AIA Honors Leers Weinzapfel and Vietnam Memorial
LWA has been accumulating honor awards for their design work for most of their 25-year history. One example is the Harvard University Science Center Expansion, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. LWA built three rooftop additions to the celebrated 1970 landmark by Josep Lluis Sert.
The main addition stacks three new stories over a one-story wing, as suggested by Sert's earliest sketches for the building, which indicated two stepped wings surrounding the courtyard. The new space houses the History of Science Department with exhibition space.
The other two rooftop additions to the Harvard Science Center provide additional office and classroom space for several other departments. All three additions needed to be light in weight, and this is reflected in their form and construction. They are minimalist steel-framed glass volumes in contrast to the heavier original building. Their exterior material — cast glass channels — is luminous and light as a counterpart to the robust precast concrete, while providing a rhythm compatible with the Sert building.
LWA's University of Pennsylvania Gateway Complex in Philadelphia combines a chilled-water plant and baseball stadium. When the university required a new plant in a highly visible location, LWA designed a large structure to be attractive as well as utilitarian, while retaining maximum use of the site for a new varsity baseball field.
A continuous perforated stainless-steel screen wall wraps the chiller plant in an elliptical form and makes the inner workings visible to passersby. The ellipse is graceful despite its size and function, and it nestles elegantly in a field of green.
Harvard University Library Services Building, also in Cambridge, is served by geothermal wells far below the building site. The system exploits the constant ground temperature for energy economy, and it eliminates the need for bulky and noisy roof equipment.
LWA's Blue Hill Avenue Youth Development Center, in Boston, provides a recreation, social, and learning center for young people in a densely populated and multiracial urban neighborhood. The center includes a multiuse gymnasium and outdoor pool, educational, meeting and activity spaces for community use, and related administrative and support areas.
The project incorporates the structure of an abandoned ice rink. The gym and entry lobby were built on the original foundations. Clubhouse facilities occupy the remaining vaulted space of the rink with the shed's original bowstring trusses visible overhead.
With a passion for material and detail exploration and desire to create meaningful social interaction, the firm develops a refined and tailor-made response to each set of project conditions. As architecture critic Robert A. Kliment, FAIA, noted, "The work appears to be driven by fundamental values, searching for expression appropriate to the program and the place, and even to the budget and the capacity of the builder."
The AIA's 2007 Twenty-five Year Award goes to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Designer Maya Lin was a student at Yale when her design was chosen in 1981 to commemorate the controversial war. With its stark black granite form piercing the ground, the memorial itself was controversial but has come to be one of the most visited sites in the U.S. capital.
The granite-clad walls are each 246 feet (75 meters) long. Inscribed on the wall are the names of over 58,000 men and women who either died or remained classified as missing in action when the wall was constructed.
"The memorial speaks to the power of design and resonates with all of us," says Richard Logan, AIA, chair of the 2007 jury. "It creates a magical moment of the living and the dead touching, and it is still as potent as the first time you saw it. You can't help but see yourself in the reflection of the names and even after 25 years, you watch people touching it and being touched by the stone."
Lin wanted an almost pure black, highly reflective, granite surface to serve as the "pages" for this book of names. Boulders quarried in India were fabricated in Vermont, where the stone was carefully measured, sliced, cut, edged, and polished. Because of the subtly intricate geometry of the monument, no two panels were the same size and shape.
As a national memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same day it was dedicated, November 13, 1982. Since then, national reverence for it has only grown.
The AIA awards will be presented at the American Architectural Foundation Accent on Architecture Gala February 9, 2007, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
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