June 10, 2008
by: Murrye Bernard Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: New Practices Jury Symposium
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.04.08
Speakers: Jury Members: Amale Andraos — Work AC; Jennifer Carpenter — TRUCK; Peter Eisenman, FAIA — Eisenman Architects; William Menking — Editor-in-Chief, The Architect’s Newspaper; Mark Strauss, FAIA, AICP — Principal, FXFOWLE Architects; Charles Renfro, AIA — Principal, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (not present)
Moderator: Illya Azaroff, AIA — Design Collective Studio
Organizer: AIANY New Practices Committee
Sponsors: Underwriter: Häfele; Lead Sponsors: MG & Company, Poliform USA, Thornton Tomasetti; Supporters: Fountainhead Construction, FXFOWLE Architects; Beverage Sponsor: Saaga Vodka; Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper

Courtesy AIANY

Jurors claimed there were many good firms that entered this year’s New Practices New York (NPNY) competition, but the tone of the symposium was predominantly critical. Six winning firms were announced: Urban A&O won the honor award, and five finalists include Baumann Architecture, Common Room, David Wallance Architect, Matter Architecture Practice, and Openshop | Studio. Jurors agreed that 12 out of 52 portfolio entries were “interesting,” but only one “had what we were looking for,” explained Amale Andraos. Urban A&O unanimously won top billing for graphic representation, project focus, and design abilities.

NPNY, the second juried portfolio competition and exhibition in a new biennial tradition, serves as a platform to recognize and promote innovative and emerging architecture firms in NYC. The competition emphasizes both a firm’s projects and practices. Participating firms were asked to submit a “Mini Portfolio” along with a “Practice Narrative” explaining their methods of collaboration and integrated practice, influences on critical thinking about design, and the variety of their project experience, as well as the location and nature of their practices.

Jurors reported that Charles Renfro, AIA, who was not in attendance, was frustrated that the portfolios contained “nothing you had never seen before,” noting a trend towards anti-specialization among the applicants. “I didn’t see any star tendencies — and that is a very positive thing,” said Peter Eisenman, FAIA, with a touch of irony. However, he was disappointed that there was “no real stance on green architecture,” or any other over-arching concepts. Jennifer Carpenter said she was “surprised by the range of built work,” as she had expected to see more technology-based explorations.

While jurors agreed it was exciting that new practices are able get large-scale projects (many portfolios included international built work as well as developer-led projects), they debated whether this is positive or negative in terms of critical thinking about design. Eisenman, quoting Aldo Rossi, Hon. FAIA, was looking for “theory that can lead to practice” among the portfolios, but found more work or practice without the theory behind it.

The six winners will present their work in a lecture series and showcase at Häfele’s New York showroom, and work will be on view at the Center for Architecture this fall, opening September 5.

Murrye Bernard, Assoc. AIA, is a designer with TEK Architects and has written for Architectural Record, Architecture Boston, and Architectural Lighting.


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