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Two PSU faculty named "Newsmakers" for 2012 in the Daily Journal of Commerce
Author: Rick Arnett, Daily Journal of Commerce
Posted: February 27, 2012

Sergio Palleroni, PSU associate professor of architecture and fellow at PSU's Institute for Sustatinable Solutions, and Aaron Whelton, owner of Whelton Architecture and assistant professor of architecture, were named "Newsmakers" for 2012 by the Daily Journal of Commerce.

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The mantelpiece must be getting crowded these days for Sergio Palleroni (left), professor of architecture at Portland State University and co-owner of Palleroni Leite Design Partnership, which he owns with his wife, Margaret Leite, an associate professor in the architecture program at PSU. Prestigious awards from all over the world are competing for space above the fireplace.

Palleroni won the Special Jury Commendation award from the Smithsonian Institution in 2005. In 2009 a private home he designed, the Kavouri residence in Greece, was featured on the Discovery Channel as one of the greenest houses in the world.

As co-founder of the BaSiC (Building Sustainable Communities) Initiative in cooperation with the University of Texas-Austin and the University of Washington, he has a hand on projects throughout Latin America and the United States. He is a board member of the Austin Community Design & Development Center and he is working on the Alley Flat program, a plan to design and build sustainable, affordable, green housing in Austin’s underused network of alleys.

The American Institute of Architects named him one of four recipients of the organization’s 2011 Latrobe Prize for a research proposal that examined the current and future roles of architects in public interest projects. The prize includes $100,000 for continued research. He’s also been nominated for the Brit Insurance Design Award for the Ladakh Commonwealth Peace Pavilion and Classroom in Ladakh, India, in the Himalayas, part of the Druk White Lotus School project there.

Somewhere in between, he contributed to a book that will be available March 31. “Beyond Shelter” presents projects from across the globe, collectively illustrating the reality that evolving risk requires new ways of thinking and that architects have a leading role to play in that thought shift.

Locally, Palleroni is co-director of the Oregon BEST Green Building Research Lab at PSU. He and his colleagues at PLDP organized a series of meetings, the first in August 2011, as part of an initiative from Gov. John Kitzhaber for the Oregon Solutions, a program to design better portable classrooms for Oregon school districts. The goal was to share information about the situation of portable classrooms in Oregon and then pinpoint major issues and possible design solutions.

In a previous interview with the DJC, Palleroni lauded Portland as a model environment for progressive and environmentally conscious designers.

“There are a lot of activist firms here,” he said. “(They) are all leaders in the community, actively involved, expanding and working with the mayor and the governor. I’m lucky to be in the heart of so much already.”

Aaron Whelton (left) is on fire … sort of. His firm, Whelton Architecture, landed two related projects in Portland: one for the renovation of Fire Station 21 and the other for a new firefighters’ memorial park.

Both projects are still in the design stages, the former after the bidding process used for design submission had to be re-evaluated and the latter after the recent confirmation of a $1 million budget built on donations and nonpublic sources.

The city of Portland passed a bond resolution in 2010 to upgrade all city fire stations. However, Fire Station 21 had been phased out of use and was dormant at the time. As a result, the circa-1961 building at the east foot of the Hawthorne Bridge was not included in the seismic upgrades covered by the bond.

City officials later decided to reactivate Fire Station 21 in order to reduce response time to water emergencies on the river. However, the station building rests on 30 feet of fill, which will require geological attention before the structure can be renovated.

“The project will be complex,” Whelton said. “The ground will have to be stabilized, which presents its own set of engineering problems, before any structural construction can begin.”

In addition to housing a rescue engine, Fire Station 21 will serve as the docking location for a refurbished 1930s fireboat, the David Campbell, named in honor of the Portland fire chief who died in a conflagration in 1911.

Campbell, a popular figure in Portland at the time of his death, was the inspiration for a firefighters’ memorial also named for him in 1928 at Northwest 18th Avenue and Burnside Street. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places last June.

The Campbell Memorial sits on a triangular island in the middle of the street. But changes in the area over time, from heavy pedestrian and horse traffic to present-day vehicular traffic, means people rarely stop to view the plaque or the massive old fire bell that make up the memorial. In addition, the memorial had become weathered.

The David Campbell Memorial Association, created to pay for construction of the memorial, decided to supplement it with a newer memorial that would pay tribute to all of Portland’s fallen firefighters – 36 to date – in a venue where people would be more likely to see it.

The new Fallen Firefighters Memorial will be on the Eastbank Esplanade just north of Fire Station 21. Visible from Interstate 5 and city bridges, the memorial will command a sweeping view of the river and Fire Station 21’s docking facilities.

The memorial design, which recently won an award from the American Institute of Architects, incorporates a set of lanterns on fixed posts that Whelton said “will appear to merge and become brighter from different angles so that it becomes a defined place in the city.”