Johnpaul Jones, FAIA | 2011 Pietro Belluschi Distinguished Visiting Professor in Architectural Design


Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum, Ignacio, Colorado.

Johnpaul Jones, FAIA:  “Seeing the Things In Between”

The 2011 Pietro Belluschi Distinguished Visiting Professor in Architectural Design is Johnpaul Jones, FAIA, of Jones & Jones Architects, Landscape Architects, and Planners, Seattle, Washington. In the fall of 2011 and as the 2011 Pietro Belluschi Distinguished Visiting Professor, Johnpaul Jones presented two lectures at the University of Oregon for the School of Architecture and Allied Arts Department of Architecture:  “The Frog Does Not Drink Up the Pond in Which It Lives, “ October, 2011 in Eugene;  and “Times Change but Principles Don’t,” November, 2011 in Portland. Among the many attendees at the lecture in Portland at the UO in the White Stag Block were Pietro Belluschi’s two sons, Peter Belluschi and Anthony Belluschi.

Jones has a distinguished 40-year career as an architect and founding partner of the Seattle-based firm, Jones & Jones Architects, Landscape Architects, and Planners.  His design philosophy emerged from his Choctaw-Cherokee ancestors and connects his work to the natural, animal, spirit and human worlds.  His designs have won wide-spread acclaim for their reverence for the earth, for paying deep respect to regional architectural traditions and Native landscapes, and for heightening understanding of indigenous peoples and cultures of America.

What follows is a post on his Portland lecture, “Times Change but Principles Don’t.”

Northwest Native Canoe Center Seattle, Washington.


Johnpaul Jones is internationally lauded as an architect of both structure and landscape in Native, indigenously-inspired design projects.  Jones’ projects take a multidisciplinary approach swirling together symbolic Tribal activity, a sense of place, the natural environment, Native social customs, and religious beliefs.  His projects stand as virtual cultural reconstructions and beautiful culminations of cosmological concepts and life represented in an architectural achievement. Jones’ approach is one that reaches well beyond the basic requirements of a building to incorporate Native sensibilities and aesthetics.  His ability to bridge a path between the built environment and the Native universe, has allowed him to meld buildings rich with imagery, connections to the earth, and stratifications of story with reference in color, texture, and detail creating both a structure and a site that melds story and interpretation of a living, reacting, existing culture.

Johnpaul Jones began his presentation, “Times Change but Principles Don’t,”  with an acknowledgement of the namesake of his distinguished professorship: Pietro Belluschi; Jones also profusely thanked both of Belluschi’s sons, Peter Belluschi and Anthony Belluschi (seated in the front row) for attending the lecture.  “Your father,”  Jones proclaimed addressing both the audience and Belluschi’s family, “was timeless, he had spirit.”  Jones asserted that the designs of the famed Northwest architect “inspired [him] to become an architect.”  Also, praising his architectural education at the University of Oregon, Jones recalled that “[UO] was the right place for [him].”

Jones, himself of Cherokee | Choctaw heritage, became involved in Native art  and architecture early in his career due to his belief that one must bring new life to indigenous design and commit to taking a sort of pilgrimage to Native cultural environments thereby becoming influenced and inspired by the rich aspects of these Native traditions.  He encouraged a proactive personal seeking of this heritage as a way to gain an awareness of the Native environment.  This individual participation in the culture of a region would contribute to one’s understanding of distinctive forms.  Once one has experienced this uniqueness of site, the subsequent built environment and landscape design will more honestly evoke Native stories and connections to all four of the worlds present in indigenous beliefs:  natural, animal, spiritual and human.


Traditional regalia and dancing, Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum, Ignacio, Colorado.

The importance of these four worlds to design and structure, according to Jones, cannot be underestimated —as these elements become the formative basis of the project.  Jones reflected that the natural world has the potential to effect us everywhere and needs to embrace the idea of sustainability as a constant.  The natural world deals with light and the seasonal equinox and solstice patterns.  Thus, in designing for a site the very initial step taken should be noting the cardinal directions, the location of the sun, and the stars in the cosmos.

