It is all too easy, when looking at a finished project, product, or building, to forget that it took a massive effort to reach that point of refined completion. Those sleek lines once existed only on screen, that site was covered for months in construction dust and raw materials, and the showroom-quality shine was previously the dull plastic or plywood surface of a rough prototype. A desire to promote the value of research and foster dialogue among architects, engineers, and manufacturers engendered ARCHITECT's new R+D Awards.
Reed Kroloff, Victoria Meyers, and Eric Owen Moss flew to our Washington, D.C., offices from points far and wide to serve as the jury, and what was scheduled as a fairly short day stretched into the evening hours with in-depth discussion of individual entries and the theories and research strategies they represented. The jurors were fascinated not only by the finished projects and products, but also by the entries' formative stages and the discarded strategies that preceded them. A major challenge for the jury was to give equal consideration to many different types of submissions —building products, construction details, entire buildings— entered by architects as well as by commercial manufacturers. Ultimately, the jurors selected five compelling winners, ranging from a collection of nontraditional concrete masonry units to an energy-generating house with as many soft parts as hard.
Because the R+D Awards program is only in its first year, there is a learning curve, both for the entrants and for those of us running the show. We discovered that products cannot be evaluated—at least not easily—with the same types of information as architectural projects, and that commercial manufacturers and architects have very different ways of presenting and digesting their ideas.
All five of the winning projects were developed by architects, and, to even the playing field, the jurors recommended that future juries include a materials engineer and a representative of the building products industry. In the end, the first annual R+D Awards were themselves a form of experiment, and we're eager to share the results.