The most pressing question that faces the P/A Awards jury each year is not “Which of these projects will get an award?” but rather “What does it mean for a project to be worthy of a P/A Award?” One of the program's great strengths is its open-endedness and immediacy. Every year, five respected members of the design community sit down in a room for two days to determine the current meaning of the words “progressive architecture” and select projects that fit their definition.
This year, the jury chose to give out four awards and four citations, not just in response to what they felt fit the description of good design, but also to address the fact that architecture is about much more than form and structure—it is about community, and individuals, and the issues that affect people on a local and a global scale.
This year's awards comprise a community center dedicated to the idea that the medical profession needs to understand the political and social issues affecting their patients to give better care; a research project that investigates how marginal spaces in the medina in Fez can be reworked to better serve local residents; a single-family home that expands upon the progressive modern tradition of the Case Study houses; and a sports club in Kuwait that creates a sense of place in an unwelcoming climate.
Citations went to a school in Lebanon for women and working children; an orphanage that provides medical care and social services to an impoverished community in Haiti; a retirement community in Arkansas that creates social opportunities for elderly residents; and a Bahá'í temple that serves a congregation in South America.
One juror lamented during the proceedings that some of the firms submitting projects seemed to have forgotten “what the P stands for” in P/A, only to realize that by turning the term “progressive” on its head and analyzing the whole of a project—not just its form, but its function as well—a distinct group of projects emerged that address global issues and social welfare. By that definition, all of this year's winning projects are progressive indeed.
Katie Gerfen, a freelance writer based in New York City, has written extensively about the design industry.
Marc Boutin Architect
Michael Maltzan Architecture
Hariri Pontarini Architects
Studio Luz Architects
University of Arkansas Community Design Center