Animals are of importance to a design and structure as well.   Many Native stories come from the animal world.  Using the inspiration of a living, breathing thing, whether a delicate frog, butterfly, bird or dragonfly to tell a story about life, existence and the fragility of living beings becomes a powerful design principal.    The spirit world contains objects such as rocks, views, mountains and trees, as all things have a spirit, says Jones.  Understanding or recognizing this idea of the spirit world will translate to a respect for the site and a comprehension that the land has something to tell.  Equally important is the human world as in all work there is the element of the passing on of knowledge.  Good design must provide opportunities to pass knowledge; and this component comes from the human world.

Using the idea of a canoe filled to the brim with elements from all four worlds:  natural, animal, spiritual, and human, Jones urged architects to “listen to the client, respect the land of the site, and be aware of the bigger message.”  The built environment is not just a sequence of buildings, said Jones, but stuctures that contain “life messages” and serve to act as translators of both ancient and indigenous gifts.


Light-infused interior, Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum, Ignacio, Colorado.

Jones continued by discussing several projects he has participated in:  the National Museum of the American Indian, the Commons Park in Denver, Colorado, and a zoo design.  In each project, Jones emphasized that importance of a diverse practice and the diversity of design but, overall, the importance of a respect for the environment and natural settings and an integration of all four worlds.

For each of his projects that involved Native tribes, Jones recounted the sequence of the work pattern.  First, one must establish what is “welcome.”  He urged both the writing and thinking of the idea of “welcome.”  In addition to discovering this key concept of “welcome,” the architect must work with the tribe to determine the life force of the people.  In his cultural museum design at the Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum in Ignacio, Colorado, Jones spoke of the lives of the people as always spiraling outwards much like the spiraling basketry the tribe handcrafted.  Jones made a connection between trying to work within these stories and integrating this concept into the ultimate design.


Designing the Welcome cone-shaped structure, Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum, Ignacio, Colorado.

Discussing his work with the Mercer Slough Nature Park in Bellevue, Washington, Jones described the master plan as embracing the value of creating a place for walks and a place where people could connect with themselves. This connection space and place would serve to provide a sense of enjoyment.  By integrating walkways and spaces in between the buildings, providing places to sit and see nature and the natural views of the surrounding landscape, and giving ample opportunities to appreciate the natural light though large windows in the buildings, Jones developed a way to integrate the person to the environment.   In doing so, the architect provided a source for conversation about what is being seen and what one is literally surrounded by.  Jones calls this “giving reasons to talk to [children] and to explain things.”

At Fort Vancouver, Jones related a project of reconnection, of a circle that connects to itself, his renowned Vancouver Land Bridge and was a key component of the Confluence Project.  His design here is intended to reconnect visitors to the river and to the land; to uncover the spirit of the place and the enchantment of the history, both Native and of the Western Europeans.  The effort one must make to “walk up and over and into the Fort” compels a sense of circular involvement and movement in amongst objects that seem low and unobtrusively part of the land.

Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat and the Icicle Creek Music Center, Leavenworth, Washington, is a project of Jones’ where he let his design meander naturally and organically throughout the complex.  Integrating large windows that face snowy, rocky hillsides, Jones thought to bring the outside in and use the natural surroundings to inspire the work of the musicians composing, playing, and practicing within the retreat.  As Jones puts it, his arms swirling to evoke the movement and melding of nature and music:  “you can see clouds moving, birds flying, and this brings the spirit of the music alive.”  It is a place to create and to observe, a place where one is not separated from the natural environment that is so strikingly just outside the windows but where one can infuse creative musical composition with the stunning visual component of the dramatic landscape and moving weather systems.

