Interview: Donald Stastny (Fall 2010) with Barry and Melody Finnemore

with Barry and Melody Finnemore

 

COMPETITIONS: How did you get started in competition management?

 

Don Stastny: It started as part of the development of the city of Portland’s Downtown Plan. The block that eventually became Pioneer Courthouse Square was proposed as a 10-story parking garage. That proposal coalesced the community – the design community and the lay community – into thinking about what they wanted downtown Portland to be. There was quite a conversation between politicians, business leaders and designers about what the square should be, and there was so much controversy involved that no one with the city wanted to deal with the politics of it.

 

pioneer square
Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland Oregon – Competition (1980)
Designer – Willard Martin
 

When we were selected to manage the process, we focused on three things: defining a program for the square, developing a budget and determining how to select a design with so many ideas floating around. We formed a technical advisory committee, a design advisory committee and a citizens advisory committee, and held 162 public and private meetings over three years.


The program was for an open square with coverage limited to a third of the site, and a public square in the European style. The budget came in at just over four million dollars. And we decided that we would hold a design competition with some “insurance policies” built in.


It was important to note that this wasn’t just about design, but also about commerce and politics in the city and what the square should be for the community. We had very few U.S. examples of public squares at that time, so much of the competition was about defining what a civic square in an American city should be.

 

COMPETITIONS: Which competition(s) gave you the most satisfaction?

 

DS: Those that have been the most rewarding are in a way the most conflicting: the Oklahoma City and Flight 93 memorials. With both we were dealing with a rush toward “memorialization.” 

 

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