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.

RB Staff visit their soon-to-be home at 1203 Willamette

RB staff envision their open office in Creative Midtown at 1203 Willamette. The plan includes new skylights, a gypcrete floor system, exposed wood roof framing and board formed concrete walls, and a REHAU window system on the second floor exterior.

Drone Pics of Midtown Creative

Renovation moving forward at Midtown Creative, a mixed-use office and retail building at 1203 Willamette Street.

This will be the third substantial remodel since the original building’s construction in 1942 and expansion in 1946. A goal of the current remodel is to expose the structure, including the existing wood columns, wood ceiling joists, and board formed concrete walls. Structural upgrades, such as glulam beams, have been added to the 36,000-square-foot building. The west elevation facing Willamette Street will be storefront, windows, and wood finishes.

Work on the roof has already begun. Essex General Construction is removing the existing roof and replacing it with a new single-ply membrane roof. They are removing the mechanical system and installing new HVAC units on the roof. Skylights will also be added.

The core and shell portion of the building is scheduled to be completed in the fall.

Soft Opening of Hot Mama’s Kitchen+Bar

RB Staff enjoyed some wings and drinks at the soft opening of Hot Mama’s Kitchen+Bar in Oakway Center. The new space has a 12-seat teak wood bar, a 90-seat dining room, a 40-seat mezzanine level, and a 20-seat outdoor area.

For more on Hot Mama’s new restaurant:

Interview with Frank Visconti, President Elect of the AIA Southwestern Oregon Chapter (AIA-SWO)


When were you elected and how long will you serve?
I was elected in January 2017 by the current president Katie Hall. I’ve been involved in the AIA since 1991. I served on the board of directors in Florida in 1991 and in New York in 2004. The position is really three years: the first year, you shadow the current president; then you are the president; then the next year, the next president shadows you.

What does the job entail?
Planning out all the events for the year at the local chapter and overseeing communications with the state and national AIA components. We’re voting members of the state AIA, so we have more exposure to the state and national organization. I went to Washington, DC, in April 2017 for a grassroots conference attended by hundreds of directors of all the different chapters in the country. We were there to see policy progress and meet with state legislatures to discuss important items of the year. This year there was a lot of attention on urban development, improving cities through codes and good design, and advocating for the architect’s role as part of the design of cities. We are also working to reorganize Oregon AIA into a single chapter for a more cohesive organization. Many states have successfully done this over the last five years.

What exciting things are you doing?
Locally, we have been working on the competition for parklets in downtown Eugene. It’s being installed this weekend; winning teams are finishing up their installations over the weekend. The opening is this Sunday during the Eugene Sunday Streets event. The mayor will be selecting a “mayor’s choice” design. The City of Eugene and the AIA have worked on this as a partnership. The City gave $10,000 to AIA-SWO to make this happen as an annual investment back into the city through art programs. The money was raised from Parking Services with additional sponsors from the downtown area.

How does practicing in Oregon compare to practicing in New York?
It’s a smaller community. You feel more connected to people. There is an unfathomable amount of members in the city and it’s a lot less grassroots!

Has being AIA president elect changed your relationship to Eugene and Springfield?
I feel more connected. I’m still in the process of meeting lots of people, networking, and understanding the community of design professionals and policy makers.

Any advice for upcoming professionals?
Join the AIA! It’s a really good organization. You can get as much or as little as you want out of it. It’s there for everybody. And they have a very impressive building in DC.

Eugene mourns the passing of philanthropist Don Tykeson

Don Tykeson, a communications pioneer, died July 12 in Eugene. He was a philanthropic leader in education, the arts, science, and health. As an alumnus of the University of Oregon, he has been a committed advocate for UO students and faculty. Most recently, he and his wife Willie donated $10 million toward student success in the liberal arts. The result is the Tykeson Hall College and Careers Building.

To learn more about Don Tykeson’s life:

Progress at Amazon Corner

Image from June 22, 2017

Construction is moving along at Amazon Corner, a mixed-use apartment building at 32nd Avenue and Hilyard Street in South Eugene. Construction has come a long way since the formwork and concrete placement in the basement level in late June. Enjoy these drone pics and close-ups, courtesy of Essex General Construction.

Welcome Nicola Fucigna!