Architects must be adept at designing for emotion, Jones continued.  In the early 2000s, Jones was asked to design the masterplan for the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Memorial, a monument wall to honor the Japanese Americans who were displaced during WWII.  Jones created a place of quiet, a gently curving cedar wall where visitors can remember and honor their ancestors.  Key to this project was working directly with the Japanese American community of the region to discover what they would feel epitomized their emotional response.  The site would have to be something that recognized all diverse peoples.   Jones recalled with reverence the appreciation he received from the Japanese-American community for this project.


Influence of basketry in design, Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum, Ignacio, Colorado.

Jones’ most recent Native project is the cultural education center in the Rocky Mountains, the Southern UTE Cultural Center and Museum, in Ignacio, Colorado.  Jones spoke of how the tribal members came to him and asked for a building that would represent their “circle of life”philosophy.  The tribe wanted a permanent gallery, a temporary gallery, and a native gift shop  in addition to educational and administrative components and a library.  The desire was to have a complex that began in a space that was clearly a  Welcome Center.  Jones devised a welcoming area that utilized the tribal concept of a cone, or a circle that crossed a stream and progressed under an arbor covered in a translucent material to let light glow within.  Jones thought that the most important component of this project was that it feel welcoming and that it resonated with the cultural mores of the tribe.  The resulting structure makes use of a great deal of colored glass (similar to the architectural designs of Pietro Belluschi, said Jones, as well as echoing the regalia of the Native tribe on this land).

As Jones brought his presentation to a close, he somberly appealed to his audience to remember: “Times Change but Principles Don’t” and commented that he felt Pietro Belluschi had understood this in his designs.  “We are destroying the earth,” cautioned Jones.

Jones’ lecture reminded the audience that the times have changed, the landscape is rapidly changing, but we remain here to live together and to be creative in the pursuit of allowing this land and all the people to listen to the swaying of the leaves, the roaring of the river, the blowing of the winds, the snowcapped majesty of the mountains.  The smallest frog or butterfly should be compelling enough to inspire a connection to animals and nature; the weather and the flowing of time, might evoke spiritual appreciation, and the father sitting with his child on a park bench telling her the story of the woodpeckers or the creek or the bear,  should provide a reason to think about the human world and the importance of communication, conversation, and connecting with one another.  Jones encouraged all to look in between things, to observe and notice that which is always present and around us.

Jones’ Portland lecture was delivered to an audience of over 150.   Quiet and contemplative throughout the presentation, listeners fell into an even greater sense of attentiveness as Jones read a well-known poem by Chief Dan George:

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, speaks to me.  The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.  The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dew drop on the flower, speaks to me.  The strength of fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away.  They speak to me.  And my heart soars.

“We are part of this planet,” said Jones, “It is never going to go away.  So, take care of it.”  Jones advised, by “listening and being respectful,” and, above all, we must all seek to  “see the things in between.”  Do not forget the importance of “the place, the culture, and the environment, keep bringing these up” he encouraged.  When designing, “keep at it, and put people right in there.”  While Jones credited his mother and grandmother for teaching him the lessons of his heritage, he also thanked his university education for developing his approach.  Adopting a humanistic perspective and maintaining a design philosophy where the people-element is never forgotten or sacrificed is a principle Jones proudly says he “got from the University of Oregon.”  Post-lecture, Jones was asked for his comments about this recent experience as the Belluschi Distinguished Visiting Professor and his work with the students at the University of Oregon.  He commented that he tried to instill in the students the idea that “It’s not the final designs, even though that is what we are judged by, but the ‘Emerging Indigenous Gifts’ that count.”   He added that he would like to “thank all of [the University] for the opportunity [it] gave [him], and look forward to continued interchange.”

Jones’ lecture provided an education into the wisdom and unparalleled legitimacy of indigenous peoples.  His ability to come into the peace of a wild, natural environment and to absorb the presence and stillness of nature by bringing that into his designs is a principle of grace and understanding.  As an architect, Jones has allowed his heritage to move him and transpire into a empathetic design aesthetic.  It is this multidisciplinary aesthetic that  brilliantly incorporates into his architectural systems and thus adding meaning and story to the landscapes, shapes, textures, colors, patterns, rhythms, and forms of his projects.

