Virginia AIA Awards
At Rest amid Stone
The second honor award went to Belvedere Gardens at Sherwood Memorial Park in Salem, Virginia. SMBW Architects designed this 110-acre (45-hectare) cemetery — on a site originally devoid of noteworthy land features — to promote a feeling of spirituality.
The architect's challenge was to elevate the nondescript site to a sacred place that would fit humbly within its surroundings but be perceived as a destination for visitors. They chose to suppress the new mausoleum to make land and building in harmony with each other and to emphasize the landscape.
They contrasted a subtractive process of carving the main space from the existing ground plane and an additive use of the displaced earth to create an earthen platform. The result is a composition of three outdoor rooms.
These contemplative spaces are: the "Sunken Garden," the lower excavated room around which the entire project is structured; the "Grove," an area of ground internment sites formed by a stand of trees and a plinth of displaced earth; and the "Allée," a linear formal garden, a promenade, that begins the entry sequence along the eastern edge of the property.
Concrete is the primary structural material for the project, warmed by a blend of regionally quarried stone. A mix of irregular field stones define secondary site and retaining walls, while a more refined cut stone milled in Tennessee encapsulates the crypts. Walking surfaces are a combination of bluestone paving, stone dust, and sod. The palette is intended to engage the visitor's sense of touch, to reinforce their relationship to the land.
The jury remarked: "Out of all the entries, this one stands out as a unique experience. It's pretty remarkable that the building came out as it did." They complimented the craftsmanship and intellectual rigor of the project, noting that its significance lies in the way it develops the ground plane as a metaphor. "It has something that most projects do not have, which is true poetry," they agreed.
The Virginia Society of the AIA also awarded a special citation for the Eastern Market Rowhouse Renovation in Washington, D.C. by David Jameson Architect. He inserted a glass-and-steel volume into the body of an existing row house, producing the effect of an illuminated Japanese lantern.
Acid-etched panels in the self-supporting steel frame cantilever from the house and enclose the kitchen and the second-floor study. The frame not only supports the glass skin but also provides shelving inside. Selected panels are of clear glass for windows. "The invention of that corner is worth acknowledging — it is really quite beautiful," the jury agreed. "There's also a trick here. What makes it so magical is that there is nothing in this wall that tells us about the bearing of weight."
Also of Merit
One of five merit awards went to the Packard/ Komoriya Residence in Potomac, Maryland, designed by Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect. The house was sited to preserve the natural features of a sloping, wooded landscape and to maximize views of horse fields and rolling hills. The 4,000-square-foot (370-square-meter) house is composed of three structures with simple shed roofs organized to belie their size and fit unobtrusively into the landscape.
The main elements are clad with cedar shingles and connected to one another with glass-walled bridges. Walls of dry-stacked stone or board-formed concrete complement the rock outcroppings found throughout the site.
Henrico County's Greenwood Elementary School was designed by BCWH Architects as a compact, two-story building in response to a site dominated by wetlands. The close adjacencies reinforce interdisciplinary opportunities as well as enhanced connections to the immediate environment. Views, fresh air, daylight, operable windows, and accessible exterior spaces contribute to the children's well-being and education.
"The classroom is the molecule of a good school, but classrooms are often banal spaces," the jury noted. "This one has different heights. It has a wonderful clerestory window. And there's the sense of a contemporary mode of instruction that involves a diversity of experiences. This is quite sophisticated."
Another merit award went to Canal Crossing in Richmond, designed by Baskervill. The project involved the renovation of two unrelated warehouses — one a long, two-story tobacco curing shed and the other a five-story, concrete-framed warehouse. Both buildings were refitted for offices on the upper floors and restaurants the lower levels.
Joining the two buildings is a new atrium space formed by two window walls at each end. "They already had a rich palette of materials to work with, and they brought a contemporary spirit to it," the jury observed. "And the connector introduces yet another vocabulary that seems fresh."
The Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton, Virginia, designed by the Washington, DC office of Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum is topped by a dramatic tensile roof. By minimizing circulation space and focusing the most expensive detailing and materials on the front elevation and public spaces, the design team kept within the budget.
The design complements an existing coliseum and draws inspiration from the nautical roots of the Hampton community. Jurors praised the straightforward organization of the floor plan and the truss-like supports beneath the main stair. "We quite like the trusses of the roof," jurors added. "And we think it was a good strategy to tent the building."
The medium-rise office building called 2941 Fairview Park Drive in Fairfax, Virginia, also received a merit award. Boggs & Partners Architects, in designing the 15-story, 324,000-square-foot (30,000-square-meter) building, took advantage of a nearby lake and created an approach to the building via a pedestrian bridge over the water.
Inside, a three-story-high lobby features a dramatic composition of wood and metal panels. Jurors admired the detailing in the building's lobby and the pleasing proportions of the space. "And we particularly like the elevation of the curtain wall, which features a lot of relief. And we admire the pattern-making — the column line projections and the projecting mullions."
The jury for the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects awards was chaired by William Rawn, FAIA, William Rawn Associates, Architects, and also included architects Kyu Sung Woo, FAIA, and Jonathan Levi, FAIA.
Founded in 1914, the Virginia Society AIA represents more than 2,000 Virginia architects and is dedicated to advancing the knowledge of the art and science of architecture among professionals and appreciation of architecture among the general public.
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