Look at any conference lineup, listen in on any conversation between industry wonks, or read any journal and it is evident that the 21st century focus in architecture has been technological innovation. But during the course of reviewing the nearly 250 entries in this year’s Annual Design Review, the jury—David Dowell, AIA; Cathy Lang Ho; David Jameson, FAIA; and Sheila Kennedy, AIA—developed a different charge. It’s time again, they said, to push the discourse about competency and design in the profession.
“We’ve come through this period where social justice, performative technologies, and sustainability have been dominant, but I would still argue that the projects that are more successful are the ones that are rooted in architectural discourse,” Jameson said. “What we’re looking for is meaning and layering, and the confluence of architectural ideas and proficiency.”
Kennedy saw the charge as applying to the entire profession: “I think it’s a challenge for all architects. Maybe the definition of competency needs to evolve,” she said, noting that skill is important, but can be most effective when skill is “being used to push us architects into new places.”
A renewed focus on design competency doesn’t require a sacrifice of innovation; the Holy Grail, as Ho explained, is still “a process by which something managed to get realized in a surprising context.” Yet the jury turned to an old source for inspiration: “I always go back to [Vitruvius’s] firmness, commodity, and delight,” Dowell said. “Good architecture has to hit them all. Not one, but all three.”
The jurors identified 17 projects that answered their (and Vitruvius’s) call for balance between design, technology, and human need. The projects hail from many corners of the world, and they address different scales, budgets, and programs. Moreover, the projects were all completed sometime between June 2012 and September 2013, and thus offer a snapshot of how architecture is evolving today.
See all of the winners of ARCHITECT's 2013 Annual Design Review here.
David Dowell, AIA, is a principal at El Dorado in Kansas City, Mo., which won three architect Annual Design Review awards in 2012 as well as the AIA K.C. Firm Award in 2008. Dowell works within all six studios of the practice and oversees the firm’s in-house metal fabrication shop. Armed with a B.Arch. from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.Arch. from UC Berkeley, Dowell also teaches a fifth-year design/build studio at Kansas State University that has yielded several built projects for the Girl Scouts, including the Trail Center at Camp Prairie Schooner, which won an award in the Play category last year.
Cathy Lang Ho
Founding editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, Cathy Lang Ho writes for many of the discipline’s leading periodicals and serves on the board of directors for the New York–based Institute for Urban Design. Ho was lead curator of the U.S. Pavilion for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, organizing the exhibition “Spontaneous Interventions,” which became a traveling exhibition following the Biennale. (architect was a media sponsor for the Biennale and editor-in-chief Ned Cramer was a co-curator.) Her consulting firm, CLH Office, currently oversees the Harvard University Graduate School of Design Wheelwright Prize.
After receiving training from the École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), Sheila Kennedy, AIA, won the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill National Traveling Fellowship. She founded Boston-based Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) with Juan Franco Violich, FAIA, in 1990. She later returned to the GSD as director of its M.Arch. II program, and currently is professor of the practice at MIT. Kennedy also established MATx—a research lab within KVA that advances building-material technologies through collaboration with manufacturers and practitioners from related fields.
Raised on Maryland’s eastern shore with an appreciation for vernacular outbuilding architecture, David Jameson, FAIA, now lives and practices in Alexandria, Va. Upon graduation from Virginia Tech, Jameson got his start under Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA, in the early 1990s before striking out on his own with modern additions to various Washington, D.C.–area houses. His practice, which focuses primarily on residential work, has received numerous national design awards. Jameson also serves as a peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program.