by Alexandra Tell
The diversity among the winning projects of the 2015 AIANY Design Awards, announced Monday 03.09.15, represent what AIANY 2015 President Tomas Rossant, AIA, aptly described as a “zeitgeist microclimate.” From a courthouse in Salt Lake City and housing for health care workers in Burundi, to The QueensWay proposal, cultural centers, schools, housing, and urban interventions, the projects highlighted current conversations within the design community, and spoke to how the design profession is engaging with the world at large. Jurors Teddy Cruz; Stan Field, Int’l Assoc. AIA; Simon Frommenwiler; Johanna Hurme; Richard Maimon, FAIA; Hadrian Predock; and Nick Winton sifted through 391 submissions to bestow awards in four categories: Architecture, Interiors, Projects, and Urban Design. After two days of deliberation, the seven jurors gathered for a panel on Monday night, moderated by Beatrice Galilee, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design for the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to discuss how each of the 35 winning entries uniquely contribute to the design conversation.
Seven projects were selected to receive Architecture Honor Awards. Located at what Predock described as an “extraordinary site for architecture,” Davis Brody Bond’s National September 11 Memorial Museum was selected for its ability to locate “the power of the condition of interstitial space, and capitalize on the vestiges of memory,” as Cruz explained. Hurme saw the museum as a “raw and not overtreated” emotional experience for visitors. The jurors were impressed by the way NADAAA and John Wardle Architects integrated the program for the Melbourne School of Design throughout the space, as its pedagogical mission was evident in all elements of the design. By opening up the studio space to the public corridor, the design school emphasizes “the uniqueness of architectural education,” and places the “architectural essence in the public realm,” according to Winton. While some jurors worried that the school toed the line of being overdesigned, they determined that although “extensively and thoroughly designed,” the architects were ultimately successful. REX’s Vakko Fashion Center corporate headquarters in Istanbul has “a design intent and vocabulary that pushes the envelope,” according to Winton. Cruz lauded the building’s “coherence, and infrastructural way of thinking.” For the Henderson-Hopkins School in Baltimore, ROGERS PARTNERS Architects+Urban Designers integrated the campus into the urban grid of the surrounding neighborhood. Cruz described his interest in “peripheral urban zones,” and was impressed by how the design focuses on “reintegrating texture into the urban fabric.” Maimon spoke to the importance of schools and churches as neighborhood landmarks, and lauded the project for “reinstating the social aspects of the school.”
The jury had a flurry of commentary about SsD’s Songpa Micro Housing in Seoul, South Korea, which also won the inaugural Best in Competition jury prize. Hurme drew a connection to New York City’s current conversation about microhousing as one solution to the housing crisis, and saw SsD’s design for the 120-square-foot units as groundbreaking in how the “interstitial spaces extend the living units to the communal space, and the sense of community that is created as a result.” The jurors also noted the particular sustainable elements, pointing to the scaffolding surrounding the units, which will eventually serve as an armature for foliage. Cruz emphasized that this project steered the discussion about the microhousing typology away from the developers and the so-called “creative class” to focus on the needs of the community. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center by WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism was recognized for its seamless integration of architecture and landscape. Although Maimon admitted this is a bit of a cliché in design conversations, he said the jurors were nonetheless impressed with the elegance and ease with which the architects achieved this. WEISS/MANFREDI also took home an Architecture Honor for the Kirshna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania. Maimon described seeing “20-somethings stop and look in awe” at this elegant campus building. The jurors noted how the architects not only designed an effective interior program to house a rigorous scientific department, but also created a new destination for public space by setting the building back from the streetscape.
Ten projects received an Architecture Merit Award. Cruz praised Garrison Architects for creating a small-scale, yet smart and viable solution to imminent problems with its NYC Emergency Housing Prototype. For the Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture created “a black-box theater grown up to Globe Theater proportions,” according to Maimon. Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects’ “contextual and contemporary” Toroishiku (Marc Jacobs Building) in Tokyo was commended for its acute attention to skin and material and its innovative approach to zoning regulations, which resulted in a porous and elegant billboard atop the two-story building. Speaking to Louise Braverman, Architect’s Village Health Works Staff Housing in Kigutu, Burundi, Cruz noted that it did not simply insert itself into a situation, but engaged intelligently with the local community’s needs. Field commended the architect for allowing the local culture and vernacular architecture room to breathe.