[Note:  the video of Johnpaul Jones’ Eugene lecture is available at the following location:  “The Frog Does Not Drink Up the Pond In Which It Lives.“]

post  sabina samiee

many heartfelt thanks to johnpaul jones for sharing his images with us for this blog.

Johnpaul Jones delivers "Times Change, But Principles Don't", UO in Portland, 2011.

Modular Making in the Age of Digital Craft | A Collaboration Between the University of Oregon and Oregon College of Art and Craft

Something remarkable is happening this fall 2011 term with University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts students in Portland and Oregon College of Art and Craft students in the UO Architecture 4/584 Architectural Design course.  Along with instructors, Nathan Clark Corser (AIA, LEED AP, Design Principal of IDC Architects), Karl Burkheimer (OCAC and head of that college’s Wood Department) and architects, Peter Anderson and Mark Anderson (Anderson & Anderson Architects, San Francisco, California) students participated in a completely hands-on building project from start to finish. This is a collaborative project….stay tuned.  We just want to give you a preview of what has been happening on-site.

Watch the University of Oregon:  School of Architecture and Allied Arts Facebook page for more photos and updates.  View the photographic progression of the project on the Facebook PhotoAlbum:  Modular Making in the Age of Digital Craft.

Read the blog by the students involved in the project at

Here is the general course description to give some background information:

What is the place of Arts and Crafts in the 21st century? How can a school for craft better serve its faculty, students, visitors and patrons while projecting its mission and purpose to them and the broader community? The Oregon College of Arts and Crafts (OCAC) has initiated a tutorial class to address these questions. Those OCAC student’s charge is to investigate an architectural design/build methodology, informing a design practice with a hands on approach to making. AAA students in this studio will work in an interdisciplinary manner with the OCAC instructor and students joining together to envision and design a campus augmented and enhanced through the planning for new entries, pathways, new structures and future expansion(s). Within the context of  an ambitious current master planning approach and recently completed signature buildings AAA and OCAC students will help define and refine the spatial quality, experience and character of this forested hillside campus. This investigation, design and building studio will be comprised of three primary components that we are inextricably linked together; 1) a site analysis and planning exercise looking to improve site entries, connectivity, place making and wayfinding; 2) a modular structures design and development component sufficient to demonstrate direct applicability to current and anticipated future programmatic needs at this site and, lastly; 3) full scale tectonic design and prototyping modeling and built assemblies sufficient to ascertain cost and substantiate constructability.

A model of the south-facing wall.
On site at the Oregon College of Art and Craft.


Post sabina samiee pdx communications

Michael Salter and Visual Function | Ready-to-Think on a Tee Shirt

“What I Devoted Everything To”:  Michael Salter Style

A Profile on Michael Salter and the Visual Function Apparel Collection

[Images included herein represent a selection of designs from the Visual Function collection]

Self Bubble, M Salter, Visual Function

For those of you who create, who inspire us with images, objects, words, designs, thoughts, and feelings, we, as your audience, wonder what it is that triggers your sensations.   Through what valves of perception flow your attentions and intentions?

As a life’s dedication, the artist produces unique works of creativity capable of provoking intense responses—this alone seems a daunting task.   In a university setting, only professional artists with active professional exhibition records and the promise of upward trajectory of that research practice are considered for faculty appointments.  The artist-as-faculty-member has brilliantly managed to fit within the academic system offering to students an opportunity to discover and develop skills with hand, mind, eye. Indeed, the artist as professor | instructor has successfully merged an ingenious ability for visual creativity and academic intellectualism.  What happens to the artist|professor’s creative output on a personal level when this mixology exists?  What continues to fuel and fire the individual’s ideas and participation in the contemporary,marketable art world?  How does an artist continue to produce and relate on both professional and personal levels to a dynamic career?  Is this a dichotomous choice or can producing art for commercial sale contribute to and enhance a professional teaching situation?  We have asked Professor Michael Salter of the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied ArtsDepartment of Art (Professor Salter recently launched his own line of screened teeshirts with Visual Function) to enlighten us…..

