On Friday night, the AIA/Portland chapter (a sponsor of this site) held its annual design awards gala. Ten awards were given out, seven for built projects and three for unbuilt ones.
The top award you can win from this ceremony is the 'Honor Award', which went to two projects: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca's design for the University of Oregon's Athletic Medicine Center in Eugene and Paul McKean's Neal Creek House near Hood River. The two projects couldn't be more different. One is a palace for premiere Oregon Duck athletes, bankrolled in large part by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and other affluent donors. The other is one architect's little house for himself and his family. One's by the biggest firm in town, the other by a sole practitioner.
Of the Neal Creek House, the jury commented that they were "taken by the way this building sits on the landscape and found it to be an example of elegant and innovative use of space on a very restrictive budget." The project is "humble in its concept, very tight in plan and beautifully executed with a vertical circulation for the meadow up into the house."
The UO project, said the jury, was "extremely well executed with an interesting program. It is spatially rich and complex, which is difficult to do within a purely interior space." Jurors also "appreciated the transparency within the space and how it embraced the athletic history through colors, graphics and unique branding. This clearly was an expensive project, but the money was spent very, very well." And the green-and-yellow color scheme naturally looks better than black and orange. (By the way, would somebody tell Nike that black isn't an Oregon Ducks color? And that football players don't need faux diamond plating to look tough?)
I'm also happy to see ZGF winning a top award because it's another validation of the improved caliber of design that has come out of one of the city's top firms. ZGF has been responsible for many key buildings in Portland as well as the MAX train. Head principal Bob Frasca is at the very least a minor legend. But while these designs are a collaborative affair, the UO project and other recent designs such as the Eliot Tower confirm the talents of a younger generation at ZGF headed by architects like Eugene Sandoval.
Recently a vitriol-spewing curmudgeon named John commented on this site that there is no beautiful contemporary architecture made today. Each of these projects, as well as past AIA award winners such as Rick Potestio's Lair Condominiums, Holst's Belmont Lofts, or Brad Cloepfil's 2281 Glisan building provide more than enough retort.
Aside from the two Honor Award winners, local firm Works Partnership picked up both of the Merit Awards, which are the second-tier of honors (followed by the Citation Awards). Their renovation of the Olympic Mills warehouse in the Central Eastside (pictured) dazzled the jury for its creation of several interior courtyards to introduce natural light as well as its seven-story interior stairwells clad in wood screens. Works Partnership's unbuilt Encased Houses project also won a Merit Award, and its unbuilt mixed-use housing project on NW Upshur won a Citation Award.
Works Partnership, headed by Bill Neburka and Carrie Schilling, is a young firm but has won AIA design awards before. They've also really put their stamp on the Central Eastside more than any other Portland firm with their renovations for Beam Development of the East Bank Commerce Center and its adjacent River Avenue Commerce Center, joined now by the Olympic Mills project, which dwarfs those buildings.
Rising-star architect Jeff Kovel and his firm Skylab walked away with top honors last year for their mixed-use building on 12th Avenue downtown. This year Skylab won both a Citation Award and Sustainability Award for its design of the new Nau apparel store in Bellevue. Look for Skylab to be a major player at next year's awards, either for the cool lounge they're designing atop the renovated Meier & Frank building, or the bold condo tower planned for near the Crystal Ballroom.
The Nau store actually seems somewhat tame for Skylab, but the award is an indication of the largely untapped potential of retail design in the US. If you ever go to Japan, it won't take long to notice that their retail outlets are light years ahead in terms of the theatricality of design. Then again, considering Nau's brand identity is one of woodsy integrity and high performance, the simple palette of wood and concrete is probably appropriate. After all, it works very well for design icon Apple in their retail outlets.
Other award winners: the always solid Hennebery Eddy won the latest of its numerous awards over the years for its Historic Barn at the City of Wilsonville Memorial Park. And Colab, whose portfolio includes an incredible Dubai skyscraper and, locally, the very impressive Brandon House just south of the North Mississippi area, won for its design of Split wine bar in Tualatin (pictured). Also, the Mayor's Award for Design Excellence went to the Community Campus at New Columbia by Dull Olsen Weekes, and the People's Choice Award went to another Dubai project: the massive Al Bateen Wharf Hotel + Residences by Otak.
Congrats to all the winners.