Architectural Foundation of Oregon - Knight experience



A great friend of mine and long-time Earthaware supporter is the amazing Wilson Smith, a Fellow of Design at Nike, responsible for many Nike products and advancements through design thinking, a musician and inspirational speaker. Having been around the process and end results of the Earthaware woven materials process/language, Wilson holds an idea of what can be formed and done with pliable materials. Wilson sits on the Board of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon (AFO) which holds an annual fundraiser at the Oregon Convention Center to honor Oregonians who have contributed significantly to the built environment in Oregon. This year the honorees were Phil and Penny Knight, Phil is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Nike.

In late July 2012 Wilson asked me if I would design and oversee the fabrication of a backdrop/thematic element for the AFO/Knight event stage and some sort of table-top elements. The event boasts 640 attendees at 64 tables of ten. The stage is 40' across and has both a podium area and a seated area for a discussion forum. Having not done a large personally authored sculptural piece for about a year aside from the work done with kids around the world, where the mantra is to start the kids out and let them lead with form and composition, I jumped at the chance to create again at this scale.first stage concept sketch

I know well what can be sculpturally accomplished with sticks and branches, in a modular format, built off-site and moved into and assembled at the Convention Center for the event. Last year with the help of hundreds of Oregonians over the course of two weeks I created the Cascade AIDS project Nike sponsored "StoryPOD" made of sticks, branches and Nike RED Laces (the RED campaign generates revenues through the sale of RED "branded" products with proceeds going to AIDS awareness globally). Again there was a Nike theme here with AFO and I knew there are also tens of thousands RED Laces still in warehouses in Beaverton, Oregon. Wilson got 12,000 of the RED laces from Nike, AFO obtained a truckload of Douglas Fir and Apple branches from West Wind Farm and a warehouse space from Oregon Electric, along with steel conduit and wire. I contacted JP Reuer at PNCA to see if any of his graduate design students would be interested in helping out: He sent four over.

Early design sketches focused on three different design styles: Flame (referencing the Olympic flame, triumphant energy and the burning of past), Forest (referencing the great majestic vertical trees and dripping mosses of the Pacific Northwest), and Stone (referencing solid forms of foundation and a platform for building).

AFO flame


AFO selected the design theme of Stone for its less dramatic flair and we were off. These projects have a fair degree of unknown as we go in. I thank AFO and Nike for trusting that we would develop a result that would hold true to the vision and become a compelling experience for the attendees of the event.


Day one of fabrication is framing and bending the structures into shape, mostly out of bent steel conduit. I created a few forms referencing stone and cliff shapes that I generated from observation of local rock formations in the Columbia River Gorge and transferred to a sketch.

Then we just got going bending and wire tying and making the large stage elements for three days.




I made two models of the table top sculptures with bent copper frames and about 30 Nike RED laces tied on in faceted forms. We used these as inspiration for how to tie thousands of Nike RED laces onto the larger stage elements.

We worked for a total of about 60 person-hours to create six stage elements of varying sizes. Next Oregon Electric moved everything to the Oregon Convention Center for stage set-up, lighting and making an additional 63 table-top mini-sculptures of copper and RED laces with the help of a number of AFO volunteers.


Then it was event night... here are the results:


The fun and interactive connections at the tables where we asked the attendees to take the table top sculptures as a starting point for making their own creations using RED laces we put on the tables plus anything else they though warranted.




Such a great event, fun people and interaction with creative expression.


I want to give credit and a big thanks to PNCA graduate design students that helped in the fabrication of the stage elements: Emily Wyant, Dan Hodges, Brian Hutsebout and Lange a transfer student from Bejing, China.