Page N1.3. 12 August 2009                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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AIA Small Project Awards 2009


Tunnel of Light and Sound

For GLOW 2008, an international forum on architectural lighting in Eindhoven, Netherlands, the Laboratory for Environments, Architecture & Design, Inc. (LEAD) created an interactive installation called Dar Luz. Around a small catwalk, just off the ground, the firm hoisted a twisting, helix-like tube of fabric stretched over a simple scaffold. The catwalk was affixed with devices that sensed each visitor's speed and body mass, then used that information to fashion unique, changing patterns of light and sound in the tunnel.

The jury called the installation "absolutely magical."

"This whimsical project draws you in," they continued. "The fact that you can experience it by walking through it is quite an achievement."

Aging in Place

The Green Lake Residence in Seattle, was designed by Zai Inc. for flexibility. Its layout allows for a variety of possible configuration changes as the residents' needs and lifestyle situations shift over the course of their lives.

The accessible three-story, 3,300-square-foot (310-square-meter) house features all extra-wide doors (three feet, or 0.9 meters) for enhanced ease of movement with wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive devices. Following universal design principles, the architects substituted gently sloping paths for stairs at the front and back entries. Showers are curbless, and three stacking closets were framed, sized, and wired to accommodate a possible future elevator.

Elegant Accessible Pool

The Saratoga Pool was designed by Min/Day for an accessible house in Saratoga, California, previously designed by Min/Day with Burks Toma Architects. The pool is designed to be wheelchair-accessible, with universal design applied so subtly and elegantly that one scarcely notices it.

In avoiding what they call the "ADA look," the architects created a patio that complements the steeply sloping site, with ramps that discretely form a "transfer bench" at the east side of the pool. Wooden benches and planters define edges and eliminate the need for guardrails. The pool offers a breathtaking view of rolling hills in the south San Francisco Bay area, and offers a dramatic "vanishing edge" as the hillside falls away.

Ingenious Objects

The Small Project Awards program also recognized smaller elements within building projects, such as the Blatz Bottle Apertures in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Johnsen Schmaling Architects, designers of the Ferrous House. As part of the conversion of the former Blatz Brewery apartments into condominiums, the architects designed a series of large custom doors, each made from 1,590 horizontally stacked empty beer bottles. The bottles are held in place by a thin web of neoprene rings suspended between the members of the partitions' aluminum frames.

Another such "object," the Counterbalanced Steel Stair, solved a fundamental space-saving problem for a small-footprint house in Bozeman, Montana: how to make a hallway double as a stairway? Intrinsik Architecture created a stair that can be easily pulled down or pushed up manually, utilizing an adjustable steel torsion bar running the length of the stair and a vertical track that runs on modified rubber skateboard wheels.

In Decatur, Georgia, a new exterior deck, outdoor living room with fireplace, garden, and carport were combined in the Dominey Pavilion, designed by the interdisciplinary firm Lightroom. The clients loved the famed Case Study Houses of mid-20th-century Los Angeles. That influence can be seen in the project's boxy forms, while the architects were also inspired by southern vernacular precedents, such as shotgun and dogtrot houses.

The Mobile Chaplet in Fargo, North Dakota, is one of six portable miniature "chapels" that can be moved to rural communities around the state for reflection and worship as part of the Roberts Street Chaplet Project. Architects Moorhead & Moorhead took cues from the covered wagons that transported settlers to the area in the 19th century. The chaplet consists of a trailer bed covered by two nested canopies made from hundreds of 30-foot- (nine-meter-) long thermoplastic composite rods, which also support a "floating" bench.

If there is a connecting thread among the small projects honored — whether a bathroom or a house, a door or an outbuilding — it is that the designers endeavored to apply imagination, passion, and ingenuity regardless of the scope of the project or the budget constraints.

As the United States struggles with its worst economic difficulties since the Great Depression of the 1930s, these projects demonstrate the expansive possibilities and optimism that great design can deliver, even in small doses.

Additional Awards

Small Project Objects:

Shadow Signage at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington, D.C., by CORE architecture + design

Cup City, Austin, Texas, by Legge Lewis Legge

The Founders' Circle Wall at CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, by the MERJE studio of RMJM

Small Project Structures:

Media Arts (interiors), Cleveland, Ohio, by Robert Maschke Architects

Accessory Building, North Vancouver, British Columbia, by mcfarlane green biggar Architecture + Design

Emel Residence (addition), Palo Alto, California, by EASA Architecture

Public Bus Shelters, New Haven, Connecticut, by david thompson Architects

The 2009 AIA Small Project Awards were given in May 2009 at the AIA National Convention in San Francisco.

The jury for the 2009 Small Project Awards was moderated by Louis Smith of Microtecture, and also included Kenneth Workman of RWA Architects, Inc.; Sanford Steinberg of Steinberg Design Collaborative; Eric McRoberts of RLPS; Katherine Austin; and Sherry Ahrentzen of Arizona State University.   >>>


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ArchWeek Image

Dar Luz, an interactive installation created by LEAD Inc., was recognized in the "objects" category.
Photo: Nando Harmsen Extra Large Image

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The twisting structure of Dar Luz is covered in fabric.
Photo: Nando Harmsen Extra Large Image

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Designed to gracefully allow its residents to age in place, the Green Lake Residence in Seattle, Washington, eschews stairs for the front and back entry approaches.
Photo: Courtesy Zai Inc. Extra Large Image

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Zai Inc. included stacked closets in the design of the Green Lake Residence to accommodate the installation of an elevator in the future.
Photo: Courtesy Zai Inc. Extra Large Image

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The accessible Saratoga Pool was designed by Min/Day for a home in Saratoga, California.
Photo: Courtesy Min/Day Extra Large Image

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Johnsen Schmaling Architects designed large custom doors with brown glass bottles for the historic former Blatz Brewery during its recent conversion from apartments to condominiums.
Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

A counterbalanced movable steel stair designed by Intrinsik Architecture was recognized in the "objects" category.
Photo: Courtesy Intrinsik Architecture Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

Designed by Lightroom, the Dominey Pavilion in Decatur, Georgia, serves as a covered outdoor living space.
Photo: Courtesy Lightroom Studio Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

The Mobile Chaplet in Fargo, North Dakota, was designed by Moorhead & Moorhead.
Photo: Moorhead & Moorhead Extra Large Image

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An residential accessory building in North Vancouver, British Columbia, was designed by mcfarlane green biggar.
Photo: Michael Green Extra Large Image


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