“Sometimes the question is, How much design is needed?” Frommenweiler remarked with regard to Maryann Thompson Architects’ design for Pier Two at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The jurors were impressed by the restraint of the design for the park pavilion. As Cruz remarked, when it comes to engaging public spaces, “sometimes the seeming absence of design is the best design decision.” The jurors were also impressed by OPEN Architecture’s simple but varied design for the Garden School in Beijing. Maimon praised the overall control of scale, and the public spaces interspersed throughout the school; Hurme noted that the architecture was not about novelty, but about providing the best space for the program. PARA-Project’s Haffenden House in Syracuse, NY, spoke to the jurors with its subtle challenges to “comfortable neighborhood typology.” Predock described the guest house and writing studio as an exercise in “whimsy and rigor,” with a playful façade and a well-conceived interior program.
There was substantial discussion about the University Center at The New School, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Maimon liked the exciting program at the base of the building that provides students and faculty with a rich array of formal and informal meeting spaces, and allows the public to glimpse the interior academic activity. The jurors, however, expressed disappointment in the conventional dormitory spaces occupying the upper, and some questioned the building’s façade. “Is beauty always relevant in architecture?” Hurme asked. The jurors agreed that, in the case of University Center, the intriguing programmatic elements won out. While all agreed that Thomas Phifer and Partners’ United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City is an elegant building, the jurors debated how the formal qualities of the building contributed to the concept of “justice.” Field said, “This gets to a fundamental issue of architecture. How can form invoke meaning?” Winton brought up the notion of the brief, or the client’s demands, in determining how a project takes form. In the case of the courthouse, the jurors noted that “the hand of the client was present at every step,” and that the architects took the client’s constraints as a creative jumping-off point. Maimon described the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects-designed Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a two-part structure containing a horizontal building and a tall tower, as “campus making,” noting how the unlikely contemporary tower of the new center provides a compelling counterpoint to the campus’s nearby Gothic towers.
Two projects were awarded in the Interiors Honors category. For Clouds Architecture Office’s design for St. Mark’s Bookshop, Predock called out the playful form and the treatment of books as a surface material, as well as an understanding of optics informing the design of the curved-base bookshelves. In the case of Desai Chia Architecture’s Photographer’s Loft project, Predock noted the architects’ high level of customization for the client, as well as the interesting interpretation of the minimalist art movement in this loft.
Designated for an Interiors Merit Award, the jurors found that de-spec’s design for Chilewich shop in New York intelligently and quietly defers to the products on display, using an armature to frame the products and emphasize their materiality. Helpern Architects’ Restoration of the Nave of Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University was one of several restoration projects that impressed the jurors, but Maimon described the sophistication of lighting and millwork as outstanding features of this restoration. He also praised the architects’ astute understanding of the different uses of a library in the 21st century as opposed to the 1930s, when the library was built, which made for a successful restoration of the historic building. LEVENBETTS’s light, inviting, and transformative interior for Cornell Sibley Hall was compelling, according to Hurme. At the David and Helen Gurly Brown Institute for Media Innovation, LTL Architects engaged lighting as an architectural project and medium, and provided an innovative veil between the interior and exterior, as Predock noted. The jurors were further impressed by the architects’ improvisational organization of interior space that allows a flexible program for the media center. Lynch / Eisinger / Design received two Interiors Merit Awards for two projects that are quite different from one another. The David Yurman Headquarters in New York was recognized for its elegant corporate interior, while the jurors were moved by the editing and creative restraint demonstrated in creating a meditative environment in a rehabbed 1950s Salvation Army building in Long Beach, CA, for The Guidance Center.
