BY BRIAN LIBBY
Two local firms already quite familiar with winning AIA Design Awards from the Portland chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Allied Works and Skylab Architecture, walked away with the top prize at a ceremony held October 26. Allied's Clyfford Still Museum in Denver and Skylab's Nike Camp Victory in Eugene each received the Honor Award from this year's jury: Trey Trahan of Trahan Architects in Baton Rouge, Stella Betts of LevenBetts in New York City, and Joe Day of Deegan Day Design in Los Angeles.
The Clyfford Still Museum continues an impressive streak of high-profile art museums Allied Works and founder Brad Cloepfil have designed in cities around the country: the St. Louis Contemporary, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Museum of Art & Design in New York, among others. And this new Denver project may be the most acclaimed of them all.
"The building is just a box, albeit one the architect has shaped so that its proportions are perfect, its textures alive with light, and its interiors an oasis of clear frames for Still’s gestures and forms," wrote Aaron Betsky of Cloepfil and Allied's design in Architect magazine. "It is a box that does not pander to its site, nor tries to disappear. It answers it with architecture, which is to say with an articulation of a wholly human response to that place. 'The figure stands behind all of my work,' Still said of his art, and now architecture of the highest quality frames that figure."
Along with the Honor Award, the Clyfford Still Museum also won the AIA's annual Craftsmanship Award the same night.
Nike's Camp Victory, constructed outside the University of Oregon's Hayward Field for the Olympic Trials, continues a tradition of compelling temporary architecture by Portland architects, recalling Boora Architects' creations of years past for PICA's Time-Based Art festival. Skylab has also received numerous honors in the past, including an Honor Award in 2008 for a mixed-use building on SW 12th Avenue, an Unbuilt Merit Award from the AIA last year for the Bureau of Environmental Services' Columbia Boulevard Support Facility, an Unbuilt Citation Award in 2010 for the Weave Building.
The next tier of AIA distinction, the Merit Award, went to two projects: the Mountbatten Nantechnology Electronics Research Complex at the University of Southampton by IDC Architects, and the Panther Lake Elementary School in Seattle by DLR Group. That means the top six awards of the night all went to projects outside Portland.
What's more, although IDC and DLR both have offices in Portland (they each are headquartered elsewhere with numerous offices in other cities), making them eligible for the awards (either the location of the project itself or the competing firm has to come from here), of the firm team members listed by the AIA for each winning project, few to none of the names I searched on seemed to be based here. Locations like Pittsburgh, Glassgow, Toronto and Seattle came up as home bases instead.
That's not to say there weren't people from IDC's and DLR's Portland offices working on these projects; I'm sure there were, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to enter. What's more, we should judge these projects on the merits of the designs, as the jury did. Both projects seem impressive, too. It would be provincial and silly to be nitpicky about what constitutes an eligible project for these awards, for we need all the talent we can get that wants to associate itself with the city. But perhaps this just highlights the fact that this year's awards had a decidedly less local bent.
The next round, a kind of bronze medal called the Citation Award, went to another out-of-town project but this one by a firm headquartered here: the Wagner Noel Performing Art Center at University of Texas-Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas by Boora Architects (with an assist from Rhoteenberry Wellen Architects of Midland, Texas). Boora has found a niche designing performing arts venues for smaller cities and larger suburbs, such as the Mesa Art Center in Arizona.
A Citation Award also went to the Portland firm Architecture Building Culture for the Stubbs Residence in Seattle, which imaginatively and fearlessly combines a historic home with a new addition equal in size and contrastingly modern in style. I've always been a lover of hybrid architecture such as this, where a new addition doesn't ape the original structure but makes itself a new chapter in the story of the building.
And while other winners like Boora, Skylab, IDC and DLR are all established firms with enough employees to compete for major institutional projects, ABC and founder Brian Cavenaugh are an up and comer. Cavenaugh already won a national Young Architects Award earlier this year from the AIA. Although nothing's guaranteed, perhaps ABC could become the Allied or Skylab of Portland's future.
One unbuilt project, THA Architecture's design of a new headquarters for Portland advertising and graphic design firm Downstream, won the evening's Unbuilt Merit Award. Due to difficulties with developing the site, Downsteam has reportedly since decided to renovate an existing building rather than build this headquarters, but that's all the more reason to give this design its moment in the sun. Someday someone should curate an exhibit of the best Portland Architeture that was never built, from the Delta Dome to the Weave Building. Might this project make that cut?
Another film familiar to the AIA Portland Design Awards, Works Partnership, took this year's Sustainability Award, for a storefront commercial building called the Washougal Incubator that seeks to invigorate that small Washington town's historic downtown core. Works won an Honor Award last year for the Tandem residential project in Portland, and the firm's heretofore signature project, the bSide6 building, received an Honor Award in 2009. The firm has also received numerous AIA awards for unbuilt work.
For the past decade or so, our city's leader has chosen the annual Mayor's Award for Design Excellence. This year Sam Adams chose the Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, designed by ZGF. In each of his prior three years, Adams had chosen housing: Works Partnership's Tandem Duo in 2011, SERA Architects' Patton Park Apartments and PATH Architecture's Williams Five Condominiums in 2009.
And finally, the People's Choice Award went to two projects. First place among these was Boora's Vernonia Schools (a single K-12 project despite the pluralized name), which replaced a high school, middle school and grade school that were decimated when the small Coast Range town experienced major flooding in 2007. The second-place People's Choice Award went to DLR Group's design of another small-town educational facility: the Scappoose High School Auditorium, headed by a Portland-based team of Scott Rose, Levi Patterson and Kent Larson.
Congratulations to all the winners.