to sustain and strengthen downtown Eugene’s revitalization.

As the Director of Business Advocacy, Brittany leads the Chamber’s efforts to support local businesses by advocating for policies that promote a thriving local economy. The focus of her presentation to EEA was the plans the Chamber of Commerce and its business partners have for the future of downtown. The Next Generation Downtown team includes the following organizations:
  • Eugene Chamber of Commerce
  • Downtown Eugene Inc.
  • Downtown Eugene Economic Development Group
  • Downtown Eugene Merchants
  • Lane Transit District
  • Travel Lane County
  • Eugene Water & Electric Board
  • Technology Association of Oregon
  • American Institute of Architects-Southwestern Oregon Committee on Local Affairs
Brittany told us the Next Gen team surveyed thousands of community members, and reached out to multiple organizations and interested groups to identify a collective set of goals and priorities for the city’s core. The team is committed to increasing high quality jobs, improving downtown as a destination for activity, and supporting the whole of the community with infrastructure and amenities that promote education, arts, and sustainable living. 

The Next Generation Downtown principles and recommended projects outline a plan for using tax increment financing within the Downtown Urban Renewal District to achieve the following goals and significantly impact the success and vibrancy of downtown Eugene: 

ENCOURAGE AN INVITING & SAFE DOWNTOWN – Downtown Eugene is everyone’s neighborhood and everyone should feel safe and welcome there. Strategic infrastructure investments downtown can create a beautiful place and improve the safety of the area.  

PROMOTE ECONOMIC PROSPERITY – Businesses locate themselves in areas with high-quality infrastructure that increases business capacity. Eugene has the opportunity to capitalize on world-class technology infrastructure downtown and should do so as quickly as possible. 

REIMAGINE OUR PUBLIC SPACE – Great cities dream big, and Eugene should be no exception. Quality public space in the heart of our community will invite all Eugeneans to enjoy downtown. The Next Gen team believes the downtown Park Blocks have enormous potential to become an attractive, high-functioning public space in the heart of our community. Citizens also passionately agree the Farmers’ Market is a staple and needs a permanent home in the historic center of our city.   

TRANSFORM OUR VACANT PLACES – It’s hard to believe the notorious and disheartening pits are now only iconic memories of downtown’s past. While the physical pits are filled in, key buildings in our downtown core still sit vacant or underutilized and work against a vibrant retail and commercial atmosphere. Urban Renewal funds can help transform these spaces into important community assets. 

INSPIRE THE WORLD - As our community prepares to welcome thousands of visitors to the 2021 IAAF World Track & Field Championships, we have the opportunity to capitalize on this wonderful event. We can leverage it by undertaking community projects to benefit Eugene far beyond 2021. The Next Gen team believes Eugene must take advantage of this event and embrace its urgency and opportunities to realize a downtown Eugene ready to “Inspire the World.” 

INVEST IN DOWNTOWN – A thriving downtown requires carefully targeted public investment in order to promote economic development, increase the tax base, and maintain the amenities that support the community’s unique image. As Brittany pointed out, downtown Eugene has come a long way, but there is still great opportunity for improvement; we aren’t finished. 

Encouraged by valuable input from over 775 survey respondents, the Next Gen team believes the continuing, targeted use of tax increment financing, with its proven track record of success, is crucial to accomplishing our shared goals for downtown.  

DOWNTOWN IS A HUB FOR BUSINESS & HIGH QUALITY JOBS – Downtown Eugene is home to many businesses and a large portion of our growing technology sector. Eugene may be unique, but it is no different from other cities in one significant respect: Investment is necessary to shape a vibrant downtown that attracts economic development and helps recruit and retain talent and businesses looking to locate in a lively community.

INVESTING IN DOWNTOWN PAYS BACK IN A BIG WAY – We have learned from studies in cities like ours that investing downtown generates higher property tax returns to the public sector than comparable development on the outskirts of town. The incremental costs of downtown development are smaller because infrastructure like roads and water are already largely established. 

DOWNTOWN MAKES A STATEMENT ABOUT THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY – The cultural and commercial vibrancy of a community’s downtown defines what a city is all about and reflects its economic vitality. It should be a point of pride and stability. Our downtown can be an inspiration for the world in 2021 and beyond, but investing public funds downtown is essential to making that happen. 

Brittany described how the Next Gen team identified a select few improvements as those most likely to provide the impetus necessary to realize widely shared goals for Eugene’s downtown:  High-speed fiber Internet, improved space for the Lane County Farmers’ Market, redevelopment of the old Lane Community College (LCC) building, and Park Blocks & open space improvements.  To use urban renewal funds for these projects, the City must adopt an ordinance substantially amending the current Downtown Urban Renewal Plan to increase the renewal district’s debt limit and expand the district’s boundaries. The current limit of $46.6 million is mostly expended, with the bulk invested on the Eugene Public Library’s main branch, LCC’s Downtown Campus on 10th Avenue, a variety of downtown public safety enhancements, and paying off the debt on the Broadway Place parking structures. 

