Virtual Reality as a Design Tool

Rowell Brokaw has been using Virtual Reality (VR) to understand their new office space in 1203 Willamette. Project Architect Paul Harman helps explain the benefits of this new medium: “Even though we have robust digital tools and the ability to see things on screen in perspective, we are still limited by our renderings: they are not always convincing and navigation with a mouse can be clumsy. Putting on a headset allows you to be immersed. It’s convincing to the point where you are concerned about bumping into things that don’t exist. VR is the next level in proof of concept. Now you can move from hand sketches to 2D views to perspectives that can be swiveled around on flat screens to immersion in an environment.... There are many buildings that had attractive drawings but are a lackluster experience. VR helps close the gap between what is drawn and what is built.”

RB visits Mid Valley Metals

Dustin Locke, the Marketing Director and Architecture Design Lead of Mid Valley Metals in West Eugene, gave RB a tour of their facilities. RB is developing a custom desk for our new offices on 1203 Willamette. Though still a design in progress, the sit-stand desk will have a 1 ¼” oak plywood top with a marmoleum surface and a perforated stainless steel back panel. After the tour of Mid Valley Metals, RB headed over to Altech Finishes to view their powder coating options.

New Tenants Coming to Crescent Village

There is a buzz of activity at Crescent Village East and the Inkwell Building with tenant improvements and upgrades to leasable spaces underway. NorthFork, a new restaurant serving rustic comfort food and craft beer, as well as a veterinarian office are joining the ground-floor mix of retail, restaurants, and offices at Crescent Village. Built in 2006 and 2007, Crescent Village has two mixed-use buildings at its center, both with 51 apartment units over 18,000 sf of retail space. In 2009, Crescent Village expanded to include the Inkwell Building, a LEED-certified 36,000 sf mixed-use office and retail building. 

Paul Harman at the Intersection of Hand and Digital

When not being an architect, Paul likes to make things, particularly furniture and architectural ornament. One of his pieces, the Owl Wall Sconce, was exhibited this summer at a juried show of local furniture makers at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene. The following is from an interview with Paul on his development as an artisan/artist:

I first became interested in craft and making things in my early twenties. I had just graduated from college, and while I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I knew that I wanted to work with my hands. A former professor recommended I visit Arcosanti, a pedestrian-oriented community conceived by architect Paolo Soleri as an alternative to urban sprawl, which is under construction in the Arizona high desert north of Phoenix. After completing the introductory workshop, I went to work at the community foundry where I learned a traditional method of making sandcast bronze wind bells. I thought of Arcosanti as being like a self-guided trade school. I would work at the foundry from 6am to 2pm and then would be free the rest of the day to use the other facilities, which included a wood shop, metal shop, and ceramics studio. It’s here where I first began exploring sculpting in clay.

Where I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania there is a rich history of timber frame barns and covered bridges. I had always admired this way of building, and so after leaving Arcosanti I attended a summer-long apprenticeship at the Heartwood School in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Heartwood specializes in teaching traditional timber frame carpentry using hand tools. Timber frame structures are in many ways like large pieces of furniture, and the joinery skills we were taught inspired my interest in furniture making.  

My late twenties and early thirties were spent working for small architectural firms in Philadelphia, while I continued to explore my own creative work in my free time. Without a formal degree, my career prospects in architecture were limited, and so I decided to return to graduate school at the University of Oregon to pursue a Master’s degree. It was here that I was first exposed to the creative potential of digital fabrication through using the school’s CNC router. Learning to use this technology has completely transformed my approach to craft. Not only has it generally extended my capabilities by allowing me to do things that would be very difficult to execute using conventional techniques, but also it has allowed me to translate ideas I have been previously only able to explore in ceramics into a variety of other materials, such as wood, solid surface (for example, Corian), concrete, and glass.

I periodically encounter people who are “purists” in their thinking about craft. To them, utilizing digital tools is somehow “cheating.” One of my heroes is Wharton Esherick, an artist and craftsman, who famously declared, “I use any damn machinery I can get hold of…. Handcrafted has nothing to do with it. I’ll use my teeth if I have to.” Like Esherick, for me the design idea is most important, and I’ll use whatever tools are at my disposal to realize the idea in physical form.

