Congratulations to this year's Design Award winners! Our distinguished jurors, Thomas Hacker, FAIA, Mauricio Rocha, Dan Wheeler, FAIA, and Clive Wilkinson, FAIA, spent two days in Austin deliberating over nearly 300 projects. They selected 10 that they felt were the best representations of architecture in the state of Texas. The projects are presented below with a selection of juror comments.
In no particular order, the projects are:
Gewinner Residence, Energy Architecture
Hacker: “I think that one of the really most powerful things about this is that duality between the house as a transparent element and the house as a solid element, and the fact that as you move around it, it completely changes between those two things. It has a kind of interesting Kahnian character, I think, and I don’t usually say that because I worked in Kahn’s office, and I’m kind of nervous about making those comparisons. But in this case, the reason I say it is because the sort of organization of the service spaces as things that serve the big space of the house, especially in the main pavilion, allow that space to be completely free and completely engaged with the landscape, and that contrast between the solidity of those hollow service elements and that big open space I think is actually very much like some of that earlier work of Lou’s that explored that idea very well.”
EL House, WW Architecture
Rocha: “How can the question open about making contemporary architecture in a town with the little houses, as we see it all the time, and then you can make a strong piece, but with the tectonics and with a strong idea, you can really be inside and talk with the other houses, and I think it’s happened here. With the size and the height, it’s talking with the other houses, but this house can be different. This is a 21st century house, and then this dialogue is important to have in terms of this prize."
Edgeland House, Bercy Chen Studio
Wilkinson: “It’s a really unusual project — I think one might say eccentric — in the way in which it’s semi-dug into the earth…. It makes claims about a very sustainable condition, but I don’t think that’s really the point about the house. I think the house is really about experience, and it’s about the drama of pulling into this gap between two folds of earth and then living within this space and having this kind of water at the end of it. It’s really kind of a brilliantly simple concept with quite a lot of technical challenges, which it seems to have managed really well, and really makes a unique house. I think anyone visiting this house would almost certainly say, "This is a jaw dropper.”
Boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake, Limbacher & Godfrey Architects
Wilkinson: “It kind of reinvents the very public idea of a promenade … that you go out, and you walk, and you enjoy a city, and in that sense I think it’s a fabulous example to be followed with urban design going forward."
Wheeler: “So often we find these [boardwalks] that are hugging at the edge of a river or waterway, and the fact that this one moves back and forth between woodlands to little slivers, to being the broad landscape, vistas — there are these varying levels of experience to it. It’s just not a one liner.”
Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center, The Witte Museum, Ford, Powell & Carson
Hacker: “This project … has several really compelling aspects. One is that it took what is really a very nice renaissance style building and restored it, and took care of it in a way that will preserve it again for future generations. But more importantly, it added, essentially, an equal-size block in a very similar kind of proportion in a way that is, I think, incredibly beautiful in its sort of simplicity and transparency, and in its utter lack of attempt to mimic the other building. To do something in … a very different language, a much more modern language, but at the same time, proportionally and volumetrically, is perfectly balanced with the existing building.”
The Cotton Gin at the CO-OP District, Antenora Architects
Wilkinson: “It was an interesting challenge that the city had about what to do with its industrial legacy and how to remember the past and also bring it into contemporary use. I think with a tight budget, we imagine, they approached this with a lot of ingenuity about how to revive a structure, to refresh it for the future and reappropriate it for event space…. They reskinned it with perforated metal and corrugated sheeting, which is a very interesting effect, and we can imagine that events that start in the day and go into the night have a … really kind of poetic change of light. Because during the daytime, you can see right through the perforated metal, but at night it will become an enclosed space because the light would be internal at night."
Saint Michael and All Angels Columbarium, Max Levy Architect
Hacker: “There are a few times that I’ve been on juries like this for design awards where a project presents itself in a way that is so simple and so understated but is about something that is so powerful and so important for us as human beings that it sort of rises above the kind of norm in terms of its poetic content. I think this building is really a work of poetry as much as it is architecture."
Wheeler: "This project was introduced to us by an image that had this amazing live oak, and that image was a tremendous introduction of a very quiet piece of architecture within a landscape, where the architecture is actually toned way down — the volume is down to a point where other things can be telegraphed. In reading the proposal or agenda for the project, it’s about three things: the wind, the water, and the sky. And in each moment, in addition to the residents that inhabit that kind of activity within this compound, those three things were not overdone."
Mission San Juan Capistrano, Ford, Powell & Carson
Rocha: “When I see the building, it is a great surprise to see this kind of … very primitive church from maybe the 16th century [or] 17th century, but they made their restoration with a lot of sensibility. They have a very strong work of new technology to have all these foundations inside of the building. They make it something that you will not see because it is underground. But to leave this piece of art, this piece of architecture, for many years more. When they have to do something, little things they do in the design, talking about a lot of sensibility. Because they really let the building breathe and at the same time, you can see the hand of the new architects, but with a lot of silence. I think this is something very difficult to do.”
Hollowcat Wild, Mell Lawrence Architects
Hacker: “Well one of the things that we all noticed, I think all four of us, is the embarrassing richness of houses in this design awards. Texas has a fantastically good set of domestic buildings to look at, and this one, I think, we felt was truly one of the very best. For me, at least, the reason is because it has a kind of quiet confidence about it that is both reassuring to the people who live in it and sort of engage it, but also, it makes for a kind of quality and elegance in the architecture itself that is really extraordinary.”
High Performance Computing Center, HOK Houston
Wheeler: “I think we wanted to bring note to the fact that this is a very complex assignment — a very difficult type of delivery method for an architectural firm to deploy, versus, let’s say, an independent house, which is much easier to kind of hone in. This has a different scale of message that it needs to provide. It could be literally a big dumb butler building, pre-engineered and so forth, and in this case, the notion was to try to give some dignity to the people who work there. There’s actually people that work in these data centers. And so the slim little sliver that kind of is the public face, really acting as a billboard and almost a marketing or branding of the activity, was found in our long discussion to actually be appropriate for this specific site and for this particular program."
Be sure to check out the September/October 2016 issue of Texas Architect, which will feature all 10 Design Award winning projects!