The P/A Awards are designed to change over time. Every year for the past 55 years, a jury of architects and architectural experts has accepted the herculean task of reviewing hundreds of submissions of unbuilt building projects to identify a handful that together embody the term “progressive architecture.” No juror ever serves twice, new projects get submitted every year, and architecture itself is in a constant state of evolution, so each jury inevitably arrives at a different definition of progress. Last year's jury, for instance, favored projects with a sense of social and environmental responsibility, including an orphanage in Haiti, a school for working children and women in Lebanon, and a retirement community in Arkansas.
This year, by contrast, no single agenda dominated the jury's decision-making process. While clearly mindful of the critical issues in contemporary architecture, Coleman Coker, Sarah Herda, Thomas Phifer, Julie Snow, and Karen Van Lengen weighed each project according to its own individual strengths—whether those be social, environmental, technological, aesthetic, or otherwise. The results of their selection process are diverse, to say the least; the eight winning projects range widely in budget, location, program, scale, and architectural intent, from a high-rise in the Middle East to a modular house prototype, from an urban plan for a booming Chinese city to a university building on New York's well-established Upper West Side. For all their differences, then, just what is it that makes the 2008 winners worthy? They're quite simply the best of their kind.
Principal of New York–based Thomas Phifer and Partners, Phifer worked as a design partner at Richard Meier & Partners and as a senior design associate for Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects before founding his own firm in 1996. Recent projects include the Salt Point House in Salt Point, N.Y., and the plan for a new 127,000-square-foot expansion for the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, N.C.
Karen Van Lengen
Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, Van Lengen has also served as the chair of the Department of Architecture at Parsons the New School for Design in New York (where she founded the Design Workshop Program, a design-build studio) and has taught at Yale, Columbia, and Cornell universities. In her research, she is investigating the application of sound in relation to space.
Herda was appointed director of Chicago's Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in 2006. Previously, she was the executive director and curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, where she oversaw the mounting of more than 40 exhibitions. Herda has also served as the director of the Center for Critical Architecture/Art and Exhibition Space in San Francisco.
As the leader of Julie Snow Architects, a studio-based practice in Minneapolis, Minn., Snow has worked on residential, corporate, and cultural projects nationwide. Recent work includes the award-winning Breck School Commons (2006) in Golden Valley, Minn., and the Museum of Russian Art (2006) in Minneapolis. Snow has taught at the University of Minnesota College of Architecture.
Coker holds the Favrot Chair in the School of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans,
where he also maintains a practice, buildingstudio, originally established in Memphis, Tenn., in 1999. Coker has received the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and a Loeb Fellowship from Harvard University. He is a former director of the Memphis Center for Architecture.