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."


From left, Lars Lerup, Georgeen Theodore, Henry Urbach, Jeanne Gang, and Eric Höweler.
Mike Morgan From left, Lars Lerup, Georgeen Theodore, Henry Urbach, Jeanne Gang, and Eric Höweler.

Lars Lerup
Dean of the School of Architecture and the William Ward Watkin Professor of Architecture at Rice University, Lerup has written several books–including After the City (MIT Press, 2001)–and over 50 essays on design. Lerup was named 2005 educator of the year by the Houston chapter of the AIA.

Georgeen Theodore
A co-founder of New York-based Interboro Partners, Theodore is also an assistant professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Interboro, with its focus on contemporary urban dynamics, has been selected to sub-curate the 2009 International Architecture Bienniale Rotterdam. Appropriately, the theme of the biennial is "Open City."

Henry Urbach
Urbach is the Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Before taking his current post in 2006, he owned and ran Henry Urbach Architecture, a contemporary art and architecture gallery in New York. Urbach has written numerous essays for books, exhibition catalogs, and design journals.

Jeanne Gang
Gang is a founding principal of Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects, a design firm that focuses on art, education, residential, community, and exhibition work, among other areas of practice. Before founding her practice in 1997, Gang worked extensively with OMA/Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam.

Eric Höweler
Höweler is a cofounder of Höweler + Yoon Architecture, a multidisciplinary practice based in Boston. Höweler is also a design critic at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the author of several articles, essays, and books, including Skyscraper: Vertical Now (Universe, 2004).