Timber manufacturing has had a long and significant history in Lane County. When planning for a new County Courthouse in downtown Eugene, Intergovernmental Relations Manager Alex Cuyler and Economic Development Manager Sarah Means thought that this new civic structure could serve as a model building to promote the manufacture and adoption of mass timber building products in the County. They knew that the University of Oregon’s Department of Architecture had worked with the City of Springfield to produce demonstration designs for their new mass timber parking structure, so they approached the Department about creating designs that could demonstrate the possibilities for mass timber construction for this significant public building and contracted for a Fall 2017 faculty-led studio focused on this project.
Professor Judith Sheine and Associate Professor Mark Donofrio took on the challenge of having 19 architecture students working in five teams to design a large (250,000 square feet) and complex building combining courthouse functions with offices for the Sherriff’s Department, the District Attorney, and some state divisions. The studio worked closely with Lane County Capital Projects Manager Brian Craner and Court Administrator Elizabeth Rambo to understand the vision of the County for the new building as well as the functional requirements, and the Lane County funding provided for critical external consultants. To understand courthouse design, the studio had presentations from architects with considerable experience with this building type: Dennis McFadden, FAIA; from SRG Partnership, Kent Duffy, Bjorn Clouten and Steven Simpson; from Hennebery Eddy, Alan Osbourne; and from DLR Group, Tim Ganey, Kent Larson, Bill Valdez and Carla Weinheimer. Samir Mokashi and Franklin Callfas of Codes Unlimited provided advice on building code issues and UO’s Department of Architecture’s Energy Studies in Building Laboratory consulted with the student teams on issues of energy use, natural ventilation and daylighting. As mass timber design was central to Lane County’s interest in this project, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Professor of Civil Engineering Mikhail Gershfeld provided expert consulting on the mass timber structural systems for the building designs.
During the fall term, the student work was reviewed by the architect consultants and by Lane County officials, members of the judiciary and Sheriff’s and D.A’s offices, and staff who would be working in the new building. The five student teams produced widely varied designs, giving the County many new ideas about how to think about organizing and designing the new building and employing mass timber in visible and dramatic new ways. The studio work will be used by the County to help the public, architects and County administrators envision this new civic building in Eugene.