Navigating the Middle

by Stefee Knudsen

Millennials and Boomers: It’s no big news that there are vast social and professional differences between these two generations (or any, for that matter), but my experience working in an architecture office as part of the generation in-between has given rise to some thought-provoking observations.

As a Gen-Xer, I find myself thinking about my generation’s place between these two, and finding that we have some interesting opportunities and challenges. We entered the profession looking up to the ideals of the Boomers, adopting their expectations for what the profession is, and how to succeed in it. Yet, as the Millennials enter the profession with entirely different expectations, I see that as Gen-Xers we often have adopted both – straddling the gap and bridging the differences. We are of neither generation, and yet of both.

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THA and PSU Collaborate on Wind Tunnel Testing

by Miguel Hidalgo

Taking advantage of an opportunity to partner within our community, THA is collaborating with a team of Portland State University’s Architecture and Engineering students on the design of certain elements within a Land Port of Entry facility in Laredo, Texas. The student team’s goal is to investigate the impact of building mass, canopy shape and site wall height on wind direction and speed. THA’s design team and the student team worked together during the fall 2012 semester to develop site scale and building scale models for testing within the University’s wind tunnel laboratory. The results of these studies will inform the development of the project design as it proceeds from the schematic design to the design development phase.

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What’s Your Story?

by Becca Cavell

I recently attended a quietly inspirational SMPS event – a talk by Jelly Helm.  Here’s part of the SMPS pitch:

“You’ve seen his work with the Portland Timbers, Nike and Starbucks. He’s been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company and Men’s Health. Now, Jelly Helm comes to SMPS to share his passions on storytelling. Join us to learn the importance of storytelling in our A/E/C industry.”

I’m a fan of a good story and  after checking out Studio Jelly’s website I was intrigued to hear what he had to say.  He was actually very low key yet powerful. He disarmed us with some cute pictures of himself as a young child as he told us what we all know – how stories are an important part of learning and understanding our world. And how storytelling is becoming increasingly important in our professional world as we see the rising use of social media.

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Implementing Design Excellence Through Design Build

by Jonah Cohen

For the last few years, I’ve participated in a regional initiative examining how the Federal Government’s Design Excellence Program, started in 1990 and overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration, might be applied at the state level through programs, guidelines and case studies. This discussion began at the 2010 Oregon Design Conference, and THA since has had the opportunity to work on a project for the Oregon Military Department (OMD), the Colonel James Nesmith Readiness Center for the Oregon National Guard’s 162nd Engineering Company, which tangibly manifested this goal.

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The Library You Haven’t Heard About

by Audrey Alverson

An obvious first step in the process of designing any building is to first define what it is at its core: How will it be used by the people who will spend time in it? As designers of libraries, this is a question THA staff grapple with frequently. Library programs and needs are in a state of flux right now, largely due to ever-evolving technology. The old adage of a library simply being a place to check out books no longer paints the complete picture.

And yet sometimes maybe it’s worth taking a step back – perhaps way back – to the origins of an idea or place, a library in this instance. Regardless of technological changes, libraries are still about information and education – which can and do (at least in part) still come from books.

But what about the homeless population – many of whom don’t have identification and proof of address and therefore can’t use public library services? How can a library serve these people who are pushed to the margins in more ways than we often realize?

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They’re Not Buildings, They’re “Assets”

by Scott Mannhard

In the spirit of our continual pursuit of authentic sustainability, I headed to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International conference in Seattle recently to hear directly from owners, operators and managers about what is important to them. These people must deal with their buildings – I mean “assets” – long after their architects have moved on to other projects. The owners and managers know what energy efficiency measures actually work to save both money and resources. They know if LEED certification was an important factor or not in reducing vacancy in their building. They hear first-hand what prospective tenants expect and require when leasing or renewing space. Given this abundance of information about how buildings are actually performing for people, it was remarkable to see so few other architects there to participate in the discussion.

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Is There a Limit to the Size of a Good Classroom?

by Becca Cavell

Changes in funding for higher education have left many institutions scrambling to find more cost effective ways to graduate increasing numbers of enrolled students. Many innovative concepts are at play, ranging from reducing the “average” student tenure from four to three years to providing more class materials on line and thus reducing contact hours of teaching. One of the most controversial trends is the rising interest in “mega classrooms” – auditoriums that hold sometimes more than 1,000 students.

Can such huge classrooms succeed?

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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.

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A Tale of Two Classrooms

by Becca Cavell

I recently taught a seminar on Learning Spaces at the University of Oregon’s Portland Program. One of the student assignments required teams to visit local colleges and universities to observe classrooms “in action,” in terms of both functional performance and teaching approach. A great stroke of luck led two teams of students to observe the same class delivered in two very different environments.

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Walking the Talk

by Annie Mahoney

In design, THA believes that architecture is best when it is an honest expression of the people and institutions it serves.

In the same way, THA supports a sustainable approach with its building projects and believes that the firm itself must also demonstrate these beliefs in daily office life and practices. This is not always easy.

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