One of the two illustrations by Perkins + Will architect Nathan Freise that were named Best of Show

One of the two illustrations by Perkins + Will architect Nathan Freise that were named Best of Show

Credit: Nathan Freise

If the results of the 2006 Ken Roberts Memorial Delineation Competition (KRob) are any indication, the art of architectural illustration in the United States remains strong. But future entrants may face competition from around the globe.

Established in 1973 by the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the contest is the oldest active architectural delineation competition in the world. (The name is a tribute to Ken Roberts, the Dallas architect who created it. Roberts died in 1974 at age 34.) Open only to U.S.-based architects and illustrators, its visibility has grown bit by bit over the years, says John Hale, KRob's chairman and the director of interactive media at Dallas-based architecture/construction/development firm The Beck Group. Hale is the first nonarchitect to head the competition.

For its latest iteration, the contest went online with a website and offered the opportunity to submit entries digitally. “Architects are so busy,” says Hale, “it seemed a good time to allow the digital communication of images. We want architects to show us what they're doing.” KRob also partnered with the well-known architecture website Archinect to promote the competition. The results were astounding. “We had a 600 percent increase over last year's entries,” says Hale, noting that the final number of illustrations totaled several hundred.

The winner of the 2006 competition, named in early November, is Nathan Freise, a 26-year-old architect in Perkins + Will's Chicago office. Hale says the three-member jury found Freise's two entries (shown) so compelling that both were named Best of Show, which comes with a medallion and a $500 cash prize. There were also prizes for hand delineation, digital/hybrid media, and jurors' citations. (A gallery of this year's 37 winners can be viewed at www.krob06.com. Hale says the administrators are considering publishing a book of the winning illustrations.)

Freise's illustrations were originally created for a planned community competition.

Freise's illustrations were originally created for a planned community competition.

Credit: Nathan Freise

Freise says the illustrations he submitted to KRob were originally produced for a planned community competition in Somerville, Mass. “That didn't go anywhere,” he says, admitting, “I think the illustrations were a little too out there for the residents.” The renderings, a combination of digital and hand illustration, were created with the help of Freise's twin brother, Adam, who is also an architect at Perkins + Will.

Noting that renderings are a primary reason he chose to become an architect, Freise, who graduated from the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Design, says he is currently applying to graduate schools to study animation. “I want to stay within the realm of architecture,” he adds, though he's not sure how animation and his career as an architect will come together.

Because of its web presence, KRob has received increased interest from the international architectural community, and Hale says the administrators are considering taking the competition worldwide.