Interiors and Materials Series: 1

This is the first post in a new series here on the blog, Interiors and Materials, where we’ll shed some light on our process of identifying and selecting materials for a project. These choices have a huge impact on the way that a space is perceived and experienced. Materials should be seamlessly integrated with the architecture while adding an additional layer of complexity to the space, one that expresses the client's unique personality. Apart from enhancing the brand experience, materials should be appropriate to the project and its use – they should consider environmental impacts, durability, and budget. We keep all of this in mind as we make material recommendations for all our projects, big or small.

Today, we’re highlighting a small tenant improvement for KPFF Consulting Engineers’ Eugene office. The project is currently in schematic design and on a fast-track towards construction. The client has a bold brand color palette we are using for inspiration to create a few key focal points. Limiting and carefully curating upgraded materials results in a neat aesthetic, but also helps us keep on budget.

KPFF’s work tends to track in a bit of the outside world, so we designed a durable back door entry with a floor surface that can be easily cleaned. The rest of the office is floored with carpet that is rated for heavy use and should withstand plenty of wear and tear over the years – its dark color and integrated texture will ground the room yet be forgiving in case any grit makes it passed the entry. Overhead and on the walls, felt ceiling clouds and tackable panels, manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, provide critical acoustic benefits in the open office environment. Other material selections include durable, factory-laminated panels for casework and work surfaces, and long-lasting, easily-cleaned quartz surfaces in the shared kitchen.

Meet RBA's Fall Practicum Student, Cassidy Jones

This fall, RBA participated in the University of Oregon College of Design’s practicum program. Cassidy Jones, a fifth-year undergraduate student in architecture, joined us for a ten-week practicum.

We kept Cassidy busy with several current projects: she worked with Austin Bailey and Serena Lim on early concept models and precedent searches for the Eugene Riverfront Steam Plant; found informative precedents and attended meetings for the Lane Transit District’s Santa Clara bus terminal; helped Nicola Fucigna improve our website and marketing materials; went to an OAC meeting and tour of the Tykeson Hall construction site with Chris Andrejko, Britni Jessup, and Peter King; and worked with Frank Visconti using Lumion to render affordable housing designs for Cornerstone Community Housing.

One of Cassidy’s most memorable experiences was attending the project interview for the University of Oregon’s Walton and Hamilton dorms project. “It was great to see how the process operates on the higher-ed scale, as well as to see the presentation. I thought they had really engaging ideas and I am excited to see how the project unfolds!” Cassidy also enjoyed meeting Brendan Connolly, Lynn McBride, Dorothy Faris, and Dustann Jones from Mithun with whom RBA is partnered for the project.

Cassidy is currently gearing up for the Inclusive Urbanism and Resilient Architecture terminal studio with Kaarin Knudson, and says she’s loving every second of it. “I think it is important as designers to be thinking about how our projects impact people on a larger scale than just the site, and the way projects can work with the greater community to create healthier and more sustainable lifestyles both for the users and the planet.”

Originally from Grass Valley, CA, Cassidy is open to moving almost anywhere after graduation, but has her eyes on Seattle. Cassidy loves architecture for its ability to evoke feelings and enhance the health, relationships, and lives of those who experience it, and hopes to work on urban design, affordable housing, and civic or public works projects. We wish her the very best in her final year of school, and great success after graduating this spring!

Tykeson Hall Construction Update: Geologic Formation On Display

A unique aspect of the University of Oregon campus is, if you dig more than 5 or 6 feet underground, there’s a good chance you will hit rock ­– specifically the Eugene Formation, a local geologic formation that has preserved fossils dating back to the Paleogene period.

Tykeson Hall’s basement was carved out of this formation, and after having a chance to study the exposed ledge at the planned south lightwell, the University asked the design team to look at leaving this unique geological feature exposed, where it could be seen through the windows of the 100-seat classroom planned for the basement. With a revised planting plan for the slope above, the project now plans to leave the formation and its many exposed fossils on view. It’s the only location on UO campus where the formation will be visible for study – hopefully by some geology students!

