It’s no surprise that the vast majority of this year’s AIA award winners share an interest in preserving the quality of the natural environment—architecture’s future is undoubtedly “green,” and the firms featured here represent the profession’s cutting edge. From Pugh + Scarpa’s energy-neutral Solar Umbrella House to Lake/Flato’s World Birding Center, which provides a conscientious gateway into the wild, to the seven regional and urban design winners, which consider sustainable ways to develop land—these projects exemplify how innovative design techniques can do more than just improve the aesthetics of a given site.
But while ecofriendly design is all the rage now, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the recipient of the 25 Year Award, has quietly demonstrated another approach to integrating architecture and nature, giving a different connotation to the word “sustainability.” The elegance, solemnity, and democratic accessibility of the structure’s black granite walls endow the memorial with a timelessness that makes this exemplar of bold form as relevant today as when it was erected in 1982.
Simple, timeless, unadorned geometric shapes also influenced the work of Edward Larrabee Barnes, FAIA, the posthumous winner of this year’s AIA Gold Medal. Barnes’s firm also received AIA’s Firm Award in 1980 and, in 1994, the 25 Year Award for Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, Maine. This grouping of shingled cottages proved that his ideas are as powerful in small scale as they are in large, urban buildings.
Indeed, a deft interpretation of scale may be the thread that links the aforementioned winners with Leers Weinzapfel, this year’s winner of the Firm Award. The firm’s projects are stellar without sticking out, gracefully insinuated into urban life. The meaningful dialogue between architecture and context is what transcends time and what will ultimately preserve the environment for generations to come.
Form, dramatic lighting, unusual use of materials, and a flair for all things Modern are the traits that come through in this years' picks for AIA Honor Awards in Interior Architecture.
| 25 Year Award: Vietnam Veterans Memorial
A controversial design honoring the lives lost in a controversial war, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial today stands as a nearly universally admired landmark. We still debate the war itself, but almost everyone agrees that Maya Lin’s graceful, abstract monument touches people in a direct and profound way.
| Firm Awards: Leers Weinzapfel Associates
While it might be sexist to call attention to the fact that this year’s AIA Firm Award winner—Leers Weinzapfel Associates—will be the first woman-owned firm in history to win AIA’s top firm award, there’s no doubt it’s timely.
| Gold Medal: Edward Larrabee Barnes
Edward Larrabee Barnes, FAIA, a seminal Modernist architect for nearly 50 years, died in 2004. But in 2007, Barnes is as big a presence as ever. In February, the AIA presented him with the 2007 Gold Medal, one of the few times the high honor has been bestowed posthumously.