Academic learning centers for student athletes in general is an evolving building type, the main challenge in this building was composing a program which focused on the “life and challenges” of a student…
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
Academic learning centers for student athletes in general is an evolving building type, the main challenge in this building was composing a program which focused on the “life and challenges” of a student athlete rather than a regular student who has more time and less commitment. To this effect, we travelled to most of the top 20 NCAA schools, studied their programs and augmented and modified it to suit the Oregon aspiration. It helps that our client was both an athlete and a very good academic. The most unexpected challenge was trying to do a very transparent building in a state and school system with a very high energy performance requirement. The building skin is a response this.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
The client allowed me to practice holistically, which really benefitted the project. I was involved from composing the new program for the learning center, to design, through documentation and construction administration, as well as working with the many trades and crafts people. This allowed a building with high craft and technical innovation. I would say that this project allowed an expansion of what we can do, as design individuals, to enrich the thinking and execution of the project.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
We cannot do this building without new glass technology and digital modeling systems. I believe engineering and architecture should and will be tied together more closely than before. Furthermore, we are very fortunate to have a rich history of building trade and craftsmanship in Oregon. This allowed a close collaboration between design and fabricators which resulted in a nicely crafted and detailed building.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
Digital technology has influenced our profession a great deal for better and for the worse. Earlier it was more for vanity sake or for tool sake. We fell in love with what forms we can extrude from the tool and we forget the physical reality of gravity and humanity. I think familiarity to the tools (what it avails and what it limits) and the great recession have brought designers back closer to the responsibility of an Architect as a builder and social servant. Simply put, we design structures that should complement a society, not the whimsy of an individual or the product of a tool. Computers can tend to make an isolated world if one does not remember the real context where buildings are built. Yet, digital tools have allowed us access to knowledge and insight which we can never have been able to illustrate historically.