South Hills House Construction Sequence

The South Hills House has come a long way since fall of last year. Here is a construction sequence of the terrace. One can see the clear volumes and signature cantilevered roof taking shape, the dramatic slope of the site being reconciled, and the envelope—an Equitone fibre-cement rainscreen system—being developed. Currently, the owners are in the process of moving into their new home.

Baby Celebration and Halloween Creatures

Rowell Brokaw celebrated Nicola Fucigna’s soon-to-be-born baby with a tasty lunch from Ta Ra Rin. Nicola has really appreciated the work-life balance at Rowell Brokaw, which has allowed her to create flexible hours and, for the last month of her pregnancy, switch to remote work. The atmosphere in the office is very supportive and family friendly. Most of the staff have children—ages range from a 1-½-year-old (granddaughter) to a 29-year-old. At one point in RBA’s history, the office had four new babies all around the same time. This Halloween some young and older creatures appeared in the office.

Jefferson Library Open For Halloween

After eight years of passionate and creative fundraising, Jefferson Library opened its doors for some Halloween cheer and books!

The Community Rallies for Jefferson Library

Article in Corvallis Gazette-Times

Jefferson moves books into new library

By Anthony Rimel
Corvallis Gazette-Times
October 21, 2018

The original plan was to form a human chain to pass the contents of the old Jefferson Public Library from one person to another over the roughly one-block distance from the old library to the new.

But, at the start of the move Saturday morning, there weren’t quite enough people for the human chain. Instead, the volunteers simply carried books by the armload over the distance, with a handful of people lugging books and fixtures around in handcarts.

Linda Baker, president of the Jefferson Oregon Friends of the Library, said just having people carry the books was always the "Plan B" if they couldn’t make the human chain work.

But making things work is what Baker and around 10 other core members of the Friends of the Library are good at. Over the last decade, they've raised $800,000 to build the new library, all from private donations and grants.

“I’ve been walking around the last three days saying ‘wow, it really happened,’ Baker said. “We have been at this 10 years.”

Baker said volunteers moved around 5,000 items Saturday, not the library’s entire collection, but a significant chunk. There were at least 50 volunteers helping at the start of the moving session and Baker said there may have been as many as 150 who pitched in with the move throughout the day.

Baker said the new library will be accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act standards, unlike the old library in the historic Joseph Conser House. It will also have more space for the collection and other library services.

“It’s going to allow visits from more people,” she said, adding that she was expecting the library’s average of 1,200 visitors a month to increase.

She said for Jefferson, the library is more than books: it’s a place where people can use a computer to search for a job, borrow a movie or participate in things like the summer reading program.

Chris Studer, of Jefferson, said he helped out with the move because his grandmother had been a librarian in Jefferson. He added that seeing what the friends of the library were able to accomplish was extraordinary.

“They’ve been at it a while. Pretty much everyone told them they couldn’t do it and they did.”

Sam Schwarz, a Jefferson High School senior, was part of a trio of the high school’s musicians who led the procession from the old library to the new.

He said before the move he didn’t really appreciate how significant it was to be part of the effort to move books into the new library for the first time, but watching the event caused him to change his tune.

“It’s kind of a historic event," he said. "When we come back we’re going to be able to say we were part of the move.”

The library officially opens Oct. 30, Baker said, if things go according to plan. She added donations are still needed for the library. Donations can be made to the Jefferson Oregon Friends of the Library at P.O. Box 656, Jefferson, OR, 97352 or www.jeffersonoregonfol.com.

Oregon Pacific Bank Featured in Oregon Business

OPB Staff.jpg

Article in Oregon Business

Branching Out

By Jay Shenai
Oregon Business
October 8, 2018

Oregon Pacific Bank breaks ground for a new way of banking.

A new branch for Oregon Pacific Bank is opening in Eugene just in time for the holidays. The opening of the 59 E. 11th Street location, targeted for early December, sends a signal of the bank’s commitment to partner with the community and its local businesses.

