Pablo Alfieri

Ask any five people to identify the best building design of the year, and you will be presented with five very different opinions. Ask any five architects, and those opinions will be both informed and impassioned. So when we selected a jury for our second Annual Design Review, we cultivated a group with a broad spectrum of specialties—ranging from urban design to office towers, infill to education to art installations—that would analyze entries through different critical lenses.

Jurors John Cary, Yolande Daniels, Scott Kilbourn, Donna Robertson, and Bill Valentine (see below) were tasked with evaluating nearly 300 entries. The 24 projects selected across six categories range from a parking structure at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the transformation of an auto body shop into an architect’s office; from an amorphous hotel and race track in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to a candy-colored affordable housing complex in Houston; from a convention center in Vancouver to a 1,995-square-foot outdoor classroom in Minnesota.

Some jurors were looking for sustainability, and others for restraint. Still others were seeking that ineffable “it” factor that makes for good design. Juror Bill Valentine focused on projects with a social and environmental conscience. “The whole idea of awarding excess strikes a bad chord with me,” he said. And while green design and adaptive reuse were valued by all, Donna Robertson took a special interest in form, especially in the “Play” category. “I would like us to be able to choose some of these glitzy, goofy buildings,” she said. This diversity of viewpoints produced the mix of projects in the following pages—some humble, some effusive. But the highest praise may not be the award itself: Each juror found projects that she or he wanted to visit in person. That in itself is a victory.

From left to right: Donna Robertson, Scott Kilbourn, Yolande Daniels, Bill Valentine, John Cary
Mike Morgan From left to right: Donna Robertson, Scott Kilbourn, Yolande Daniels, Bill Valentine, John Cary

Donna Robertson • Donna Robertson is a professor and dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture. During her tenure, she has started a graduate program in landscape architecture, spearheaded the restoration of Mies van der Rohe’s S.R. Crown Hall, and brought the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat to the campus.

Scott Kilbourn • Scott Kilbourn is a vice president with RTKL Associates and currently works in the firm’s Washington, D.C.based Workplace Practice Group. Previously the director of the firm’s Shanghai office, Kilbourn joined the firm in 1996 and spent 13 years working in Asia on projects ranging from environmental graphics to urban design.

Yolande Daniels • A founding partner of Long Island City, N.Y.based Studio Sumo with Sunil Bald, Yolande Daniels is also an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. A graduate of that program, she is also a 2004 recipient of the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome.

Bill Valentine • Currently based in HOK’s San Francisco office, Bill Valentine joined the firm in 1962 and became chairman in 2005. He is a long-time proponent of sustainability whose notable projects include Levi’s Plaza and Moscone Center, both in San Francisco, and the King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

John Cary • Prior to becoming president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Next American City in July, John Cary served as the executive director of San Franciscobased Public Architecture. Cary is also a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council and a fellow of the American Academy in Rome. His book, The Power of Pro Bono is being released this month.