The jurors described the Projects category as a catch-all for work that did not fall into any of the other three categories, including pavilions, research, and unbuilt work. A Projects Honor Award was presented to Ennead Architects’ research project Rethinking Refugee Communities. Cruz commented on the importance of the role of research in architecture, and praised the architects’ commitment to producing “provocations” – projects that push against institutional status quos, and provide “examples of frameworks for a new paradigm.” Hurme also noted that this project was important for its insistence that architects can be important actors in politics. The second Project Honor was presented to The Living for Hy-Fi, winner of the MoMA PS1 Young Architect Program. Predock described it as an example of “cradle-to-cradle recycling,” and lauded the project’s new approach to bio-design and the research the architects contributed to sustainable design.
BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group was presented with a Projects Merit for its Smithsonian Institution South Mall Campus and Master Plan. While the project is still in early stages of its development, Winton described the architects’ adept handling of the complex integration of the Smithsonian’s five different properties, and the clear vision and execution of the proposal. Maimon considered CDR Studio’s Governor’s Cup Pavilion on Governors Island to be an exciting project for engaging with the public, in which the architects led a campaign to collect plastic cups, which they repurposed into an ethereal structure that celebrated the collective. OBRA Architects’ Merit for its unbuilt design for a Church in the Arctic in Tana Bru, Norway was noteworthy to the jurors for how it turned the oculus typology in sacral architecture on its head. The final Projects Merit went to raad for The Lowline, a proposal for repurposing unused underground tunnels as new public space for New York. The jurors commended the architects for achieving a technological innovation with the light collection system, where natural light gets funneled into the underground location.
Urban Design was the final category discussed. WORK Architecture Company, SCAPE, SLAB, and Studio Zhu Pei were presented with the Honor Award for the Beijing Horticultural Exposition Master Plan and Pavilions. Hurme commented on how the architects envisioned the “full life-cycle” of an exposition site by planning for future repurposing of the exposition structures into the design of the site. The jurors also praised the exquisitely clear presentation of the project in the submitted competition materials. BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group was awarded a Merit Award for The Dryline (formerly known as the BIG U), a plan that creates new public pavilions and green spaces along the shoreline of Lower Manhattan that also serve to protect the city from storm surges and avoid repeating the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Predock commended the innovative plan that turned necessary infrastructure into an asset, and noted how the architects broke the plan into different zones, respecting the different cultures and needs of each neighborhood The Dryline covers. Sagi Golan and Peterson Rich Office’s Nine by Eighteen (9×18) plan to reconfigure parking regulations in current zoning laws was recognized by the jurors for its important provocations about housing in New York City; Cruz mentioned its attempt to reconfigure social and economic relations. The final Urban Design Merit Award was given to WXY architecture + urban design and dlandstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture for The QueensWay, a plan for a High Line-style park in Queens. Maimon lauded how the plan accounts for the surrounding residential communities, and weaves together currently disparate amenities to create a useful asset for the neighborhoods under the Queensway.
The jurors rounded up the symposium by praising the architectural rigor, social engagement, and breadth of projects among the winners – and of all the submissions. Hurme broadened the purview of the AIANY Design Awards: “New York encapsulates the larger dialogue about architectural practice,” she commented. Field remarked that for him, “Architecture has always been about the obvious that has never been stated. All architecture can be pulled up from the ground.” The winners of the 2015 AIANY Design Awards suggest zeitgeist has been fertile land for the New York design community.
Click here to see the winners of the AIANY 2015 Design Awards.
Event: AIANY 2015 Design Awards Juror Symposium
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.09.15
Speakers: Tomas Rossant, AIA, 2015 President, AIANY; Teddy Cruz, Estudio Teddy Cruz; Stan Field, SAIA, RIBA, Int’l Assoc. AIA, Field Architecture; Simon Frommenwiler, HHF Architects; Johanna Hurme, 5468796 architecture; Richard Maimon, FAIA, KieranTimberlake; Hadrian Predock, Predock_Frane Architects; Nick Winton, Anmahian Winton Architects; and Beatrice Galilee, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (moderator)
Organizers: AIA New York Chapter