Until then, please pardon the construction.

According to Ellen Huntingdon, Marketing Coordinator for the Florence-based bank, work in the new building began in earnest this past summer. Walls and carpets were torn out for a complete interior redesign in late August.

“The building interior is going through a fairly extensive and much-needed face-lift.” Huntingdon said.

Local firms McKenzie Commercial Contractors, Inc. and Rowell Brokaw Architects were brought in to do the job, which involved removal of office doors, adding of storefront windows, and new everything: new carpet, new floor tiles, new teller rows, new conference rooms, and a new kitchen.

“What we want to do is really lighten up the space, both for our clients and for staff working there,” she said.

When it opens its doors, the flagship branch will have a drive-through teller window and a deposit-taking ATM, as well as a night-drop deposit box. The branch will be well equipped to offer comprehensive banking services, but will focus on its core strategies of providing business banking solutions, trust services and wealth management.

“We will be able to cater to the entirety of the financial life cycle, whether community members are looking to retire, looking to open a business, or are somewhere in between,” Huntingdon said.

The new branch building is part of a response to recent industry mergers and acquisitions that left the Eugene and Springfield markets without two of its locally based banking institutions, according to Ron Green, Bank President and CEO.

In early 2015, the Florence-based Siuslaw Financial Group and Bank was purchased by Banner Corporation to merge with Banner Bank. And in November of 2017, a deal to purchase Pacific Continental Bank was finalized by Columbia Bank.
 
“The mergers left a void in the Eugene-Springfield area, and created a niche for the services of an additional community bank,” Green said. “One with decisions made in the local area, one inherently invested in the success of the community.”

“Because we’re [headquartered] in the Lane County area, the local economic and social infrastructure must be strong for us to succeed,” Green said.

“We’re committed to the success of the communities we serve, all in,” he said.

A thirty-nine year old bank, it opened its Eugene branch in 2015 as a trust and loan production office on the 6th floor of the Citizen’s Building on Oak Street, and expanded in 2016 into full-service banking. The recent mergers created opportunity that the bank wanted to seize upon. Additional capital was raised in 2017, which led to the hiring of more than a dozen local banking professionals from one of the institutions that merged with an out-of-state company. The expansion far outpaced the capacity of the original office space.

“The need for additional space presented us the opportunity to pursue a location that had improved visibility and easy access for our clients,” Huntingdon said. “It was the perfect time to reach out and make that next step to grow into our own building.”

One of the exciting opportunities a larger presence in the Eugene area presents is the ability to offer a greater amount of support to local area nonprofit organizations. Since its founding in 1979, Oregon Pacific Bank has been a strong partner and resource for community organizations, from flexible lending structures and monetary donations, to utilizing their workforce for volunteer activities.

“We have an active culture of caring at Oregon Pacific Bank, in that we encourage our employees to participate and volunteer within the communities we serve,” said Huntingdon. “As part of our benefits package, we offer our employees one hour a week to volunteer during their paid work schedule and in addition to that many of our employees also serve on local nonprofit boards and committees.”

This mission of caring for the community aligns well with the bank’s day-to-day business, one that Oregon Pacific Bank hopes will have a direct impact on the economic strength of Eugene area business owners.

“The deposits that we collect in the Eugene market we turn around and invest right back into the businesses in the Eugene area,” Huntingdon said.

It’s part of what makes Oregon Pacific Bank unique, according to Huntingdon. “Our mission is to work together with our partners to make their future better,” she said.

“We will do that in a way that’s anything but ordinary.”

When completed, the branch will also be one of the only banks in the area to also offer in-house wealth management that includes estate planning and the ability to settle estates after the passing of a loved one.

“That’s a tremendous value, many don’t often realize,” Green said. “We’re very proud of the ability to take care of our local families in a time that they are in true need of unbiased and objective financial assistance.”

In the meantime, the bank will continue to prepare for the opening of their new Eugene branch, currently planned for early December, according to Green.