Nicola recently joined Rowell Brokaw as both a Marketing Coordinator and Designer. She brings to the firm strong writing, communication, and design skills. Nicola has extensive experience in publishing and teaching. As an Editor-In-Chief of the online literary magazine Construction, she edits a column on architecture. Her appreciation of independent publishing led her to positions at Copper Canyon Press, Graywolf Press, Kore Press, and the Sonora Review. Her poetry has been published in several literary magazines, including Camas: The Nature of the WestCapitalism Nature Socialism, and The Nervous Breakdown. She enjoys the attention to detail and precision of copyediting. She particularly valued copyediting for Uncommon Union, a multimedia communications firm in NYC that focuses on international justice. She has taught poetry at the University of Oregon and the University of Arizona. While living in Chile, she taught EFL to students in a professional school.

After growing up between Washington, DC, and Colorado, Nicola graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College/Columbia University, with a B.A. in English and a minor in Art History. She has an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Arizona and recently received her M.Arch from the University of Oregon.

Ems Game

RB Staff enjoyed the Eugene Emeralds ball game with Andersen Construction. Sluggo came over to say hi.

Opening of Glade Run Sensory Playground featured in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Photograph by Anna Spoerre

Article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Anna Spoerre
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 24, 2017

A new play area in Zelienople may look like a regular playground, but for the kids at Glade Run Lutheran Services it is so much more.

The playground, which is scheduled to have its public grand opening on Tuesday, is one of less than a dozen playgrounds in the country designed specifically with autistic children in mind.

“As there are more and more kids being diagnosed [with an autism spectrum disorder], it’s more and more important for us to have an appropriate environment for them,” said Sheila Talarico, executive director of the Glade Run Foundation.

The playground first opened for about 60 students in the autism program at St. Stephens Lutheran Academy in May. But on Thursday afternoon, a dozen kids from the first week of the Glade Run’s specialized adventure camp for autistic children, explored the area, some running straight to the Jacob’s ladder and others to the swings.

Even an afternoon shower couldn’t dampen their curiosity as a group of five kids took shelter in the fort, occasionally volunteering one of their peers to brave the rain and fetch ripe blueberries from the bushes lining the fences.

Those blueberries, Ms. Talarico said, are part of what sets the playground apart most.

The fruit bushes are just one of the many uses of nature in the design. Day lilies, lavender and rosemary plants are clustered near the benches and other quiet areas.

“Every child with autism is so different,” said Christopher Smith, Program Manager of Autism Educational Services at Glade Run Lutheran Services, a non-profit that provides provides educational, mental health, autism, and cultural services to more than 3,000 individuals every year. 

For this reason, Mr. Smith said, the park is geared toward providing more or less sensory output, depending on a child’s needs. The plants can be calming while also engaging the senses.

On the flipside, loud noises, bright colors and a lot of activity—all common to most playgrounds—can cause sensory input overload for some children, so the playground was designed without bright colors, Ms. Talarico said.

Mr. Smith also said children with autism often have the feeling of an added heaviness on their joints and muscles, so a lot of the equipment provides relief by helping them stretch out.

Bobble riders, for example, are designed for two people to ride opposite each other, almost like a teeter totter, while improving balance, coordination, and upper and lower body strength.

The play area, which is about the size of half a football field, also encourages socialization because many of the pieces of equipment require at least two people to operate, Ms. Talarico said.

“The culture has improved tenfold since the sensory playground was put into place,” said Mr. Smith, who added he has noticed a decrease in negative behavior since the space allows kids who tend to be more aggressive to let off steam by running around the circular pathway in the center of the park-like area or to find a quiet place to sit and calm down.

“In a typical playground, kids and adults might be less accepting of the behavior of kids with autism.,” Ms. Talarico said. But here, that is not the case.

Karey Day, the mother of 8-year-old Evan, who attends St. Stephens and the day camp, said the quiet places pieced into the ground plan are especially beneficial to her son.

“He has trouble getting along with other children and…here there are places for him to go to get away from different stresses,” said Ms. Day, of Butler. “Glade Run has helped my child a lot, and this is just another bonus.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the playground, which Ms. Talarico said was funded primarily by donations from individuals, corporations and congregations, is at noon Tuesday in Zelienople.

Using Oculus Rift in a Client Meeting

Image by Oculus VR

Architects are always in search of new ways to help clients inhabit an unbuilt space. Rowell Brokaw has been experimenting with Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset developed by Oculus VR. It allows the viewer to visually move through 3D spaces: spinning a full 360 degrees through a panorama and clicking to enter another space. Originally designed for video gaming, Oculus Rift is finding other applications in the movie industry, social spheres, and architecture.

