A well-known fact about the design industry is that there are a lot of award programs. ARCHITECT already has two—the P/A Awards, recognizing innovative unbuilt work, and the R+D Awards, celebrating advances in building technology. Even so, we wanted a way to honor built projects as well. Thus was born the Annual Design Review.

What sets the program apart is its U.S. focus, and its strict timeline: Eligible projects had to have been completed after June 30, 2008, and before June 30, 2009. The goal is to create a snapshot of a moment in time and celebrate its achievements in design. The door was open for work by U.S.-based firms in locales at home and abroad, and for projects completed in America by international firms. To compare like with like, we created six categories—live, work, play, grow, move, and bond—with the intention of awarding projects in each. (Altogether, the categories encompass 17 building typologies.)

And award them we did, with the help of a jury of peers—Aaron Betsky, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Carlos Jimenez, Ralph Johnson, and Marion Weiss (see below)—whose various specialties created a well-rounded evaluating body. They recognized 20 projects (out of a field of more than 200) with awards, citations, and honorable mentions.

With no precedent to draw on, the jury members had their work cut out for them. The it-factor that cemented an award-winning project wasn’t always easy to define, but it was easy to spot. “I’m looking for a project that rocks my socks,” Betsky said. “One that makes me look at a building and the activity inside in a new way.”

The final group, presented on the following pages, ranges from LEED Platinum town homes in Philadelphia to a commercial tower in Shanghai. The projects showcase sustainability, innovative thinking, and social awareness. More than that—they represent the best of a year in American architecture.

2009 Annual Design Review Jury

Aaron Betsky, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Carlos Jimenez, Marion Weiss, and Ralph Johnson
Mike Morgan Aaron Betsky, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Carlos Jimenez, Marion Weiss, and Ralph Johnson

Aaron Betsky -- Betsky was appointed director of the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2006, after having spent five years as the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute. He holds an M. Arch from Columbia University; worked for archi­tects such as Frank Gehry and Craig Hodgetts and Hsin Ming Fung; and has written on architecture for numerous journals. Betsky served at the director of the 2008 Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Ellen Dunham-Jones -- Currently the director of the architecture program and an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dunham-Jones also is a registered architect and practiced for many years as a partner in Dunham-Jones and LeBlanc Architects. She has taught at the University of Virginia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and served as chair of the Education Task Force of the Congress for New Urbanism from 1998 to 2001.

Carlos Jimenez -- After graduating from the University of Houston School of Architecture, Jimenez formed Carlos Jimenez Studio in 1982. In addition to winning honors for his practice such as The Architectural League of New York’s Young Architects award, selection for the league’s Emerging Voices lecture series, and the Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award, Jimenez has served as a visiting professor at universities such as Rice, Harvard, and the University of California, Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries in more than 20 cities around the world.

Marion Weiss -- Weiss is a founding partner with Michael Manfredi at New York–based Weiss/Manfredi, which has a focus on cultural and institutional projects that integrate architecture, art, infrastructure, and landscape design. Notable recent projects include the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park and a design for Taekwondo Park in Muju, Korea. Weiss also serves as the Graham Chair Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, and has taught at Yale and Cornell universities.

Ralph Johnson -- Johnson is a firm-wide design director based in the Chicago office of Perkins + Will. He also serves on the firm’s board of directors. Notable projects include the Chicago O’Hare International Airport terminal building, the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse, and the 11-story Contemporaine condominium tower in Chicago. Johnson received his B. Arch from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his M. Arch from Harvard, and worked for Stanley Tigerman & Associates, also in Chicago, before joining Perkins + Will in 1976.