“Be on the lookout for several HGTV-inspired Web videos sharing the progress of the new office,” Huntingdon said, “in addition to some editions of the bank’s video series, #AskTheBanker, shot on location.”

Anticipate an open house event and a ribbon cutting, as well as other community events yet to be determined, according to Green.

“We welcome the Eugene community to come and visit once our new branch is open,” Green says, “and prepare for a different kind of banking experience!”

Welcome Serena Lim!

Serena Lim recently joined Rowell Brokaw as a designer after earning her M.Arch at the University of Oregon. She has always loved drawing and crafting and brings strong creative skills to the firm. After earning a B.A. in Liberal/Visual Arts from the Evergreen State College in 2008, she worked as a freelance graphic designer, textile restoration specialist, and co-founded and directed Oxtail Studio & Gallery in Berkeley, CA. She also worked as a junior designer at Goring & Straja Architects before returning to school to earn her master’s degree in architecture.

Serena was drawn to the University of Oregon’s Architecture program for its emphasis on sustainability. She brings an acute awareness of architecture’s social and environmental impacts. While completing her M.Arch, she worked as a Graduate Research Fellow and lab assistant in the UO Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory and as a design assistant for FLOAT Architectural Research and Design in Eugene. Serena's love of the outdoors and interdisciplinary background in the humanities support her passion for sustainable, equitable design.

In her spare time, Serena enjoys sketching, painting, sewing, printmaking, hiking, camping, and meals with friends. She has been studying Polynesian dance since she was 8 years old and enjoys travel.

Mark Young's illustrations and Nicola Fucigna's article on Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities featured in Construction Literary Magazine

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities has captured the imagination of many architects, including RB’s Mark Young and Nicola Fucigna. When Mark was studying abroad in Copenhagen as an undergrad, he illustrated all 55 cities. A collection of these illustrations are featured in Construction, a quarterly online literary magazine, where Nicola runs an architecture column on the poetics of real and imagined spaces. For the Fall 2018 issue, Nicola contributed an essay illustrated by Mark: "Lessons for Architects in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities."  

Lorri Nelson receives a Head Start Award

During Head Start of Lane County’s All Staff Event, Lorri Nelson was recognized as one of a handful of “community members who have given, supported, and are champions of Head Start.” Lorri is honored to receive this award. She has loved working with the Head Start staff to integrate natural play areas into various school sites.

Rowell Brokaw shares the values of Head Start and is proud of its history working with this important non-profit. The Head Start program offers a holistic approach to early childhood development, providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to low-income families. For more on the history of this program and its relationship to architecture, see this Head Start Presentation that John Rowell co-authored in 2002.

UO Robinson Theater Rigging Project

The UO Robinson Theater Rigging Replacement project has been successfully completed. All of the obsolete, existing equipment was replaced with contemporary stage rigging equipment. This rigging includes rope lines, blocks (pulleys), and counterweights that allow a stage crew to “fly” or hoist objects—such as lights, curtains, and scenery—out of view of the stage. Rowell Brokaw worked with PLA Theatrical Consultants, Systems West Engineers as electrical consultants, the Ausland Group as general contractor, Stagecraft Industries as the rigging subcontractor, and JKG Electric as subcontractors to complete the project.

Spotlight on Eureka Veterans and Homeless Housing in Lost Coast Outpost

Article in the Local Coast Outpost

Eureka Committee Approves Design for New Three-Story, 50,000 Square-Foot Low-Income Housing Complex on Fourth Street

By Stephanie McGeary
Local Coast Outpost
September 12, 2018

View from 4th and B Streets.

Today the Eureka Design Review Committee approved plans for development of an apartment complex on the corner of Fourth Street between B and C Streets in Eureka, intended to house veterans and people at risk of homelessness.

“We’re just trying to help the community, help the people on the streets and give them a leg up,” Development company Danco CommunitiesPresident Chris Dart told the Outpost.

The approximately 50,000 square foot, three story building will contain 50 one-bedroom apartments. Half of the units will be designated for veterans and the other half will be for the general population, Dart told the Outpost. But all tenants need to be homeless or at risk of homelessness, he said.

