Interview with an Architect: Richard Brown, AIA

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Richard Brown AIA, founder of RBA, about a newly completed project in Portland, Oregon. The modern, yet traditionally inspired design has a reclaimed timber frame core combined with stick built spaces. Nestled along the hillside with views of Mt. Hood, Richard explained that this will be the main home for a creative couple—a modern house with traditional queues. We conversed about this project and the broader driving forces behind his architectural creativity:  

What can you tell us about this project’s build site?
It’s a really beautiful site in Portland, which are getting to be rare in major cities as our population grows. This site had a home removed a few years back in anticipation of a development which never happened. There are great views to Mt. Hood and good access to sunlight. The homeowner is an avid gardener, so we intentionally sat the home into the shade away from where sun falls to leave space for gardens and a meadow area.

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West Coast High

Has it really been a decade since we opened in Oregon? No. Actually, it’s been 9 years. Summer, 2008 I landed out here after a few years of research and prep just in time for the roughest economic face plant many of us have known (and I’ve known 4 others in our 30 years).

I liken that whole beginning to parachuting out of an airplane amidst blue skies into a thick but fluffy-enough bunch of clouds. Once inside, there was some suggestive bumping about, some troublesome turbulence, but not a clear sign yet of what lay ahead. Then suddenly I break through those clouds and the scene below me opens like a battlefield movie: burning buildings, scorched earth, hungry villagers with widening eyes and the air full of acrid smoke. (Yes, yes I’m exaggerating for effect. There were no burning buildings.)

That was the starting of our west coast effort at the beginning of that darned big recession. In looking back, it might have been better to hang out on the beach for 4 or 5 years rather than make the effort we did to build our business in such a setting. But I am neither prescient nor idle, and so work we did.

…and we’ve made great progress, and well, we’re pretty glad we didn’t just hang out on the beach. I would have gone insane.

Sean seems to be our resident selfie expert. Here he captured himself along with a few of the rest of us west coasters: Darren, Richard La Trobe (artist and bridge maker), me, David, and Quinn.

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Make Way for Woodworkers

Our fine woodworking division is moving to join our main campus in Farmington, NY. They’re making their home in our Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building (the first complete CLT in New York State) and in the office/showroom.

NEWwoodworks team with CLT building Farmington NY web

The NEWwoodworks crew on CLT raising day this past January.

After a harsh winter in 2015 laid down an overabundance of snow and ice, this team’s shop collapsed. The WWII era bowstring trusses couldn’t take the heavy load. Seeing this as an opportunity to build a new space with all the right materials, as well as bring the team to the main campus, our CLT building came together.

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Q and A with a timber frame engineer featuring Bryan B

“These are all ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, right?

I chuckled at Bryan’s inquiry as we settled in for our Q&A interview. I assured him that all questions were going to be difficult and on the record. He grinned and I started with asking him a bit about his background followed by more rapid-fire questions. Here’s a look into Bryan:

On occasion, Bryan will bring pup Reilly into the office. Here she was just a few months old.

On occasion, Bryan will bring pup Reilly into the office. Here she was just a few months old.

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