Civic Design: A Special Reward + Award

by Audrey Alverson

The feeling of accomplishment that comes from designing successful civic projects is deeply related to the impact the work can make for public agencies and users. And even though designing civic buildings can present special challenges – funding constraints, public involvement and outreach – the work is often extremely rewarding. With a history steeped in creating public buildings and spaces, we at THA have deep respect for the public institutions that see benefit in investing in quality design for their projects – and in turn, we value our opportunities to work with them.

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Talking in Code

by Becca Cavell

Sometimes professionals seem to go out of their way to talk in code – and architects are no exception. During presentations to lay-people we’ll often sprinkle our discussions with words like “fenestration” and “masonry cladding” when simpler terms such as “window” and “brick wall” will do just fine. It’s not intellectual superiority that causes this speech defect….it’s simply that sometimes we know an awful lot about certain subjects and forget that not everyone is privy to the same jargon. Sometimes we just need to get the right perspective on the context of a conversation – taking time to do this can profoundly influence the outcome of any given meeting and it’s well worth the effort. I’m going to use a few examples to illustrate ways we can simplify our language and better engage our clients:

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Women in Architecture: Go west, young woman!

by Laurie Canup

Denise Scott Brown, one of my early heroines and a successful woman-architect, has recently been the subject of a flurry of discussion in the architectural community. A group of female students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design has petitioned to have Scott Brown’s name retroactively added to the 1991 Pritzker Prize awarded to her long-time design partner (and husband). As co-founder of her firm, Scott Brown has been a lead designer, collaborator, and writer for several decades and as such offered women inspiration as she was able to overcome the hurdles that so many of us faced. In this interview with ARCHITECT magazine, she talks about her experience as a woman in a male dominated field, and what it has meant for her to also be the “architect’s wife.”

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What to Expect When You Are Expected Back to Work

by Sarah Bell

As the U.S. is one of three countries in the World to not have paid parental leave, and the mandated 12 weeks off is only for companies over 50 people, it is remarkably common for moms to return to work while their new baby is still very young. According to studies, 80% of women who were working while pregnant return to work, and the average maternity leave is less than 10 weeks. Looking beyond these statistics, returning to work following your maternity leave can be heartbreaking for many, and create a high level of anxiety.

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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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