Banks failing. The Dow sinking. Unemployment rising. Homeowners defaulting. An election looming. Such were the national concerns when the 56th annual P/A Awards jury met, on Oct. 16 and 17, at the ARCHITECT offices in Washington, D.C. The mood of the moment undoubtedly affected the decision-making process.
The task at hand—to identify the year's outstanding examples of progressive architecture—proved quite a challenge, given that jurors collectively bristled at the very term "progress." "It's hard to feel euphoric at this point," Lars Lerup said. "Architecture is about hope, about change—it makes life more exciting. But the times have to be exciting, too, and these are troublesome times. It's difficult to get the sense that we're going ahead."
Ultimately, the jury found a new sense of progress, beyond formal innovation, exemplified by 10 winning projects that address multiple matters of community, environment, technology, program, urbanism, and, yes, economics. "We're seeing a new synthesis of green ambitions, emerging technologies, and computational techniques," Eric Höweler said. "We're moving toward a new kind of complexity. It's not just single-issue buildings or users anymore, but multiple-issue buildings that incorporate and integrate these ideas."
Jeanne Gang, Principal, Studio Gang Architects
Eric Höweler, Principal, Höweler + Yoon Architecture
Lars Lerup, Dean, School of Architecture, Rice University
Georgeen Theodore, Partner, Interboro Partners; Assistant Professor, New Jersey School of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Henry Urbach, Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art