Project Architect Frank Visconti has started using Oculus Rift in client meetings. After one of the first presentations, a client remarked, “It was the highlight of the meeting. It’s exciting to see the project and feel like you’re in it. You immediately get a sense of scale.” In addition to bringing a space alive to a client, Oculus Rift can be used as a design tool, allowing architects to move beyond the confines of a flat screen. Frank explains, “In terms of design, I find it a useful tool because it goes beyond knowing every corner, every inch. While usually when a design is built, you see more opportunities, alignments or views you never visualized. Oculus Rift gives you more of a hint of the space because it’s virtual reality and not a flat, composed image. When you make a still image, it has a compositional proportion to its frame, but with this experience you can’t rely on that.”

But the software still has some shortcomings. “Even though the price has come down and it has become a stable platform,” Frank says, “it’s architectural applications are still experimental, though useful.” The magnified resolution is not as clear as a movie screen; there is some pixilation. But Frank predicts that techies at Oculus VR will resolve this problem soon and that one day “…it will go wireless, so you will be able to walk around untethered. At that point (and it has already begun), firms will dedicate a whole room to the experience. It will be like the Holodeck in Star Trek.”

To read more on using virtual-reality to design for clients (including those with disabilities): Architect Magazine has an article "Honorable Mention: Empathy Effect VR Study" in its latest edition. 

Welcome Paul Harman!


Paul Harman recently joined Rowell Brokaw Architects as a Project Architect. A detail- and materials-oriented designer, Paul excels at methodically working through complex design challenges at a variety of scales. Paul brings to the firm knowledge and hands-on experience in both conventional and emerging digital fabrication techniques, particularly in wood construction such as CNC fabrication, traditional timber frame carpentry, and fine wood cabinetry. Prior to joining Rowell Brokaw, Paul worked for nearly 8 years at PIVOT Architecture in Eugene, Oregon, where he gained extensive experience in envelope detailing and structural coordination. While at PIVOT, Paul worked on the South Eugene YMCA, Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) Roosevelt Operations Center, MLK Education Center, and many TriMet projects, including the TriMet Center Street Operations Headquarters and Operations Command Center in Portland, Oregon.

Born in Philadelphia, Paul received his Bachelor's degree in Integrative Arts from Pennsylvania State University and a Master's degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon.

Spotlight on Midtown Creative in The Register-Guard

(Rendering by Rowell Brokaw)


By Ed Russo
The Register-Guard
February 26, 2017

A group of Eugene developers plans to add life to a downtown building they say now contributes to a dead zone in the heart of the city.

Mark Miksis, John Rowell, Greg Brokaw, Kaz Oveissi and other investors intend to buy the vacant building on Willamette Street that formerly housed the Oregon Antique Mall and renovate it for use by several businesses, including a couple of their own.

Miksis, a development consultant, said he and the other investors expect to buy the two-story 1940s era building at 1203 Willamette St. by the end of April from the local Lyons family.

Renovation should start in May and the first tenants could move in by the fall, he said. Expected businesses to occupy space in the building include a craft beer tap house, an architecture firm, a tech company and a gourmet prepared foods store.

The building, empty for about two years, is midway between 11th and 13th avenues, across Willamette Street from the massive Capstone student housing complex.

The investors also plan to purchase a nearby rental house at the end of April that’s owned by the Lyons family. The purchase of the commercial and residential properties will include parking lots with spaces for 58 vehicles.

Miksis and architect Greg Brokaw declined to provide the purchase price for the properties, but said the total cost of the acquisitions and the renovation of the commercial building will be about $6 million.

Miksis said the empty building contributes to a lifelessness on Willamette Street, between the busier midtown area south of 13th Avenue, and the active downtown core, north of 11th Avenue.

Miksis walks from his College Hill home in south Eugene to his office on the east edge of downtown. He said he had passed by the building for two years, intrigued by its redevelopment potential.

“I have wondered why nobody has done anything with this building,” he said.

“We are in what we call the sweet spot between midtown, which includes the Bier Stein and the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, and downtown. They are both active areas. But if you go one block north of midtown, in this direction, you hit this dead zone. A lot of it is because of this building being vacant.”

“This building seemed to be one of the key pieces to making that link between midtown and downtown,” Miksis added.

If renovated, the building would be the second redevelopment on that part of Willamette Street since the Capstone project was completed three years ago.

Longtime local developer Roscoe Divine in 2015 completed a two-story, 8,400-square-foot apartment and retail building to replace a building at 1167 Willamette St. that had destroyed by a fire. A Japanese sushi restaurant, Makoto, occupies the first floor.