On the opposite extreme, I have taught classes at the University of Oregon in digital modeling and fabrication where I have encountered students who insist that only work that is purely digitally derived from parametric processes devoid of the human hand are valid uses of digital fabrication technologies. This kind of absolutist thinking is equally puzzling to me. I believe there is an innate intelligence in the human hand when it comes to generating pleasing and meaningful forms. Why wouldn’t you want to marry the two capabilities? That is how I approach much of my work now. It is an intersection between the hand and the digital. While much of the work I do is executed digitally, I think and design tactilely. When I am working on an ornamental design, I often need to first model the design in clay by hand before I jump to the computer so that I can understand the form in a visceral way that I can only get through touch.

I know this is going to sound cliché, but what inspires me most, particularly my work in ornamental designs, is the patterns and forms I find in nature. The swirling grain of wood burls, the pattern on a spider’s thorax, ripples and undulations in water—that sort of thing. While there is a trend in contemporary ornament that seeks to replicate many patterns in nature using parametric techniques (think of Voronoi diagrams and soap bubbles), this really doesn’t interest me. I like to observe and internalize the things that inspire me. Then through a process of hand sketching and modeling, ideas begin to emerge; inevitably a certain degree of abstraction occurs. Sometimes the idea comes pretty quickly, but usually it’s a long, iterative process until I am satisfied that I have something worth the effort of actually making.

For more of Paul’s work, visit his website.

Panoramas of Pacific Hall

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Pacific Hall is being transformed into a new research hub for the Human Physiology, Geography, and Anthropology departments at the UO. A typical lab has four open bays, each 10’8” by 22’0”, and a fifth, enclosed bay that serves as flex space for a clean room, biopsy room, data analysis area, and/or office. Each entry will be storefront and have a seating bench for socializing in the corridor. Alignment of entry zones across corridors creates sight lines between labs and to the outdoors.

Crescent Village Featured in Community Design Handbook

As part of the Envision Eugene Comprehensive Plan, the Community Design Handbook (CDH) establishes "a broad set of non-regulatory design principles and guidelines that express the community's vision for the built environment." Crescent Village appears in a subsection of the chapter "Evoke a Sense of Place." Please Note: Though the publication specifies "draft," this document is in its final form.

Student Tour of Amazon Corner

Ken Hutchinson of Rowell Brokaw and Andy Driscoll of Essex Construction lead a tour of Amazon Corner for University of Oregon architecture students. Amazon Corner is a 120,000 sf mixed-use apartment building in South Eugene. This 4-over-1 building has four floors of wood framed construction above ground floor and second floor post-tensioned concrete slabs.

Tykeson Hall Featured in Register-Guard

Model by Office 52

Note: Rowell Brokaw is the executive architect for Tykeson Hall.

Article in the Register-Guard

By Saul Hubbard
The Register-Guard
October 13, 2017

The University of Oregon is preparing to build a major new student advising and career center at the heart of its campus.

The $39 million building, named after the late Eugene businessman Don Tykeson and his wife, Willie, who contributed $10 million, also will include six classrooms and house the College of Arts and Sciences administrative offices on its upper floors.

Tykeson Hall’s key ­purpose is to place a significant number of the UO’s existing ­academic and career advisers in a ­central location to make those services more ­accessible for ­undergraduates, said ­Andrew Marcus, dean of the College of Arts and ­Sciences.

Under the current, fragmented system, “students pretty quickly give up and just start talking to one other,” he said. “They don’t realize the services that are available to them.”

Construction on ­Tykeson Hall is expected to ­begin in December and last until the start of the 2019 academic year.

The building, designed by Portland firm Office 52, will feature “classic campus architecture” with “modern, spacious design,” according to UO officials.

