Page N1.2 . 20 February 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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Architecture, Interiors, Urban Design—AIA Honor Awards 2002


Architecture as Public Citizen

Winners in the architecture category include a number of civic buildings. The Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse, in Phoenix, Arizona, was designed by Richard Meier & Partners as a central focus for "a city whose sprawl knows no boundaries."

The "courthouse as oasis" deploys shade trees, evaporative cooling, and natural convection to mitigate the desert climate. The centerpiece of the building is its special-proceedings courtroom, a cylindrical space with a floating glass canopy and views from the public galleries to the surrounding mountains.

Two award-winning corporate centers, the Sony Center in Berlin, and the Meredith Corporate Expansion and Interiors in Des Moines, Iowa, exemplify corporate citizenship at an urban scale.

The Sony Center, by Murphy/Jahn, is "not a building, but part of the reconstruction of the city of Berlin," say its designers. Emphasizing transparency, lightness, and layering, the building uses state of the art cable and glass technology to create an elliptical umbrella roof for an urban forum.

The glass tent provides shade and protection from the elements while maximizing the effects of daylight and of electric light, both day and night. "An inventive public space," said the AIA jury, praising the "great diversity of spaces mirroring the diversity of public and private uses, which create new kinds of urban possibilities."

The expansion of the Meredith Corporation headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, by Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, also offers an example of corporate-sponsored architecture that contributes to the public realm. The four-level, 180,000-square-foot (17,000-square-meter) office building is located at the confluence of three major arterial streets, and at a pivot point where the original, river-related street grid shifts to a standard cardinal grid.

The new building is designed as a cooperative part of a larger complex that includes existing buildings and two city blocks of urban landscaping. The design not only serves the direct interests of its client, but also strengthens the urban fabric.

"This sophisticated site plan excels as an urban design," the jury found. "The interaction between site and building, existing and new, large and small, landscape and structure, combine to assemble a convincingly orchestrated total."

Architecture in Service to Education

The Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space, by Polshek Partnership Architects, renovates and expands an existing planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The design concept's programmatic and iconic heart is the sphere: a universal symbol of astronomy, and a resonant platonic form. "The power of the idea," the jury noted, "the sphere in a cube, makes the space immediately comprehensible while offering a range of environments."

The Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center, by Guidry Beazley Ostteen/ Eskew Filson Architects, in Lafayette, Louisiana, is a 67,000-square-foot (6200-square-meter) facility dedicated to the study of coastal marine life and their habitats.

The signature feature of the Estuarine Center is a wetlands habitat that filters wastewater discharged by the laboratories. This highly visible statement about the power of the wetlands ecology serves doubly as reflecting pool and technical construct. It is supported by a sophisticated series of sustainable design measures in daylighting, sun-shading, and energy conservation engineering integrated throughout the building.

The jury praised the project as "an innovative demonstration that engages the public in the research environment through its openness, visibility, and transparency."

Also furthering an educational mandate is Little Village Academy, by Ross Barney + Jankowski, an inner-city school the jury praised for demonstrating that "you can do a friendly, spirited, and welcoming building using tough materials."

Bringing Light Inside

Of the twelve interiors award winners, eight were restoration or adaptive reuse projects, ranging from a well-loved library to a parking facility the jury described as "mysterious and memorable."

"North" is a guest house designed by Elliott + Associates Architects. It restores and renovates a garage apartment in a historic neighborhood of Oklahoma City as an homage to pioneer photographer North Losey.

In honoring Losey and the unique light of Indian territory that imbues his work, the design seeks to dissolve floor, ceiling, and walls until all that remains is the light. The space becomes a cool, serene vessel for contemplation.

In autumn, a pecan tree colors the light brilliant yellow, and in winter the horizontal sun makes the glass vessels of the interior come alive. "Transcendent," said the jury.

Mending the Urban Fabric

A compelling vision for the rebirth of Pittsburgh's riverfront made Chan Krieger & Associates a winner in the regional and urban design category of the AIA Honor Awards. The plan proposes to create a great riverfront park in the heart of Pittsburgh.

Tentatively called Three Rivers Park, and bounded by three landmark bridges at its ends, the park will encompass the rivers themselves, numerous bridges, and at least the first 50 feet (15 meters) of all shoreline. It will connect existing parks that punctuate the shoreline, and form a continuous network of open space within the heart of the city, restoring the riverfront to the public domain.

In praising the design the jury noted: "It is significant for the breadth and simplicity of its vision, and the care with which details are addressed. Of equal importance, the planning process appears to have forged a community consensus sufficient to implement the recommendations."

Chong believes that these and all the other winning projects "aim a spotlight on the profession's most innovative and functional architectural solutions and, in doing so, educate the public about the worth and consequence of design." The awards will be presented in May, 2002 in Washington, D.C.

These projects recognized by the AIA for 2002 present an optimistic and innovative group — if not necessarily the most remarkable on the world stage. Dominated by well-known designers and well-funded clients, most of the group demonstrates significant sensitivity to a broad range of important design concerns. Some of the projects are exemplars of environmental performance.

Not all of these projects, however, appear to fully admit to the deep environmental challenges of our times. Given the critical contribution made directly and indirectly to global climate change by the intensive buildings of the United States, American designers need to accept the environmental responsibility of the profession as fundamental. Let's hope that future AIA honor awards will make environmental excellence a required element.   >>>

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ArchWeek Image

The new Sony Center in Berlin by Murphy/Jahn was one of this year's AIA Honor Award winners.
Photo: Engelhardt/ Sellin, Aschau i.CH., Germany

ArchWeek Image

Emphasizing transparency, lightness, and layering, the Sony Center uses state-of-the-art technology to create a celebratory glass tent for an urban forum.
Photo: Engelhardt/ Sellin, Aschau i.CH., Germany

ArchWeek Image

The sophisticated site plan of Meredith Corporation headquarters, by Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, strengthens the urban fabric while meeting client needs.
Photo: Farshid Assassi/ Assassi Productions

ArchWeek Image

The Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center, by Guidry Beazley Ostteen/ Eskew Filson Architects is a visible statement about the power of the wetlands ecology.
Photo: Timothy Hursley

ArchWeek Image

The Estuarine Center engages the public in the research environment through a wetlands demonstration project.
Photo: Timothy Hursley

ArchWeek Image

Little Village Academy, by Ross Barney + Jankowski, illustrates the possibilities for friendly, spirited, and welcoming design using tough materials.
Photo: Steve Hall/ Hedrich Blessing

ArchWeek Image

A guest house renovation by Elliott + Associates Architects seeks to dissolve floor, ceiling, and walls until all that remains is light.
Photo: Bob Shimer/ Hedrich Blessing

ArchWeek Image

Chan Krieger & Associates' proposal for a great urban riverfront park in Pittsburgh won praise for its breadth and simplicity.
Image: Chan Krieger & Associates


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