BY BRIAN LIBBY
This Thursday, September 29 brings the return of the Architecture + Design Fest, presented by the Portland chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the AIA in Portland, the A+D Fest brings a variety of events and happenings.
As I write this, the festivities are set to begin in just a few hours with the Opening Night Party (6:30PM, AIA Center For Architecture, NW 11th & Flanders), with a a glimpse of the month’s myriad events and activities. The Center for Architecture will be converted to a lounge complete with music, specialty cocktails, and local organic hors d’ouevres.
The party is also a kickoff for this month's AIA Oregon 100th anniversary exhibit. The exhibition explores the impact architects and architecture have had on the State of Oregon, its regions, and cities through the century. Some of the most beloved buildings in the state will be featured as well as issues facing our community, such as sustainability and land-use which architects have made a significant contribution.
The first big event after tonight's party and exhibit opening is "Design Matters: A Tour of Exceptional Portland Homes". A rare opportunity for guests to glimpse inside six sensational Portland residences, the tour includes the Leedy House by architect Paul McKean, who won top honors at the 2009 AIA/Portland Design Awards; the NW Raleigh House by Giulietti/Schouten, which thoughtfully re-imagines a 1970s ranch house; the Belluschi House (formerly known as the Burkes House) by legendary architect Pietro Belluschi and renovated by his son, Anthony Belluschi; the Cape Cod House (previously featured in Portland Architecture) by Ben Wechter; the Ankeny Lofts by COLAB; and the Tingley-Fortin House, designed by owners Ellen Fortin and BOORA's Michael Tingley.
I've visited the Belluschi House, the Tingley-Fortin House, and the Cape Cod House, and I've followed the work of the other three architects for years. And all are superb designs with superior craftsmanship. This isn't just a homes tour: it really is an example of the best residential design in Portland.
Are you a lover of midcentury and ranch houses? Next Saturday (October 8) brings the Reedwood Neighborhood Walking Tour, in southeast Portland just north of the Reed College campus. Dating to 1955, Reedwood is an eclectic mix of well-designed and built mid-century homes, providing a suburban feel to a neighborhood that is within 10 minutes of downtown Portland. The neighborhood also faces an uncertain future as local zoning regulations have created the potential to dramatically change the landscape of Reedwood predominately through infill. The Reedwood Neighborhood Walking Tour is presented by DOCOMOMO, a national nonprofit dedicated to documenting and conserving buildings and neighborhoods of the modern movement (from which its acronym is derived), and Portland's Architectural Heritage Center. ($15 general, $10 for AHC members).
Interested in landscape architecture? As if the homes tour and the art exhibit on Saturday weren't enough, there is also the ASLA Design Soiree (6PM, Tiffany Center, 1410 SW Morrison Street, $65), in which the local American Institute of Landscape Architects celebrates professional and student excellence by recognizing the firms, individuals, and agencies responsible for outstanding works of landscape architecture and environmental planning that promote an enhanced quality of life in Oregon and beyond.
The centerpiece of the Architecture + Design Festival, now in its third year (though its predecessor, Architecture Week, ran for many years prior), is the annual AIA/Portland Design Awards program. This year's awards have been combined with a 100th anniversary party for AIA Oregon; the event, called The Party of the Century Gala, is scheduled for the Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park Avenue, $35). Last year the sole winner of the top prize, the Honor Award, was ZGF Architects' design of the Jaqua Center at the University of Oregon. Who will claim it this year?
As per tradition, the night before the awards brings An Evening With The Jury (5:30PM, Center For Architecture, $5), a discussion by the trio of out-of-town jurors about their own work as well as their overall impressions with the city. This year's jury includes Merrill Elam of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta, Hilary Sample of MOS Architects in New York, and Vanessa Kassabian of Norwegian firm Snøhetta’s New York office.
On October 21 is the Young Designers Award program (7PM, Center For Architecure, NW 11th & Flanders). "As chair of the A+D festival, one of my major hopes was to try and engage a broader base of designers – multi-discipline - in Portland and to also reach out to the younger architectural generation," Carrie Strickland of Works Partnership said by email. "I think that the AIA does a fantastic job of supporting and promoting established architecture firm and individuals with its collection of services and with the annual design awards program, but it is also imperative to acknowledge the young designers that find their place in the profession – those dedicated to finding outlets for their ideas in their formative years. Young designers come out of school and, if they’re lucky, find employment at firms working within teams. Much of the focus shifts from creative and analytical processes to building technical competency. This award is hoping to encourage emerging designers to continue to explore their own ideas."
