The Oregon chapter of Architects Without Borders first was established about five years ago, following two back-to-back natural disasters: the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Volunteers wound up designing a school in Sri Lanka a housing prototype for New Orleans, and volunteers also traveled to the Mississippi coast to provide damage assessment. When flooding damaged much of small-town Vernonia in the Oregon coast range, chapter members also provided free design assistance to residents looking at elevating the foundations of their homes.
AWB isn't solely an organization addressing disaster zones, for they have also designed numerous projects in Africa such as an orphanage in Tanzania (elevation drawings of the project are included above) and a music center in Zambia. Even so, the chapter has a special meeting coming up this Wednesday (February 3) at 5:30PM at the American Institute of Architects' Center for Architecture (403 NW 11th Avenue at Flanders Street) devoted to helping out in Haiti. "We’re hoping to come out with a role we can play or a niche that we can fit into," says Abbey Dacey, an advisory board member.
As it says on their website, "AWB-OR is committed to the contribution of design and construction expertise in support of the people and communities of Haiti in their recovery and reconstruction efforts and projects. We will focus on partnering with other architecture and design organizations and non-profits to find projects, develop an action plan, and raise funds. AWB-OR is also invested in developing a program for coordinating with organizations locally and internationally in times of crises to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of our aid."
I happened to interview two AWB-Oregon members a few days ago, Dacey and board member Malia Kalahele, for an article in Sustainable Industries magazine about design communities working to help Haiti. Abby mentioned then that Portland doesn't have local chapters for some of the other main design-oriented relief agencies, like Architecture For Humanity or the AIA's Communities by Design committee.
Ultimately Dacey says the chapter would like to identify a particular project for its volunteers to collectively design. In the meantime, though, chapter past president and founder Angelo Radich has already been to Haiti on his own accord since the earthquake, "just helping where ever he could: supply runs, looking at how to dismantle buildings safely to get to survivors or bodies inside. He just felt compelled to go immediately. It’s not how AWB would normally be active. We’re not typically first responders. But he was making connections with people."
Perhaps conveniently, Wednesday's Architects Without Borders Haiti meeting is scheduled for 5:30PM, just before the latest Designs On Portland discussion, scheduled for 6:30 at Design Within Reach, which is only about two blocks away from the AIA Center For Architecture at 1200 NW Everett Street.
As host of the bi-monthly Designs on Portland series, I've had the good fortune in the past to talk with guests like architects Thomas Hacker, Rick Potestio, Jeff Kovel of Skylab, Bill Neburka and Carrie Schilling of Works Partnership, as well as urban designer Arun Jain, Pacific Northwest College of Art president Tom Manley, Ziba design founder Sohrab Vossoughi, Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy president Larry Woodin, and Portland Monthly editor Randy Gragg, among others. This Wednesday I'll be talking with local developer Randy Rapaport.
Randy is known for having developed two of the best-looking mixed-use condominium projects to be built in Portland over the last decade, both designed by Holst Architecture: the Belmont Street Lofts (in partnership with two other developers) and the Clinton Condominiums. Lately, he's been working with Works Partnership on two designs: a workforce housing project and a 2500-seat music venue, both of which could be located near the Rose Quarter. Both projects have already won unbuilt design awards from the American Institute of Architects, and recently the concert venue also received a national P/A Award from Architect magazine.
Certainly Randy is no architect, but he has a singular passion for great design. Unlike most developers I've encountered, smart and savvy as many of them may be, Randy seems to put architecture with a capital 'A' first. He also likes to live the designs he helps foster: I previously wrote about his unit in the Belmont Lofts for Dwell magazine, and now he's got a swanky new condo in the Clinton. Although in his late 40s, he also has a childlike passion for a wide array of arts and culture, from indie rockers The Flaming Lips to philosopher Eckhart Tolle to the New American Art Union gallery. But our talk will probably stick mostly to architecture.
photo by John Clark for Dwell magazine
At Designs on Portland, Randy will be talking about past, present and future projects as well as architecture around the world (particularly that of Zaha Hadid and Louis Kahn) that have inspired him. Not bad for a guy who spent the first half of the 1990s as a child psychologist and before the Belmont had never developed a building before.