Feel Better, Work Smarter

by Brienne Wasmer

I recently heard an architect speak of design work as “a labor of love” which got me wondering if that wasn’t just a nice way to label “work-aholism.” It is no secret that the profession puts in long hours and cares deeply about the quality of work, which can be, at times, at the expense of our own well-being. Over the past few decades, research has piled up supporting the importance of ergonomics in the workplace.

Workstations improperly designed to support today’s work habits have resulted in lasting physical maladies including vision strain, motor system damage and Musculoskeletal Distorders, or MSDs,  such as soft tissue inflammation (tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), lack of circulation in the muscles (numbness and tingling) and vertebral compression, which can lead to serious nerve pain.

The increased awareness of such work-related injuries has captivated the contract interior world, resulting in furniture, technologies and entire space planning strategies to help reduce employee pain and injury. These solutions are aimed to increase office productivity based on the simple notion that the better a worker feels, the better the work he or she will produce. Before running out to purchase the new ergo-chair on the market, look for change in your existing environment:

When slouched over your computer (perhaps occurring at this very moment), take a moment to consider the following adjustments:

  • Starting with the foundation, adjust your chair so that your knees come to a 90-degree angle, with feet flat to the floor. Get familiar with your chair’s features.
  • Stack joints in the neutral position, e.g. shoulders over hips, as tilting forward beyond range creates problems down the road.
  • Adjust your table (if you have that option) so that your elbows come to a 90-degree angle with forearms resting on the table. If you do not have adjustable tables, advocate for them.
  • Position the monitor 20” – 28” away (30” – 36” away for large screens) and align the top with the center of your sight line.
  • Limit Static Posturing – when the body falls asleep, as does the mind. Occupying the body with a supportive range of motion keeps the mind alert and increases circulation to the brain.
  • 20/20/20– Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. “Eye yoga” strengthens vision during periods of intensive, screen-focused work.


Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, by “dot”

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Farewell, Balfour-Guthrie Building

by Jonah Cohen

After 16 years, Hacker has vacated the Balfour-Guthrie Building and moved to its next iteration, which in many ways is a perfect symbol for our successful leadership transition that has taken place over the last five years. This is an emotional milestone for a few of us, especially me.

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Cultivating a New Generation of Leaders

by Stefee Knudsen

How do we cultivate our future leaders? It’s a core question for educators and one that ultimately influences the design of schools. Two projects in Portland, the Oregon Episcopal School’s Lower School and the French American International School’s new Gilkey International Middle School, illustrate how new environments can help to advance institutional missions.

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Hackers = Makers

by Scott Barton-Smith

If you’ve been to Hacker’s office in the past year and a half, you probably noticed art on the walls of our building’s vestibule and reception area. This rotating Makers exhibit showcases the off-hours work of our multi-talented team. By day we are architects, interior designers, and talented support personnel; by night we are artists. What began as a desire to exhibit some of our creative endeavors outside of work has turned into an amazing get-to-know-you. Every couple of months, a new batch of artistic expression graces our walls and gives us insight into our colleagues’ broad talents, inspiration, and personalities. Twelve Hackers have already displayed their art since October 2015 and there is no sign of it stopping! Scroll through for a sampling…

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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


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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