"Young architects and designers have it tough right now," Strickland adds. "We all do. Emerging professionals in a tight job market need to compete on a different level and find ways to set themselves apart from their peers. I know that when we look at applicant for interns we are careful to look at how well they can express their ideas. The trend now is to rely on digital technology to tell your story – but young people need to make sure they are developing skills to express concepts and ideas that can carry water and not just seduce with imagery. Being able to sketch an idea on a napkin as a means of communicating your concept versus rendering something for 2 days in whatever 3D modeling program is the current rage and be a game changer for someone hoping to establish themselves."
Film Screenings & Art Exhibits
Beginning this Saturday (October 1) at 6PM at the Bside6 Gallery (524 East Burnside) is an exhibit called "Body Building," curated by Christine Taylor and Jeff Jahn. A look at how architecture houses the body, the exhibition is based on the concept of housing the body using form, structure, fashion and video. The exhibit portrays how fashion and architecture intertwine as a complex organism, shaping how we visualize our world and the spaces we inhabit.
The Architecture + Design Fest also includes several curated film screenings, the first coming next Tuesday (October 4) with a selection of short films by...me! It seems strange to describe my own work, but the films in "Film Shorts by Brian Libby" (6PM, Center For Architecture, NW 11th & Flanders) are about three to seven minutes each and are basically a succession of experimental travelogues. Marc Mohan of The Oregonian writes, "Brian Libby's films manage to meld the quotidian and the sublime, or rather perhaps expose the one within the other.” Whether it’s pigeons flocking around a local Portland dairy, a double-decker bus ride in London, the canals of Amsterdam and Copenhagen or the freeways of Los Angeles, the intent is to view urban and natural settings with a quiet sense of wonder. The show was curated by Thomas Philippson of the Northwest Film Center.
Another film screening comes the following Tuesday, October 11, curated by local nonprofit The Cinema Project. "Building A Home in the 1970s" (6PM, Center For Architecture, free) features films by Videofreex, Richard Brick and Rudolph Burkhardt documenting some of the counter-cultural movements that challenged notions of community and home and promoted alternatives to the very physical structures in which communal activity could take place. The black-and-white videos serve both as do-it-yourself guides to alternative structures (like geodesic domes and “inflatables”) and documents of the artists, their friends, and families who participate both as builders and inhabitants.
A third screening night, "Deep Urban Space", comes Tuesday, October 18 (also 6PM at the Center For Architecture, with free admission) curated by Michael Neault, a writer, researcher, and media arts programmer with Second Story Interactive Studios. One film, called "Lost Buildings" by Chris Ware and "This American Life" host Ira Glass, is about the evolution of one boy’s obsession with Chicago’s disappearing architectural heritage and the friends he makes along the way. With inventive animations by Chris Ware, it offers a more intimate perspective on Chicago’s buildings. Also showing is "My Playground," a documentary pursuing roving teams of parkour athletes as they infiltrate the urban arena.
Next Wednesday, in a talk called "Modular Making in the Age of Digital Craft" (7PM, Oregon College of Art and Craft, 8245 Southwest Barnes Road, free admission), Mark and Peter Anderson of Anderson Architecture, a design and contraction firm integrating the fields of art, architecture, and construction will present their ideas and approach to design/build. The event also includes tours of the new Vollum Drawing, Painting and Photography Building and the Bonnie-Laing Malcolmson Thesis Studios designed by Charles Rose Architects of Boston in collaboration with COLAB Architecture + Urban Design of Portland from 7-7:30. The presentation will occur from 7:30-8:30 in the Vollum Building Painting and Drawing Studios.
In conjunction with the Architecture + Design Fest, Portland State University's architecture department is inaugurating a new lecture series called "Firsts". On October 7 comes Petra Kempf, a New York architect and urban designer who founded URBANTRANSITS, an interdisciplinary research initiative focusing on the transient nature of cities. She has worked with the Department of City Planning in New York City, the Project for Public Spaces and Richard Meier and Partners. Later in the month, on October 27 comes John Ochsendorf, an engineer and educator specializing in the history and technology of historic structures. Ochsendorf is the first engineer to be awarded a Rome Prize (2007) and the first structural engineer to be awards a MacArthur Fellowship (2008). He currently teaches architecture and civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.