It will total 64,000 square feet across five floors, including a below-ground level. The original plan was for a less expensive, 50,000-square-foot building, but it was expanded, at UO ­President Michael Schill’s direction, to provide more classroom and student advising space.

The new building will be wedged between Johnson Hall, the red brick home of the UO’s administration, and Chapman Hall, the hub of the school’s honors college, which is undergoing a $10.5 million renovation.

Tykeson Hall will replace a 42-spot parking lot now used by UO administrators. The university already has built a new, smaller replacement parking lot for administrators on the other side of Johnson Hall. “I don’t think students will even be aware the parking lot is gone,” Marcus said.

Noise during construction may prove disruptive; however, university officials warn, given the site’s central location near lots of classrooms and offices.

In addition to the Tykesons’ gift, the UO received $17 million in bonds from the Legislature in 2015 and other ­donations ­totaling $6.4 million. That leaves the ­university $5.6 million short of the ­project’s expected ­price tag, but Marcus said he doesn’t anticipate ­trouble plugging the gap.

The university hopes to use the building’s ­classrooms as a magnet for students and expose them to advisers available to them. The UO will schedule introductory composition and math classes, taken by about 9,000 students a year, for Tykeson Hall. “Just like in a grocery stores you put eggs and milk in the back of the store so that people have to walk through the aisles and look at the potato chips on the way there, we have classrooms to draw students into this building,” Marcus said.

Funnily enough, UO’s Tykeson Hall won’t be the only building with that name at an Oregon public university. The first academic building at Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus in Bend, which opened last year, also goes by Tykeson Hall. The Tykeson family has been a longtime supporter of OSU’s satellite campus project.

Andersen Construction Performs the Impossible

During a planned power outage for the Pacific Hall renovation to replace the rooftop electrical transformer this weekend, the Pacific team encountered a serious problem. When power was transferred to backup Friday evening around 6pm and the old transformer removed, it was discovered that the steel structure under the platform supporting the existing transformer was nothing like the as-builts the design team had been working from. The original plan to modify the existing structure to accommodate the new, 40% heavier transformer no longer made sense.

From 7pm to 2am that night, Austin Bailey, John Rowell, and Matt Travis of Rowell Brokaw and Ed Quesenberry of Equilibrium Engineers worked with Mike Wold, Dan Porovich, and Wendell Dietrich of Andersen Construction to modify the design on the fly. The solution ultimately required structural reinforcing/modification of some of the existing steel members and coordinating with Andersen Construction what could actually be built in and around the existing conditions. What should have taken roughly 6 hours of steel modification ended up requiring about 24 hours of continuous cutting, grinding, and welding. The Andersen crew put in a tremendous amount of effort and work with carpenters Brad Hellesto and Rob Hansen working through the night to complete the additional modifications.

Dozens of electricians from OEG were on-site throughout the weekend. Working on shifts 24/7 to complete multiple new equipment installations and to restore power by Monday morning. Because of the platform modifications, the new transformer reached the roof about 10 hours later than had been intended. However, because of the combined effort of Andersen Construction and OEG, they were able to gain back that time through Saturday night and Sunday.

Thanks to everyone involved in overcoming the challenges of this weekend! It’s wonderful to be a part of such a resourceful and committed team.

Groundbreaking for Tykeson Hall

Willie Tykeson, President Michael Schill, Dean Andrew Marcus, and Kathryn Sternberger ('17) broke ground for Tykeson Hall, a $39 million facility devoted to liberal arts education and career development at the University of Oregon. In this innovative project, academic and career advising will be housed under one roof, allowing undergrads to realize the career possibilities behind their academic choices. As Dean Marcus explains, "We want to help students navigate college intentionally and give them the ability to articulate the specific skills they’ve acquired. How can they map their valuable liberal arts education and experiences to careers? We need to give them the vocabulary, facts and concrete evidence of their own performance that will help build their portfolios and make a good case to employers. This building is not only a symbol of this aspiration but a tool that will help us reach it." 

