May 27, 2009
by: Linda G. Miller

(Continued from above)

In one of the most prominent and contentious locations in Manhattan, Allied Works Architecture redesigned the Museum of Arts and Design, recipient of a Merit Award. According to Principal Kyle Lommen, their goal was to “open the building up to its context, and the primary act was one of subtraction.” They connected gallery spaces vertically, provided a connection to Central Park and beyond, and brought light in through cuts in the floors and exterior walls. What everyone can see, even those who don’t go inside, is a façade of glazed terracotta tiles that create an iridescent surface designed to play with the light.

Pelkonen noted that Honor Award-winning Thomas Phifer and Partner’s pavilion at Rice University is so ethereal that it makes you wonder whether it’s an apparition. How do you build a glass building on a neo-Byzantine campus that’s also suited for the climate in Texas? The answer, according to Partner Stephen Dayton, was with a sheltering trellis system that provides shade and perforated “sklylight scoops” to bring light and air into the building.

Situated on the fringes of Columbus, IN, a city known for its Saarinen buildings, the Merit Award-winning Irwin Union Bank branch building is in a mall with big box retail. To distinguish the building from its neighbors, Deborah Berke & Partners Architects designed a “light box” that serves as a canopy, a unifying element, and a beacon that can be seen by motorists 1/4-mile away. The light box “is the opposite of a bleak, fluorescent lit Wal-Mart,” according to Partner Marc Leff, AIA.

“The Chosen Children’s Village Chapel arrests you with its origami-skin,” Pelkonen said. There also happens to be a human-interest aspect to the project. Carlos Arnaiz, associate partner at Stan Allen Architect, had volunteered as a youth in the village that is home to kids with disabilities. When the founders of the non-profit organization needed an architect to design the chapel, they called upon him. The firm and all other professionals involved worked pro-bono on this Merit Award winning-project. The chapel has no mechanical systems and the building, according to Arnaiz, “exploits the plasticity of concrete.” It needed to be thin and compact to handle seismic challenges, and the walls were designed like a ceiling with movable beams.

Three of the winning projects are private residences uniquely integrated into theie landscapes on acres of private property. Allied Works’ Dutchess County Guest House sits on a natural shelf in the landscape and, with its articulated framing of steel tubing, binds the house to the surroundings. Thomas Phifer and Partners’ Millbrook House is at the end of a forested road that leads to a sheltered meadow. The residence was designed to appeal to the owner’s affinity towards a Japanese aesthetic and incorporates an indoor and outdoor environment. Both projects garnered Honor Awards. Joel Sanders Architect’s Merit Award-winning House on Mount Merino is embedded into a hillside with panoramic views. Inspired by the Hudson River School of painting, the house has framed, static views — like a movie camera viewfinder.

All of these projects share a certain formal semblance with early Modernism. They feature simple, geometric forms, have an abundance of light-filled, open spaces, and many have a lot of glass and steel. Pelkonen aptly summed up her remarks by saying, “When you see these buildings, you know you are in a presence of great architecture and you are moved.”


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