Architecture Awards Look Outward

Event: AIA New York Chapter 2007 Design Awards Winners Symposium: Architecture
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.01.07
Speakers: Timothy Bade, Martin Cox — Steven Holl Architects; Peter Gluck — Peter L. Gluck and Partners; Scott Oliver, AIA — noroof architects; Nazila Shabestari, AIA — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Flavio Stigliano — Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Yehre Suh, Todd Hoehn — Weiss/Manfredi; John Woell — Steven Harris Architects; Michael Wurzel — Foster + Partners
Moderator: Dan Hanganu — AIANY 2007 Design Awards jury member
Organizer: AIANY Design Awards Committee

AIANY 2007 Design Awards

Courtesy AIANY

When the jury decided on the AIANY 2007 Design Awards, they were looking for new trends that are novel yet have a message, according to jury member and Canadian architect Dan Hanganu. What’s this year’s trend? Regardless of size or type, site and location played a major part in the design of all the award winners.

The New Residence at the Swiss Embassy in D.C., designed by Steven Holl Architects and receiving an Honor Award, has a cruciform plan that not only references Switzerland’s flag, but also allows for a spiraling sequence of spaces that culminate in a view of the Washington Monument. Because the architects were required to abide by Swiss engineering standards, orientation was key to abide by sustainability requirements.

Affordable Housing in Aspen, CO, by Peter L. Gluck and Partners, the only design-build project to win a Merit Award, is sited at the edge of the city grid creating a transition between the city and mountains. Instead of designing a skyscraper to provide the 17 units with 44 bedrooms, Peter Gluck designed a dense cluster of residences that allow for views of the mountains between.

Two inward-looking residential projects are oriented around existing site conditions. Honor Award-winning 92 Jane Street, designed by Steven Harris Architects, appears to be a typical West Village townhouse from the street, but opens up to the 750-square-foot garden (or “outdoor room”) in the back. The rear façade is transparent and all of the floor plans are oriented toward the garden. Noroof architects decided to preserve and design a vertical loft around the large maple tree on the small site for their Merit Award-winning Slot House in Brooklyn. The tree can always be seen from inside because of the “slot” window along the front of the house, and, because of its size, it is a passive solar feature for the 1,200-square-foot house.

The tight site at Pratt Institute for Honor Award-winning Higgins Hall presented a challenge to Steven Holl Architects. As an infill project, in order to negotiate between two existing buildings with different floor plate heights, ramps connect floors between buildings. Labeled a “dissonant zone,” the project is mainly a social connector space, accentuated by a translucent façade where students passing through can be seen day or night.

At the University of Iowa, the Merit Award-winning School of Art and Art History, also by Steven Holl Architects, sited the building so it connects directly to the existing art building — reaching toward it with cantilevers.

Two Honor Award-winning arts projects focus on the public realm in the urban environment. Weiss/Manfredi’s Olympic Sculpture Park creates a ‘Z’-shaped topographic transformation from the water’s edge to downtown Seattle. Along the outdoor park, museum visitors view sculpture and the skyline while traversing over three main arteries to the city, blending landscape, art, and architecture. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston animates the harbor front by incorporating a public walk. Outside space wraps into the interior core where an “outdoor room” can be used as an auditorium or gathering space.

The largest building among the Merit Award winners is the U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, MD, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Reaching 1,000 feet end to end, the building is sited on natural woodland. To obtain a LEED Silver rating and stay true to natural surroundings, a wood screen makes up the enormous façade. Made from local laminated white oak, it provides sun shading and lessens the visual impact of the building. Ivy veils the parking garage to camouflage it as well as filters the air.

Finally, the Merit Award-winning Hearst Tower takes advantage of city views in a non-traditional way. By programming conference rooms instead of executive offices at the corners, Foster + Partners took a less hierarchical approach to commercial interiors.

None of the jury members are from the U.S., pointed out Hanganu. He claims that in Europe good design is defined by expression and detail. Acknowledging the amount of red tape involved in building in the U.S., the jury respected the extraordinary effort when subtlety and materiality are preserved in the design process. Obviously there is more to each project than its site, but when analyzing threads that tie all of the projects together, it is evident that location is key to the success of all of the award-winning buildings.