Map of the project location.

The project is not only intend to provide both temporary and long-term housing for those in need, but also will include social services provided by the Veteran’s Resource Center and Humboldt County Health and Human Services. Services will include food, post-traumatic stress syndrome recovery counseling, life-skills coaching, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and more.

The building includes some other impressive features, such as a large communal kitchen, a rooftop garden, a courtyard garden with an internal bike storage and solar panels. According to the staff report, the building is designed to be “net-zero,” meaning that it produces as much energy as it consumes.

View of the courtyard looking east.

Eureka Development Services Director Rob Holmlund said the city is excited about this project, which he sees as not only providing a much needed service, but will be an aesthetic improvement on the area as well.

“It’s a really well-designed building,” Holmlund told the Outpost. “It will be an amazing new prominent structure.”

With the approval of the Design Review Committee in hand, Holmlund said, all the developers really have left to do is apply for the building permits.

Dart is excited to complete this project, which has been in the works since 2015. He said the developers expect to break ground by January 2019 and is estimating the construction to take about 12 months.

View of entry from 4th Street.

1203 Willamette Open House Celebration

Rowell Brokaw, deChase Miksis, Trifoia, Watkinson Laird Rubenstein Attorneys, & Claim 52 held an open house at 1203 Willamette. The event was catered by Saucefly. The whole building was opened up for visitors to explore all the offices in the newly remodeled building. It was fascinating to see the various ways that each office has developed its workspace in the exposed timber structure.

It has been quite a journey from a vacant, rundown building to a vibrant space. For RB, the open house was a cathartic event, full of great food and conversations. Thank you to all who came!

"Topping Out" Ceremony for Tykeson Hall

 

Tykeson Hall’s “topping out” was celebrated this Friday. Willie Tykeson, Dean Marcus, other key donors and UO members, and the construction workers on the building signed the final steel beam that was then, via a crane, lifted into place. The ceremony commemorates the completion of the last major piece of structure for the project. Now the construction team—Fortis Construction and its many subcontractors—with support of the design team will turn to the cladding of the building, followed by installation of the interior finishes. Tykeson is slated to open in Fall 2019.  

Full Steam Ahead: Steam Plant Redevelopment Featured in Register-Guard

Andy Nelson/Register-Guard

Article in the Register-Guard

Eugene selects deChase Miksis Development team to renovate downtown steam plant

By Elon Glucklich
The Register-Guard
August 28, 2018

Eugene officials are putting their faith in a group of prominent local developers, architects and business executives to transform the former Eugene Water & Electric Board steam plant.

The city announced Tuesday that it had picked a team led by Mark Miksis of deChase Miksis Development and Arcimoto CEO Mark Frohnmayer to submit a formal proposal for the 87-year-old steam plant’s redevelopment. City officials chose the team over two other groups that expressed interest earlier this year.

The Miksis group outlined plans in June to turn the long-vacant, 50-foot-tall steam plant into a vibrant retail, restaurant and office building with amenities such as a ground-floor tap room, business and classroom space, and a rooftop deck with prime Willamette River views.

Now the group has been asked to submit a detailed plan for the renovation, which it estimates costing between $18 million and $25 million. The group and the city hope to finish the project in time for the 2021 World Track & Field Championships, along with a wider transformation of the former EWEB operations yard by Portland-based Williams/Dame & Associates.

“The people we have on this team have been working on this project a long time, so we’re not coming in cold,” Miksis said. “This team goes back to 2015, when we were looking at a possible plan for the steam plant. We do have a lot of good ideas and a fair understanding of the challenges in the building, and we’re definitely excited for having the opportunity.”

Miksis’ development team also includes deChase Miksis Development partner Dean Papé, Rowell Brokaw Architects executives John Rowell and Greg Brokaw, Falling Sky Brewing owner Rob Cohen, Arcimoto Vice President Jesse Fittipaldi, retired architect and historic preservation specialist Don Peting, and Technology Association of Oregon Vice President Matt Sayre, as well as Jason Thompson, principal with Portland-based Catena Consulting Engineers.