Providing high-speed fiber connections downtown creates a competitive landscape for telecommunications, which has been shown to expand service options and lower prices for consumers. Improving telecommunications infrastructure would also support our growing technology sector and other businesses in the downtown.  

The Farmers’ Market has maximized use of the existing space, and the configuration and limitations of the site make it difficult for the market to grow and reach its full potential. The Market has long wanted to establish’ a larger and more prominent, year-round market in downtown. This project focuses on possible improvements to the Park Blocks, or another downtown location, in order to create a more attractive, functional, and permanent venue. Options range from a simple pavilion to a full-service building, and from no land acquisition or site enhancements to land acquisition and significant improvements for the project.  

The LCC Building at 1059 Willamette Street, vacant since the opening of the new LCC Downtown Campus in early 2013, is located across Willamette Street from the Lane Transit District Eugene Station. The old 66,000 square foot facility has three floors with a full basement. LCC is currently working to identify potential redevelopment opportunities with the goal of contributing to and supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem anchored by RAIN Eugene, the regional accelerator and innovation network. The structure is large enough to house an “innovation center’” with maker space, wet labs, and other equipment useful to an art and technology incubator. Redeveloping the building as an incubator space would benefit downtown and the broader community by:
  • Improving the physical appearance of the building and the adjacent downtown streetscape.
  • Providing affordable incubator space for early-stage creative industries and start-ups that will create new economic opportunities for community members.
  • Creating a dynamic public space to stimulate additional public and private investment in the surrounding area. LCC is collaborating with the City, RAIN, Lane County, and others to develop a concept that will benefit the community in the long term.
  • The historic Park Blocks, located in the heart of downtown, are a critical component of Eugene’s identity and economic health. They are home to two beloved organizations—the Saturday Market and the Lane County Farmers’ Market—and a key part of the Willamette to Willamette initiative. Improving them and increasing the opportunities for desired activities requires a focused, strategic investment in the amenities, character, and public identity of the Park Blocks and other key public open spaces downtown. 
Brittany’s presentation was highly informative but as a member of AIA-SWO’s Committee on Local Affairs, I already knew of and am supportive of the Next Generation Downtown initiative and extending the Downtown Urban Renewal District. The Eugene City Council is holding a public hearing to discuss the possible renewal this coming Monday, May 23 at 7:00 PM in Harris Hall, 125 East 8th Avenue in downtown. If you have strong feelings about the fate of the urban renewal district, particularly if you endorse its extension, plan on attending the hearing and voicing your support.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

The 2016 Making Great Cities Program

Fred Kent
The AIA-SWO Design Excellence Committee invites everyone with an interest in fostering vibrant downtown development to this year’s installment of the Making Great Cities lecture series. The 2016 edition will feature Fred Kent, a leading authority on revitalizing city spaces and one of the foremost thinkers in livability, smart growth, and the future of the city. The event will take place on Wednesday, May 25 at The Studio in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene. 
Fred is the founder and President of Project for Public Spaces (PPS). The organization is the central hub of the global place-making movement, connecting people to ideas, expertise, and partners who share a passion for creating vital places. 
Fred is known throughout the world as a dynamic speaker and prolific ideas man. Traveling over 150,000 miles each year, Fred offers technical assistance to communities and gives major talks across North America and internationally. Each year, he and the PPS staff give presentations or train more than 10,000 people in place-making techniques. 
Since 1975, Fred has worked on hundreds of projects, including Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square in New York City; Discovery Green in Houston, TX; Campus Martius in Detroit, MI; Main Street in Littleton, NH; Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, Canada; and a city-wide place-making campaign in Chicago, IL. 
Fred has spoken to audiences around the world, including the Urban Redevelopment Agency and the National Parks Board in Singapore, representatives from the City of Hong Kong, the Ministry of Environment in Norway, the leading Dutch transportation organization in the Netherlands, Greenspace in Scotland, numerous transportation professionals from US State DOTs, and thousands of community and neighborhood groups across the U.S. 
I first became aware of Fred Kent in 2009, when he engaged in the infamous “smackdown” with Frank Gehry at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Challenged by Fred to explain why “iconic” buildings often fell short when it came to creating pleasant urban places, Gehry “waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, much as Louis XIV might have used to wave away some offending underling” as national correspondent for The Atlantic James Fallows later recounted. The comments that followed on Fallow’s blog stirred a heated debate that continues today between proponents of provocative form-making and those who advocate first and foremost for congenial urban spaces. 
I’ve no doubt Fred’s presentation will be engaging and prompt a lively discussion. I expect him to persuasively emphasize the importance of designing as if people mattered. From all accounts Fred is nothing if not a zealous advocate for public spaces that build stronger communities. I’ll be there to see him and hope you will be there too.
What: The 2016 Making Great Cities Program featuring Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces
When: Wednesday, May 25, 2016
  • 5:30pm: Reception
  • 6:00pm: Presentation
Where: The Studio at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene
Cost:  Free to everyone; $10 for professional CEU credit
Sponsorship: The AIA-SWO Design Excellence Committee needs partners to help sponsor Fred’s visit. The committee depend upon the generosity of our community and businesses to support its Design Excellence series of prominent speakers. This program informs and educates the community on topics covering the built and designed environments. Any support you are willing to provide will help the committee cover the costs for the speaker and his travel expenses. In return, you’ll be included in the event’s marketing material, as well as other sponsorship acknowledgment options. Contact Katie Hall for more information.
A big thank you to Dustrud Architecture and the National Association of Realtors for their contributions in support of this event.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Jane Sanders Stadium (all photos by me unless otherwise noted)
The PAC-12 Conference’s reigning softball champion resides at the University of Oregon, and now so too does the team’s sparkling new home. Currently ranked third in the national polls, the women of the Ducks softball team finally enjoy quarters that befit their considerable prowess: Jane Sanders Stadium is yet another in the remarkable string of state-of-the-art athletics facilities for the university. “The Jane” provides the high-flying and hard-hitting Ducks with a home-field advantage that is second to none. 

