Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Dynamos of Philadelphia Architecture

What does it tell us that just four firms over-whelm-ingly dom-inated the local AIA design awards that were announced last week? Or that the winning projects were inno-vative, con-temporary designs that would look smart not just locally, but anywhere in the country? Perhaps that Architecture - with a capital 'A' -has clawed its way back to Philadelphia. It's only too bad the boom has run out of steam.

Once again, Kieran Timberlake walked away with more prizes than it could carry - four to be exact. The architects, who were named firm of the year last year by the national AIA, won the Gold Medal for Cellophane House, (photo and story) their astonishing demonstration project for MoMA's recent Home Delivery show (story) on the history of pre-fabrication. They also took honors for the recently completed Yale Sculpture Building and Gallery and a multi-family project in Ann Arbor, as well as the housing prototype they designed for Brad Pitt's New Orleans reconstruction effort, Make it Right. (story here)
It's to be expected that Kieran Timberlake would have a good showing at the awards, so the bigger surprise is that the young Kensington-based Interface Studio took home three awards, all for unbuilt projects - a Girard Avenue supermarket (which I reviewed, right), a gallery design and a proposed 100k house. They won a Silver medal in 2006 for their Sheridan Street affordable housing design (reviewed here), which happily broke ground this summer.
Right behind Interface was Wallace Roberts & Todd with two awards. Largely a planning firm, they were the obvious choice to receive the Community Design/Planning award for their work on the Penn Praxis Delaware Waterfront vision. But they also picked up an honor award for their downtown transit center in Charlottesville, Va.
The fourth familiar face was Erdy McHenry, for its charming cafe on Independence Mall that finally began providing sustenance to famished tourists this summer. I'm happy to say I also reviewed that one.
Rounding out the group of familiar faces was DIGSAU, which won for a training and education center in Wilmington, and John Milner Architects, in the Preservation category, for its work on Nemours Mansion. Two architects, Darryn Edwards and John Cluver, shared the Young Archtiect award. Arlene and Dan Matzkin received the John Harbeson Award.

When you think about it, it's been an amazingly good year for Philadelphia architects.


Anonymous RFabien said...

These awards are well-deserved, particularly the Harbeson to Arlene and Don for untiring efforts to improve the city through architecture. They founded CHAD and the Community Design Collaborative, and have been a part of every important grassroots effort from Saving the Boyd to extending the Schuylkill River Trail. For Arlene and Don, architecture has always equalled activism, and Philadelphia is better for it.

10:17 AM  

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