Miksis has helped spearhead several large projects in Eugene, including Crescent Village’s commercial core in the northeast part of the city, the Northwest Community Credit Union building across East Sixth Avenue from the steam plant and the recent major remodel of a former retail building on Willamette Street into a dining, retail and office building.

His group’s submission to the city included statements of creditworthiness from two financial institutions. Miksis said his group is now looking into the feasibility and cost of various plans for the steam plant, which EWEB decommissioned in 2012 after building it in 1931 to house steam boilers and turbines.

The building is in poor condition, with broken windows, peeling paint and a laundry list of overdue upkeep.

“There’s a lot of due diligence yet to occur on this,” Miksis said, “but I think the city felt we had the best grasp of the opportunities and limitations of this project and the best ability to execute on the project by 2021.”

The city plans to hold community forums in the fall to get input on the project, Eugene business development analyst Amanda D’Souza said. There’s no formal timeline for the development, but the city hopes to have a clearer sense of the possibilities for the steam plant by the end of the year, she said.

We’re going to move as quickly as we can, but we also don’t fully understand the picture of what we’re walking into yet,” D’Souza said. “We’re starting that deep dive into the status of the building and figuring out exactly what they’re proposing.”

2018 Summer Intern Julia Chou

This summer Julia Chou joined us for an internship. Julia grew up in Eugene and as part of her senior project in high school she completed her job shadow at Rowell Brokaw’s old office. She is now entering her second year in the architecture department at Syracuse University.

Julia worked on several projects in the office: renderings of 1235 Willamette, a Revit model of the Steam Plant (formerly owned by EWEB), and signage for Rowell Brokaw’s office. She worked closely with John Rowell and Patrick Hannah.

She had several takeaways from her experience. “I liked learning about how people within a firm interact. In the new office, it is so easy to go talk to each other. You can jump between projects quickly. I also like how you work collectively—it’s never a one-man job. In school, it’s very competitive, whereas here it’s very collective and helpful.”

She enjoyed watching how different people work: “There are so many ways to do one thing. People choose Revit, CAD—John likes to do things in Photoshop, Frank in Lumion. People have their own personal style and preference that they can express.”

She was also struck by the “large amount of time it takes to complete a project. At school, we have three-to-six weeks per project. Here you have years changing and changing and changing things. There’s so much thought that goes into a project, more than you’d imagine.”

We really appreciate Julia’s contributions to the firm this summer and wish her well in her pursuit to one day start her own firm and become a professor.

Soil Samples Arrive at the OSU Marine and Geology Repository

Project Manager Tricia Berg and Project Architect Austin Bailey met with Principal Investigators Anthony Koppers and Joseph Stoner at Oregon State University’s new Marine and Geology Repository. The researchers are cataloguing and organizing the recently arrived Antarctic Core Collection in the new facility. These priceless sediment cores tell the history of many of the earth’s systems. The cores will be invaluable in studying climate change and ice sheet retreat for they chronicle past responses in Antarctica to times warmer than the present.

Tykeson Hall's Crane Featured in the Daily Emerald

(Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Article in the Daily Emerald

Meet UO’s campus crane operator

By Zach Prince
The Daily Emerald
July 30, 2018

Perched far above the claustrophobic PLC offices, looming over the infamous steps of Johnson Hall, sits a 172 EC-B Liebherr tower crane. Standing at more than 200 feet in the air, the view from the crane’s cab might be one of the best in town. On a clear day, one can see everything from Eugene’s east hills and Hendricks Park to the city’s tallest building, the Ya-Po-Ah Terrace.

Sitting atop the swaying beast is Ray McArthur, who is tasked with operating the crane for Nesscampbell, a Northwest-based crane and rigging company. McArthur, 63, has worked as a crane operator for more than 30 years and operated cranes for numerous construction projects on both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University’s campuses. 