The idea for this exploration of creative impetus came from a random post on Facebook, of all things.   Michael Salter, himself a savvy social media habitué, had posted about a conversation between himself and a student. The student had come upon the professor while he was drawing and asked “Is that your hobby?”   Once posted, this comment elicited a large outpouring from Professor Salter’s FB following.  That, in itself, is not surprising.  But the professor’s reported response was revealing:  “Actually [it] is more of a way of life in many respects, it is my research.”  Salter’s gentle and understanding approach motivates the realization that professor-artists rigorously take part in a pursuit of artistic endeavor outside of the university.  This is, in fact, what amplifies their expanding connections to creativity, progression, and innovation.  What Salter posted next speaks volumes about this paramount connection to practice and profession:  “…it was so strange for a student to have no idea at all that my research, practice and career have entirely informed my teaching and that I teach what I do, not my hobby……it has never been a hobby…. it’s been what I devoted everything to.”

A portion of what a google search reveals....

Suffice to say, I was moved enough to google “Michael Salter”.  Initial searches revealed his university affliation, then his website (definitely a recommended experience) and, after a bit of surfing around, this curious new venture:  graphics on teeshirts with Visual Function.  What caught my attention were the icons:  familiar yet strange in a can’t-look-away-provocative-type impulse. I located a few former students of Professor Salter’s and decided to delve into this further.  Lindsay AuCoin, former student and currently an art instructor at both UO and OSU, commented, “At a glance, you might think [Professor Salter’s] icons are nothing more than logos for products you’ve never heard of….these images are a familiar kind of unfamiliar…[riding] the line of the expected and unexpected.  As a viewer you are left to either piece it together to make sense for yourself, or just let it be the confusing thing that it is. Either way, it gets you thinking and [that] is the strength of his work.”

Forked Tongue

Another former student of Salter’s, Andrew Pomeroy notes, “Salter’s iconography has always occurred to me as a clever exploit of our brand-obsessive nature, as appropriations of the massive lexicon of symbols that make brand statements so tenacious.”  Pomeroy continues, “What separates his work from the rest is that it uses this visual language to compose ideas rather than to simply stamp a name on a piece of clothing, with a level of visual wit that keeps it potent, while unassuming and accessible.”

Corporate Policy

Consequently, I went “shopping” and opened the Visual Function website.  The comments I was hearing so compelled me to want to see these designs….what Professor Salter, himself describes as “torment[ing], enlighten[ing], antagoniz[ing]” and able to tickle the cognitive spirit.  Navigating through Visual Function proved a novel experience. I was greeted with silhouette-styled screens that enveloped me in everything from the charming, (who could not love Bunny Buddies?), to the macabre (Bunny Grinder), to the questionable (Atomic Baby Deer, could that be Bambi with bubbles?  babies?  or burps?), to the idiomatic (fiscally oozing Money Grabber, or the surreally blended Fox and Bunny, or Cloudy Relationship— ever been in love and been told your head is in the clouds?).  Blunt, thought-provoking, somewhat gritty, sometimes saccharin cute and strong enough to contain volumes of connotation and innuendo in one noire-et-blanche silkscreen, I asked Professor Salter to elaborate.

Demo Bunny

It is streetwear for the thinking person, his website boldy declares.  Professor Salter continued, “I have always been a fan of the research university model.  I believe in practicing researchers delivering their work into the world at large make for effective teachers…..I bring every facet of my professional experience to the classroom.”