I enjoyed the privilege of a behind-the-scenes look at the new stadium this past Friday. I came away impressed and happy the team has everything it needs to sustain its recent success for many years to come. 

A new softball venue was long overdue. No one doubted the need to replace Howe Field. The old stadium was lacking in even the most basic of amenities, such as adequate restroom facilities or unobstructed sightlines. The players’ locker room was awkwardly located in the basement of neighboring McArthur Court. Practices during inclement weather took place at the Moshofsky Center, meaning players wasted considerable time in transit to and from Howe Field. Despite its storied history, spectators, coaches, players, and prospective recruits alike regarded the timeworn ballpark as a liability for the program. 

Alumnus Robert Sanders (UO 1951) donated $16 million toward the $17.2 million construction in memory of his late wife, Jane (UO 1950). His gift is a remarkable legacy, without which the new stadium could not have been realized. 

The SRG Partnership designed Jane Sanders Stadium and contractor Howard S. Wright oversaw construction of the fast-tracked project. SRG started design work during the fall of 2014, and Howard S. Wright broke ground on June 4, 2015 following the conclusion of the 2015 softball season. Only nine short months later, Oregon ace Cheridan Hawkins hurled the first official pitch at The Jane on March 24. 

I like that the new stadium is basically located where historic Howe Field once was. Keeping the facility on campus was the right move. The Jane nestles cozily into its setting while at the same time asserting its presence. A softball field is surprisingly compact, so the overall impression inside the stadium is one of intimacy and closeness to the action. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. 

The permanent grandstand includes 1,500 seats, of which about 500 are covered. 1,000 temporary bleacher seats are currently set up beyond the outfield fence, providing a total capacity of 2,500 spectators. The field consists of an artificial turf outfield and a dirt infield. The entire complex includes spectator support amenities, a Team Building (containing lockers, a team lounge, team meeting/video room, training room, equipment room, and coaches’ offices), and a Player Development Area (used for indoor practices, warmup, conditioning, and high-level training). The players and coaches now have everything they need to perform at their highest levels. 

Underside of the roof. The wood panels take the shape of triangles and the geometry of home plate.
View of the field from the concourse along the 3rd base line.

The scoreboard, which places an Oregon "O" logo before a "Jane Sanders Stadium" sign, is a nod to Jane Sanders’ legal first name, Olive.
Our tour guide telling us about the construction and characteristics of the field.

Inside the Ducks' dugout.

The Player Development Area, used for indoor practices and training.
The Equipment Storage room. 

Donor recognition wall in the lobby of the Team Building.

Perhaps the design’s most assertive feature is the V-shaped roof that covers a portion of the seats behind home plate. Destined to become iconic, my first take upon seeing renderings was that its profile resembled that of the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber. Like the Hatfield-Dowlin Football Complex before it, the mostly black color scheme extends the current UO penchant for a darkly inscrutable, cool, and audacious aesthetic. 

Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber (photo credit: U.S. Air Force)

I spoke with SRG principal and design team leader Jeff Yrazabal a few months ago about how demanding the job’s tight timeline was. Despite its hurried pace, Jeff expressed confidence in his team’s ability to get it done right. His trust in his colleagues was certainly not misplaced, as the finished product is a testament to their hard work and talent. 

The Jane does have its detractors: Despite eagerly looking forward to attending her first game there, my wife doesn’t like the new building’s cloak of black paint. In her opinion it’s “too dark” and consequently fails to fit in with its neighbors. I think The Jane fits in just fine, and will even more so if and when a sensitive architect plans the new academic buildings destined to occupy the site along University Avenue immediately to the west of the stadium’s new entrance plaza. 

*     *     *     *     *    

I owe my opportunity to tour The Jane to Matt Scheibe, principal with Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning, who worked on the project. Matt invited me and Jamin AAsum of Skylab Architecture to join him on the guided tour of Jane Sanders Stadium. The three of us comprise the core design team for the Eugene Civic Park project, so the opportunity to visit and learn about The Jane was one we couldn't pass up. Look for a future blog post about our work on Civic Park, for which we just wrapped up the Conceptual Design phase.