  In Eugene, Ray McArthur operated cranes for the construction of Matthew Knight Arena, the EMU’s renovation, student housing, Autzen Stadium’s renovation, the Casanova extension, The Rec and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

In Eugene, Ray McArthur operated cranes for the construction of Matthew Knight Arena, the EMU’s renovation, student housing, Autzen Stadium’s renovation, the Casanova extension, The Rec and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

In Eugene, McArthur operated cranes for the construction of Matthew Knight Arena, the EMU’s renovation, student housing, Autzen Stadium’s renovation, the Casanova extension, The Rec and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. He also worked on multiples projects at OSU including Reser Stadium and a science building. He is currently working on the Tykeson Hall construction project, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

McArthur, who lives in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, is a seasoned tower crane operator who portrays a surprising amount of calmness despite using such heavy machinery. But that wasn’t always the case.

“I used to seriously have to sit with two rags on my legs,” McArthur said. “I’d rub my hands on them just ‘cause I’d sweat that much.”

McArthur worked as a laborer in the construction industry for 10 years before he became involved in operating heavy machinery. He first started out operating boom trucks, then hydro cranes and continued to move into working with larger equipment as time went on. The first time he operated a crane was when a construction site superintendent asked if he would cover for the site’s tower operator, who had gone on vacation for the week.

“[The superintendent’s] operator in Portland was going to go deer hunting or something, so he wanted to know if I would cover for him,” McArthur said. “I had never been in a tower crane before so I said ‘Hell yeah, let’s do it.’”

There was no required training or necessary qualifications for operating tower cranes when McArthur first began operating in the 1980s. Now there is a five-year apprenticeship required to break into the profession.

On his first job, the site superintendent promised McArthur a week-long training session from the regular operator. After not finding time to go up in the crane on either Monday or Tuesday, the two finally made it up on Wednesday for a two-hour training session. The operator then told McArthur they would pick up where they left off the next morning, but that isn’t how it happened.

“Thursday morning, I’m waiting for the operator to show up to give me some more instruction,” McArthur said. “So I’m looking around, looking around and the son of a gun never came back in. Two hours of training and then the thing was in my lap. Talk about being scared.”

McArthur was thrown into the fire on his first crane operating job, but even after two decades of experience, he still considers his profession stressful.

“It gets pretty intense sometimes,” McArthur said. “I didn’t have grey hair before I started this job.”

The level of stress McArthur regularly experiences depends on factors such as the weather conditions, how much work there is and what type of work needs to be completed.

McArthur says the best way to avoid those stressful situations is good communication. Groundworkers communicate with the crane operator by using a combination of radio messages and hand signals. On large construction sites, operators work with a bellman who serves as eyes on the ground, but for smaller sites such as Tykeson Hall, McArthur is on his own.

In order to work safely and effectively, operators must build a trust with the workers on the ground, McArthur said. This is especially true when the crane is operating in a blind spot that McArthur can’t see.

“If I can see it, I don’t sweat it,” McArthur said, “but if I can’t see it, if I’m picking stuff out of the basement or way over there where I can’t see, then those guys are running the crane, basically. I’m just doing what they tell me to do.”

Luckily, McArthur knows most of the other workers on the Tykeson Hall site, which gives him insight on who to trust and who to keep a closer eye on.

McArthur thought that Tykeson Hall would be his last job before retirement, but he’s a motorhead and couldn’t resist making an investment in a classic Chevy Nova last fall. Instead of retiring, he will operate the tower crane for the Knight Science Campus construction project, which broke ground in March 2018.

But for McArthur, delaying his retirement plans isn’t such a bad thing. Despite the stress that can come with being a crane operator, he truly loves the work he has made a career out of.

“I like the guys I work with. I like the challenge because every day is a challenge,” McArthur said. “Every day is something different. It’s not the same thing every day.”

For the full photo gallery, see "Photos: Climbing the campus crane" by Sarah Northrop.

1203 Willamette Construction Vignettes

Shout out to Project Superintendent Trevor Mael, Project Manager Dan Skotte, and their team at Essex General Construction for making all these vignettes possible!