Bringing Presence to Meetings

by Jonah Cohen

As architects, we spend a good portion of our professional lives leading committee meetings – meetings that typically convene by immediately diving in to the subject at hand. Over a 3-year span of time some 15 years ago, I worked with the First Unitarian Church of Portland – with clients who gave me a great gift by modeling a different and compelling way of beginning meetings.

Unitarian principles strongly encourage human connection and authenticity, so at each gathering, one of my clients would remind us to all approach our impending collective work with humility and by becoming fully present. The form this would take could be anything: a story, a poem, a question. It really didn’t matter as long as it, even briefly, took us all out of our heads and into our hearts.

I have never forgotten how much these brief exercises inspired me, and so, over time (with the right client and when feeling bold!), I have tried to emulate this practice. In addition to much poetry, some of my “presence” moments have included things like:

  • Asking all to imagine what gifts the future inhabitants of their building would find 100 years hence when they opened the time capsule we had left for them
  • Playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1
  • Showing Charles and Ray Eames’ Power of Ten
  • Asking everyone to describe their favorite piece of furniture in their home and why
  • Singing a Pete Seeger song together… just for the fun of it

I have also found that preparing and facilitating these “presence moments” has given me an unexpected gift by forcing me to clear my mind of the cacophony of design process details and also to never forget that architecture exists to serve the miraculous and sometime messy complexity of human beings.

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Hacker Builds!

by Garrett Martin

Our website typically shows you beautiful photos of our completed projects, or equally beautiful renderings of our projects “on the boards.” Have you ever wondered what happens in-between, or when those renderings will finally take actual form? Despite how it may appear sometimes, it all doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye or under cover of darkness.

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What Pro Bono Work Has Taught Us

by Audrey Alverson

Pro bono architecture: Why do we do it?

Hacker has long been a signatory of the 1+ Program, which challenges designers to dedicate 1% or more of their time to pro bono service – but through trial and error over the years, we often found it challenging to bring this work to fruition. After a few fits and starts, and some mostly small-scale projects and studies, last year we decided to put some teeth to our commitment to pro bono service. Through this process, we’ve learned that the problem was never a lack of desire or good intentions, but more so a lack of planning.

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Nurturing Growth in Lents Town Center

by Garrett Martin

On Sunday October 23rd of last year, we joined Bremik Construction and the Portland Development Commission to strike golden shovels into the ground and begin construction on the 9101 SE Foster project, a mixed-use multi-family building in the heart of Lents Town Center.

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Why Hacker Started Paying for Parental Leave

by Sarah Bell

This year, Hacker implemented a new paid parental leave policy, covering six weeks at full salary for birth mothers and about four and ½ weeks full salary for a spouse of the parent who gives birth (adoptive parents get the same). This is in addition to the flexible paid time off granted to every Hacker employee.

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A Saturday with Lou

by Scott Barton-Smith

Nearly half of the Hacker team caravanned north to attend the final day of the Bellevue Arts Museum’s retrospective Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture on April 30th. Although the exhibit includes video interviews of notable architects enthusing Kahn’s work, we had a more interactive guide. Our firm founder Thom Hacker gave us a personalized tour of the exhibit, which includes several projects on which Thom collaborated with his mentor “Lou.” The exhibit features many models and drawings prepared by Kahn’s office spanning projects from the Esherick House to more well know works like The Salk Institute, The Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. The exhibit even includes a full scale reproduction of the famous window seat designed for the Fisher house. Much of this material has not seen the light of day since Kahn’s death and it is remarkable that the large yet delicate cardboard, clay, and wood models survived.

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University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility Wins COTE Award

by Nic Smith

Hacker is a proud recipient of a 2016 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects award for University of Wyoming’s Visual Arts Facility (VAF), a pioneering LEED Platinum facility that has shaped a new approach to health, safety, and sustainability in arts education. The 80,000-SF building consolidates the University’s fine arts program from its scattered locations, establishing a central component of the campus’s new arts district. It also marks a turning point in the campus’s thinking about environmental responsibility. Read more

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From the Vaults: High Desert Museum

by Sarah Bell

When the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon’s New Home had its dedication last year, I drove to Bend for the day with my two youngest boys, who were both under 5 years old. I arrived several hours before the dedication with both boys needing to expend energy built up over the 3-hour car ride. Not having planned on it, I took them to the High Desert Museum – not because I wanted to show them a Hacker building, but because I knew it would wear them out.

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Designing for Design Schools: What type of collaboration space works?

by Becca Cavell

We’re excited to be working right now with UC Davis on the renovation of the north wing of Cruess Hall – a rather industrial 1950s building that will house screening rooms, labs, and maker spaces for the Cinema & Digital Media and Industrial Design programs. Some of these spaces will be quite industrial themselves, and seem a fitting use for the currently vacant building.  As we begin to look for case studies to inform our work, our client shared this video from Stanford’s D-School, showing 10 days in the life of the D’s central collaboration space. It’s time-lapse, and takes just four minutes to view – and it demonstrates how a very utilitarian space can be the beating heart of an institution if you plan it right, furnish it right, and relax a bit.

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Denny Hall Finally Gets Its Due

by Stephanie Shradar

At the University of Washington, Denny Hall has been awaiting revitalization for nearly a decade. During that time, Hacker has been working on and off again to get UW the final product. The project has gone through funding stalls and starts; the design firm has gone through two name changes; and the building has patiently awaited its new core.

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Hacker is Carbon Neutral

by Sarah Post-Holmberg

Hacker was founded on the idea that architecture should be in service to community. For over three decades the firm has designed enduring spaces that inspire people to contribute to positive cultural change. This guiding vision extends beyond humanity to encompass the natural world and the diversity of species it supports. Over the years, Hacker has developed an aesthetic for buildings that interact dynamically with their surroundings and make humble use of the earth’s resources. Through research, conference engagement, and continuing education, we continue to refine our design process, detailing, and material choices to reflect our priority of preserving the well-being of all life systems on our planet.

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