March 15, 2012
by: Benedict Clouette

Event: AIANY Design Awards 2012 Juror Symposium
Speakers: Thomas H. Beeby, FAIA—Principal-in-Charge of Design, Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge; Rand L. Elliott, FAIA—President, Elliott + Associates Architects; Scott Erdy, AIA—Principal, Erdy McHenry Architecture; Bernardo Fort-Brescia, FAIA—Principal, Arquitectonica; Anne Fougeron, FAIA—Principal, Fougeron Architecture; Thomas Hacker, FAIA—Founding Principal, THA; Alice Y. Kimm, FAIA—Partner, John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK); Gary L. Lee—Founder and President, Gary Lee Partners; Michael Lehrer, FAIA—Principal, Lehrer Architects; Bruce Lindsey, AIA—Dean, College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University; Donlyn Lyndon, FAIA—Eva Li Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California Berkeley; Carme Pinós, Hon. FAIA—Principal, Estudio Carme Pinós
Moderator: Alexandra Lange
Organizer: AIA New York Chapter
Sponsors: Ennead Architects, Porcelanosa (Patrons)
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.05.12

The full list of winners of the 2012 AIANY Design Awards can be found here.

Last week, on a warm and spring-like day, 12 architects, educators, and designers gathered at the Center for Architecture to decide the winners of the 2012 AIA New York Chapter’s Design Awards. In the evening, following a full day of debate that narrowed the field to the 36 projects chosen for Honor and Merit Awards, the jury joined architecture critic and historian Alexandra Lange for a symposium to announce and discuss the winning designs.

Jurors considered designs in four categories, eventually choosing two Honors Awards in Architecture, three in Interiors, three in Un-Built Work, and two in Urban Design. According to the rules, the submitted projects had to be completed by architects or designers practicing in New York, or be New York City projects designed by architects or designers based elsewhere. This year, the premiated work was drawn from 391 entries, almost half of which were in the Architecture category.

Several of the jurors emphasized the generosity to the public realm, and to the users of the buildings, that the chosen projects exhibited. As juror Carme Pinós, Hon. FAIA, summarized, “We didn’t reward the most spectacular architectural gestures. Rather, in many of the projects, the form results from the users, and from a sense for how people inside might feel.” Jurors also spoke of the importance of architecture in shaping the city. Donlyn Lyndon, FAIA, in discussing Interboro Partners’ Holding Pattern at PS1, described the power of design to contribute to civic life, saying, “Urban design is a process of projecting what the public realm can become, which necessarily includes the initiatives of many people.”

Many of the winning projects retain a sense of modesty, characterized by a subtle negotiation with their contexts, even as they powerfully reshape their sites. Juror Bruce Lindsey, AIA, expressed his appreciation for the Hirshhorn Museum Seasonal Inflatable Pavilion by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and KlingStubbins, noting how it transforms the building without harming it through a simple move that is also temporary. Lange observed that many of the projects selected in the Un-built category, including the Hirshhorn, are provocative but still realizable. Considering the range of projects, she remarked, “The winners are not the most zany of the entries, and are actually very appropriate, for example, in their reuse of existing buildings, or in their approach to the context of their site.”

Nonetheless, the work selected for awards consistently demonstrates a well-resolved aesthetic and conceptual clarity. Discussing an interior by SO-IL and Formactiv, juror Alice Kimm, FAIA, noted, “The projects we chose all do something in a strong way, whether with program, space, light, or material. What interested us in interiors was that there is often more room for invention than in projects that are more purely architectural.” Many of the chosen interiors went beyond superficial treatments to address the organization and circulation of their buildings, and provide new interpretations of the spaces in which they intervened.

Indeed, a commonality in much of the chosen work is a desire to act on its context, and to enliven the city, whether by introducing new programs or by acting on ideas and perceptions. As juror Michael Lehrer, FAIA suggested, “One of the most important things that design can do is to affect how people see things.” In celebrating these projects, the 2012 AIANY Design Awards perhaps reflected a larger cultural shift, recently noted elsewhere, toward considerations of architecture’s role in civic culture.

Benedict Clouette is a writer and the editor of e-Oculus.


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