Seeing potential

Two years ago, Miksis and Brokaw were part of an investment group that proposed to buy Broadway Plaza at Broadway and Willamette Street from the city so they could build a six-story apartment and retail building on it.

Brokaw owns Rowell Brokaw Architects with John Rowell, who also was part of the investment group with Oveissi, a longtime downtown business owner.

Frequently occupied by transients, the plaza has long been a trouble spot in the city center. But the City Council failed to embrace the developers’ proposal after a community debate erupted between residents who wanted the city to keep the plaza and others who thought the apartment retail building would be an improvement.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to invest in downtown,” Miksis said. “We’re interested in projects that we can move forward with, so that is where our energy is going.”

Miksis and Brokaw said renovating the building will be quicker, easier and less expensive than building a new structure.

Brokaw, Rowell and Oveissi own the three-story building at 1 East Broadway, on the northeast corner of Willamette and Broadway that overlooks Broadway Plaza.

The architects plan to move their 19-employee firm to the Willamette Street building after the renovation. Rowell Brokaw Architects will occupy about half of the second-floor space, Brokaw said.

“We have 3,000 square feet in our present building, and we have been looking for 5,000 square feet,” he said.

That’s a change from last year, when Rowell, Brokaw and Oveissi had planned to build a four-story office building at 33 E. Broadway, on a parking lot next to 1 East Broadway. The original plan was for Rowell Brokaw Architects to move next door and occupy part of the new structure.

Now, with the Willamette Street building identified as the architecture firm’s next home, Brokaw said he and his partners are willing to develop the East Broadway building for another user. The partners would work with the Eugene office of Portland-based Anderson Construction to develop the building once enough tenants are found to occupy it.

Renovation details

Two-and-a-half blocks north, the 36,000-square-foot Willamette Street building is composed of two identical adjacent two-story structures constructed during the 1940s for Lyons Furniture, Miksis said.

A 12,000-square-foot building was constructed in the early 1940s, followed by another 12,000-square-foot addition in about 1948, Miksis said. Interior doors allowed access between both halves. The building has a 12,000-square-foot basement.

Oregon Antique Mall occupied the building for 25 years, before moving in 2014 to a smaller storefront on West Sixth Avenue.

The building is made of poured reinforced concrete and large Douglas fir columns and beams, Miksis and Brokaw said.

The renovation will remove paneling and false ceilings to expose the heavy timber construction, Miksis said.

“We are going to peel back what has been applied to the walls and have a fairly unique and interesting looking building,” he said.

Brokaw said the two-story structure is a “classic loft building,” similar to those found in Portland’s trendy Pearl District.

“You don’t see a lot of that here,” he said.

The building’s present plain grafitti-marred concrete and metal facade will be replaced with glass and wood, including windows that roll up like garage doors and glued laminated timber beams. A cantilevered roof will extend from the roof line.

A new entrance will be installed in the middle of the two structures, with an eight foot wide by 22-foot tall concrete slab providing structural strength, Brokaw said.

“It’s a long skinny building on the street, and (the central entrance) will help break that up,” he said.

Essex General Construction will be the general contractor.

Leasing plans

Miksis, a development consultant and co-owner of deChase Miksis with Boise-based Dean Papè, said he will move his office to the Willamette Street building from its present rented space in the Northwest Community Credit Union building near East Eighth Avenue and Ferry Street.

Miksis said he has commitments to lease about 60 percent of the first and second floors of the Willamette Street building. He said likely tenants include a local brewery, that will put in a tap house, and a tech firm.

The building will have access to a high speed fiber network being installed by the Eugene Water & Electric Board as part of a city-funded initiative.

Veteran Eugene restaurateur Sara Willis plans to move her latest venture, Saucefly, a gourmet prepared foods business, to the building in the fall.

During the past 15 years, Willis has helped start such restaurants as Red Agave, El Vaquero, Asado and Carmelita Spats.

Now, she prepares restaurant-quality sauces, marinades, salad dressings, salsas, cookie dough, cocktail mixers and other items in a small commercial kitchen in west Eugene.

Willis, who began Saucefly last August, so far has about 50 customers who receive monthly boxes with items they use to prepare meals.

People place orders through a website.

“I create boxes for people who like to cook,” Willis said.

She said she will move her kitchen to the Willamette Street building and create a store, tentatively named Saucefly Mercado.

Willis has chosen a space in the back of the building, which will enable customers to park near the door.

She plans to rent 1,200-square feet on the first floor and another 800 square feet in the basement.

“It has a real good warehouse type feel that I’m looking for in this project,” Willis said.