AIA Chicago announced their 2012 awards, to be officially presented tomorrow at the chapter’s annual meeting.
Firm of the year goes to Farr Associates, whose sustainable design credentials include seven LEED Platinum projects, two net-zero-energy buildings and three LEED-Neighborhood Developments. Farr was the first firm in the world to rack up three LEED Platinum projects. The New York Times’ Keith Schneider once called them “The most prominent of the city’s growing cadre of ecologically sensitive architects.” Eco-urbanists are in good company these days, and it seems a timely choice by AIA to highlight a firm so actively involved in the hard work of implementing smart growth and sustainable design.
Heading into the holidays, the AIA has more good economic news to report: the Architectural Billings Index (ABI) has recorded a third straight month of growth. The October score was 52.8, up from September’s 51.6 (any score above 50 indicates a growth in billings). The uptick reflects improving conditions in the housing market and real estate more broadly. All four regions were in positive territory, with the South leading at 52.8, followed by the Northeast at 52.6, the West at 51.8, and the Midwest at 50.8.
Barriers or freshwater wetlands? New building codes? What about porous pavements or floating city blocks? These were just a few of the ideas batted around at AIANY’s discussion and fundraiser, “Designing the City after Superstorm Sandy,” at the Center for Architecture last Thursday evening. The panel, moderated by Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times, consisted of the city’s leading designers, architects, scientists, and government officials. While each panelist came to the conversation with a different approach and set of strategies, all agreed that change is necessary and new solutions urgent.
“There’s a certain consensus about taking steps in the long-run,” said Kimmelman.
On the heels of a surprising, if tenuous, victory in court, preservationists gathered Thursday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation to celebrate the opening of Reconsidering an Icon: Creative Conversations About Prentice Women’s Hospital, an exhibition that showcases re-use proposals for Bertrand Goldberg’s threatened icon.
Some of the 71 ideas presented addressed Northwestern University’s stipulations for high-density wet-lab research space on the site, while some imagined other uses for the cloverleaf tower and its blocky podium.
Friday marked Designight 2012—AIA Chicago’s annual awards gala—which brought nearly 1,000 members of the area’s design community together at Navy Pier to recognize 39 projects in four awards categories: Distinguished Building, Interior Architecture, Divine Detail, and Sustainability Leadership.
John Ronan’s Poetry Foundation; Perkins+Will’s Universidade Agostinho Neto in Luanda, Angola; Sheehan Partners’ Facebook Data Center in Prineville, Ore.; and David Woodhouse Architects’ Richard J. Daley Library IDEA Commons in Chicago (featured in the October Midwest issue of AN Midwest) were among the repeat winners of the night.
Helmut Jahn accepted a lifetime achievement award, calling on the designers present to imagine a better future and then “make that future happen.” On behalf of his firm, Jahn also formally adopted the changes reported earlier—a new name, JAHN, and the ascension of Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido to share design leadership with Jahn.
The AIA has released its Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for September, and the news looks good. According to the organization, the ABI score went to 51.6, up from 50.2 in August (any score above 50 reflects an increase in billings). The spike marks the fastest increase in the demand for design services since 2010.
The AIA tied the upswing in billings to an increased demand for rental housing. “Going back to the third quarter of 2011, the multi-family residential sector has been the best performing segment of the construction field,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “With high foreclosure levels in recent years, more stringent mortgage approvals and fewer people in the market to buy homes there has been a surge in demand for rental housing. The upturn in residential activity will hopefully spur more nonresidential construction.”
AIA Chicago will honor German-born architect Helmut Jahn later this month with a lifetime achievement award during its Designight event Oct. 26.
Jahn is president and CEO of Murphy/Jahn, a firm with a formidable track record Chicago, including U of C’s Mansueto Research Library, O’Hare’s United Airlines Terminal and the state of Illinois’ Thompson Center. His work in Germany is also extensive, including the well-known Sony Center in Berlin and the Messeturm in Frankfurt.
Jahn will also receive a lifetime achievement award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Thursday. AIA’s Designight is open to the public. Tickets are available at aiachicago.org or by calling (312) 376-2725.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said of the steep springtime drop reflected in May’s Architectural Billings Index (ABI). Baker was referring to the trend from 2011, when design activity took a substantial hit after an initially healthy first quarter. “But we don’t want to have a repeat of last year,” he added referring to the sluggish numbers that continued to shadow the profession through the fall. The new numbers were the worst since October and, Baker said, reflect trends in the larger economy.
Without a doubt the big winner at Wednesday’s AIA/LA Design Awards, held in the shadow of Cesar Pelli’s almost-done Red Building at the Pacific Design Center, was Neil Denari. In an unprecedented display of dominance his firm‘s No Mass House took home Best in Show for unbuilt work (Next LA Awards), his firm’s HL23 Residential Tower in New York took home Best in Show for built work (Design Awards) and then Denari won the AIA/LA Gold Medal. Now that’s a good night. (By the way, we thought Best In Show was reserved for dog shows, but that’s besides the point…) In accepting the medal Denari, who was born in Texas, talked about being inspired not only by the light and sunshine of California, but also by its darkness, a tension that’s palpable in his work. To check out more of the design awards winners check out the AIA/LA’s new app on iTunes. And to check out the new Red Building you’ll have to wait until it’s finished early next year.