The John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes at the University of Oregon in Eugene was the top winner at Saturday's AIA/Portland Design Awards gala. Designed by ZGF Architects, the building was this year's sole winner of the Honor Award, AIA's top prize.
Surrounded by a reflecting pool, the building is a steel and glass cube with a ventilated double-skin glass facade. Floor to ceiling glass allows natural daylight to flood the interior space and a stainless steel screen forms a layer within the glass cavity. Inside, the building is centered around a large three-story atrium that is bisected with glass-ensconced catwalks. The interior design, particularly in these public areas, utilizes a series of massive wall displays. One is made from thousands of photos of current student athletes that were etched onto metal paneling and combine to form a likeness of Albert Einstein. On another wall (pictured above), the names and likenesses of past UO athletes are etched onto square wood blocks that jut in and out of the wall.
When I visited the Jaqua Center last January with ZGF partner Eugene Sandoval, he explained how in client meetings then-Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti emphasized the desire for a building that celebrated the natural beauty of Oregon. Bellotti spoke to Sandoval of how the surrounding landscape was a recruiting tool for luring top athletes from other regions of the country, and asked for a building that would articulate that sensation.
Three built projects earned the next-tier honor, the Merit Award: the ZIBA World Headquarters by Holst Architecture, the Cape Cod House by Atelier Waechter, and the Twelve West building by ZGF Architects.
The ZIBA headquarters, located in the Pearl District near Union Station, is a marvel of both natural light and office space-planning. The Holst design created a massive north-facing glass facade that bathes workspaces in illumination. "A spatially rich building on a tight budget," the jury wrote, also noting ZIBA's "beautiful use of wood and metal in a contemporary manner. [Its] interiors are clean and light filled [with] a refined, buttoned-down exterior. Looks like a great place to work."
Personally, this is one of my favorite Portland buildings of the last decade and a major moment for Holst. The firm has won countless design awards in the past, but most always for residential buildings. Here Holst created an innovative corporate headquarters that is quite dazzling. I would have voted it a co-Honor Award winner along with the Jaqua Center.
Waechter's Cape Cod House was just profiled here on Portland Architecture last week. It's a fine example of how a tiny (650-square-foot) home can be utterly transformed into capital-A architecture on a relatively modest budget. Waechter's Z-Haus also won an award over the weekend, the Citation Award, which is the next tier down. I'd have rated Z-Haus over Cape Cod because of its unique series of half-levels tying together the multistory space, but there's no doubt Cape Cod is deserving as well.
ZGF was certainly the big winner at this year's Design Awards given that the mixed-use building the firm calls home also earned a Merit Award. Given how the building opened in the worst possible economic climate in 2008, it could have been a disaster for the firm and developer Gerding Edlen.
As it happens, the Twelve West building is filling up with tenants, and it already boasts the title of first building in the world with vertically-integrated wind turbines. When near the building downtown or in the Pearl, I've already developed a habit of looking toward the top of Twelve West to see if the turbines are spinning.
Along with Z-Haus, the other built-project Citation Award (the third tier of awards) winner was the Flavor Paper building in Brooklyn, designed by Skylab. This is another Portland firm that has become a regular each year in the AIA/Portland Design Awards, having previously taken the Honor Award a couple years ago for the firm's 12th & Alder building and an award for the Departure Lounge atop the Meier & Frank building.
Also this year, Skylab won an Unbuilt Citation Award for the Weave Building, which has been planned for the past year and is hopefully set to break ground after a few false starts. The Weave boasts a very striking facade that implies the notion of weaving: that of the West End and Pearl District neighborhoods it straddles and the blend of creative professionals it will provide workspace for.
When I wrote about the Weave Building in The Oregonian last year, Skylab's Jeff Kovel told me it could come to emblemize how the marriage of small creative-class spaces and distinctive architecture can be a way forward even in the worst of economic climates.
"My hope is it really becomes an example of somebody who went out on a limb and seized an opportunity to do something special," he said. "I think that type of approach is going to become more and more critical across the board. It's going to be harder to succeed with mediocre product or ideas. The competitive environment will hopefully draw more out of people."
Two other projects also received Unbuilt Citation Awards: the David Campbell Memorial to firefighters planned for the East Bank Esplanade and designed by Whelton Architecture; and the Steel Bridge Skatepark designed by DAO Architecture.
The Campbell Memorial commission was won by Whelton in a three-team invited commission for designers who double as Portland State University instructors. The design is comprised of tall lanterns symbolizing firefighters killed in the line of duty. According to a recent Daily Journal of Commerce article, the design has been scaled back. The original, Nathalie Weinstein writes, "called for a sweeping open space along the Eastbank Esplanade, with lanterns to represent each fallen firefighter. But the area it covered was too large, and adding a new lantern for any new death could be expensive for the city and the fire department.
"The new scheme is much smaller but retains the same poetic value as the original,” Whelton told Weinstein. “Now it’s about 6,000 to 7,000 square feet. And instead of adding new lanterns, the lantern lighting patterns will be altered monthly to reflect the historical number of firefighters who died during that month.”
The Steel Bridge Skate Park is described in its submission materials as "a sculptural urban space, optimized for skating, but accommodating the broader community, integrating urban design and infrastructure, architecture, landscape, recreating, and art." The Jury applauded this as "a piece of provocative placemaking that is thoughtful to the skaters and a great transformation of an underutilized 'junk' space."
One project earned this year's Craftsmanship Award: a private residence by TVA Architects in Nevada that overlooks Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The award submission descibes how "two buildings mirror one another and are connected to one another via a boardwalk running through a graveled sculpture garden. The jury noted the project's "beautiful control of concrete, wood, glass and other materials" and its "marriage of landscape and architecture."
This year's Sustainability Award went to Hayes Freedom High School in Camas, Washington by Mahlum Architects. A 200-student, 20,500 square foot alternative high school named in honor of Camas graduate Denis Hayes, the building school caters to students with alternative learning styles and needs as part of a downtown campus. The Jury "appreciated how the project incorporates a comprehensive environmental approach while making an important social statement by creating a permanent home for non-traditional students" and lauded "how the project incorporates sustainability into the learning experience."
The Mayor's Award for Design Excellence went to the Patton Park Apartments by SERA Architects. Patton Park is the first new transit oriented development to be built along the Interstate MAX light rail line. The five-story building, created for Reach Community Development includes 54 units for working families and 4,600 square feet of commercial space.
This year's People's Choice Award went to Ankrom Moisan's design for the Arts & Communications Magnet Academy Performing Arts Center in Beaverton. The project includes a 400-seat theater, experimental studio, support spaces and art galleries for an award-winning magnet arts school that previously had to stage its productions in a Quonset hut.
Congratulations to all of this year's winners.