Bunny Buddies

Obviously, this outlet of creativity, teeshirt emblazoned with iconography, allows Professor Salter to express and communicate in a way he says lets him “teach [his] people how to communicate clearly and honestly with the visual language, as long as I am doing it myself the loop is complete.”  While the designs are clearly thought-provoking (some generating even a little psychological discomfort) and priced to sell in the marketplace of a tee shirt-wearing public, Professor Salter explains that he has been “producing images and objects and delivering them into the world in a variety of ways for many years, money has rarely been the motivation…. Without being didactic, I want my work to engage people to question what their world looks like and why.  Much of the iconography I’ve drawn that exists on the apparel I am selling is simply supposed to amuse, instigate, or otherwise make people think a little bit more…..” surely, above all, purposeful and ready-to-wear.

Cloudy Relationship

When asked to comment on how his art work and his marketable tee-shirt entrepreneurial endeavor contribute to his academic work, Professor Salter says “My work has always existed in a gray area between art and design.  This new tee shirt collection of my images is another exercise of that idea.  The images have been drawn, painted, animaged, extruded dimensionally, screen printed, laser cut, and projected, it only makes sense that the work is realized in yet another medium, in this case, apparel.  The whole project is still a little too new to really reflect on what I’ve learned from it, but you can bet it will in some way end up back in the classroom, affecting my other work and motivating new work.  I just believe its all connected.”

Super Lucky

Fascinated by this connection, I asked Professor Salter how this translates to his students on the university level.  He splendidly emoted on this subject testifying to the importance the students hold:  “I think it is our job to make [the students] brilliant, honest, original creative thinkers who can communicate visually. [The University] is about a broader view of the world, about being a contributor to culture and critically looking at the world we live in.”

Lindsay AuCoin sums up Professor Salter’s work ethic, “his work comes from so much observation, examination, deconstructing, reworking, and manipulating parts of our culture.  He has pulled it all apart and reassembled new forms from it.  Putting these images on tee shirts is like coming full circle, in a way, but given the breadth of investigation that has occurred, it all seems to fit so nicely back into the box from where it came….any artist would be motivated by that.”


Perhaps Professor Salter has realized an ideal combination between the dynamic relationships of thinking, creating, and working such that each aspect feeds into and elevates the other.  It seems a lifestyle, and a conscious choice: whether or not the gamble leads to economic success.   Such an impassioned and committed devotion to one’s art and practice can only contribute to a confluence that benefits all–  students, professor, the community who buys from the creative global marketplace infusing the economy and fueling ventures like Professor Salter’s Visual Function.

The artist|professor’s courage to integrate the academic, the inspired, and the personal creative expression is what contributes to and leads forward our university environment to be one of excellence and innovation, and provides a key element in the arts ecology of the international and regional contemporary art scene.   Indeed, that is just one of the aspects we gratefully owe to professors and instructors in the art and design fields:   they have the bold vision to be progressive, influential, experimental and to see their creative triggers through to a visual expression.  Professor Salter was not content to stop with the expected.  Artists and the Artist-As-Professor challenge us and urge us to engage time and time again making use of mediums we continually are drawn to.

Professor Salter’s tee shirt collection, screened images on a simple wardrobe staple, is also making thinkable messages thoughtfully executed attainable, something we can pull out from the drawer, pull on over our head, and proudly relish the ideas emblazoned across our chests, front and center, for something around $20.   And THAT’s something to provoke thought.

Wash-and-wear-and-ready-to-think adds a whole new dimension to this cotton blended billboard of Americana.  One might venture to say Professor Salter has mastered the art of personal enjoyment and fulfillment of his craft and practice as well as translating his observations, expertise, and approach to his students influencing and inspiring their education and outlook and creating thinkers.  After all, students can benefit from an instructor who is a partner with them in forging  the path of artistic development, thereby providing a model of progression and painting the variants of possibility that creative expression can afford in the real world.   Wash-and-wear infused with a hearty dose of  ready-to-think adds a whole provocative dimension to this icon of fashion.

Plus sometimes a tee shirt does say it better.

post sabina samiee | uo pdx communications
images courtesy of the artist, michael salter

thank you to michael salter, lindsay aucoin and andrew pomeroy

Visual Function,