Grand Opening of the Arts & Technology Academy

Superintendent Gustavo Balderas, 4J board members, and Principal Larry Williams with the ceremonial ribbon

The grand opening of the Eugene 4J Arts & Technology Academy at the Jefferson Middle School featured a ribbon cutting, student performances, and architectural tours of the building. The design of the new building supports ATA’s innovative STEM program, which integrates science, technology, engineering, and math into the curriculum in hands-on, real-world ways. For a more in-depth explanation of the design, see the brochure we created for the event:

Construction Underway at Jefferson Library

After seven years of passionate fundraising, the Jefferson Library is under construction. Adjacent to the City Hall, the library will serve its growing population's needs, offering multi-media services and a civic meeting room. 

Mentoring the Future

John Rowell spent the last couple of weeks mentoring Phillip Bindeman, a senior at South Eugene High School. Phillip shadowed John, observing all that goes into his job as a Principal. He says of his experience, “I had an image of architecture as people drawing all the time. I realize now it’s a lot more social than I thought. There are lots of meetings, especially for John and Greg. Even though I didn’t understand half of what the architects said in those meetings, I enjoyed my time here. I look forward to understanding what they said in the future.” When asked if he still wants to be an architect after the experience, Phillip said, “It’s a lot of work, but, yes, definitely.” He has applied to several technical colleges, including University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

RB Summer Party in Dexter

RB celebrates another great year as a firm at the annual summer party. This year the party was in Dexter, OR.

The Saga of Sawdust: Creating a Wall of Sawdust for the Roseburg Forest Products Headquarters

Early in the design phase of the Roseburg Forest Products (RFP) project, Rowell Brokaw travelled with the RFP design team to the DIRTT headquarters in Calgary, Canada. Since 2003, DIRTT has been creating innovative modular wall systems. During their visit, the design team saw a glass wall full of lemons that DIRTT had created for Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Initially, they joked about making the equivalent for Roseburg Forest Products: a wall of sawdust to represent the company’s goal to have “sawdust in the veins.” But as the design for the new headquarters developed, the joke started to gain credence until the wall of sawdust became part of the design. “The more we talked about the idea,” Britni Jessup of RB recounted, “the more we realized that it represented more than an architectural feature—it represented who RFP is and a message to their employees and visitors about their history and their values.”

The design team selected DIRTT’s “Evil Twin” wall, in which one of the glass panels must mirror, despite its wishes, the other panel’s position. Everyone was worried about dust, moisture and living things becoming sealed in the wall. The wood chips came directly from the mill floor in Roseburg. “Imagine if there was a hatch within the wall,” Britni explained, “it would be hard to fix and would cause serious problems. Gordon Rea at McKenzie Commercial did a series of mock-ups to find a solution we were all comfortable with.” The following method turned out to work: dry Roseburg Forest Products’ wood chips and sawdust in an old clothes dryer, spread the dry and clean wood chips and sawdust on a plastic sheet, apply countless layers of lacquer, fill glass panels with wood chips and sawdust through a giant funnel of cardboard lined with slippery craft paper, and finally angle and ease panels up into their locking position within the wall.

The wall took days to install: it took three guys to take a panel off and mess with the sawdust height before locking it back in place. Britni created a line of blue tape to help with the heights. In the final design, the sawdust made a continuous, undulating line between six glass panels. The wall is now one of the signature features of the entry at the headquarters. Employees and visitors alike can actually see the sawdust in RFP's veins.

For more on the sawdust wall and the innovations of the DIRTT wall system, read the following article featured in officeinsight, an online magazine that focuses on workplace design and furnishings: 

Watching the eclipse from the RB rooftop

Peter Utsey and Nicola Fucigna climbed up on the office roof to experience the solar eclipse. Many other Eugenians had the same idea. Kesey square also had a small crowd of solar gazers. Note the streetlights coming on at 10:17 in the morning.

South Hills House Construction Underway

Project architect Frank Visconti and landscape architect Lorri Nelson go over details with Wilbur Burge, project manager for 2G Construction. The South Hills House is taking shape: concrete retaining walls and foundation have been poured, the wood formwork will come down soon, and the footprint is starting to be framed.