2007 Seattle AIA Honor Awards - Unbound / by Michelle Linden

Montecito Residence, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen - Commendation

Stirling Residence, Pb Elemental - Commendation

Centre for Music, Art and Design, Patkau - Commendation

Bellevue City Hall, SRG - Commendation

Outpost, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen - Merit Award

Rolling Huts, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen - Merit Award

Olympic Sculpture Park, Weiss Manfredi - Honor Award
C & I attended the AIA honor awards this past monday (with a few friends)... Having never attended the Seattle honor awards before, I was a bit surprised about the format. The first part of the evening was a bit of a mingling period, with drinks and food, a few models, and a slide show of all the evening's entries (not just the winners). Once we entered the theater, we could see that the stage was set with a couch and chairs, with the format of the evening becoming ever more clear. The jurors were invited on stage (Jeanne Gang, Joshua Prince-Ramos, and Frank Harmon) where they presented the winners in a discussion format, all moderated by the UW's dean of Architecture, Daniel Friedman.
I was a bit surprised at how critical the jurors were of architecture in Seattle. While I myself can often be quite critical of the cities strict reliance on regionalism (sometimes I think that if I ever seen another timber framed structure with exposed bracketing I might die of boredom), I found it a little odd for the jurors to be so overly critical. I mean, this was an awards show after all. Its not to say that the jurors has nothing positive to say, but they certainly found issues with each and every project, and especially with Seattle architecture as a whole. It made me wonder what they thought of the non-winning entries.
To me, the strangest part of the criticism, was that the final selections didn't seem to reflect that critique. I actually agree with the jurors' main statements... Seattle Architects are masters of craft (or grammarticians, as one juror said). With nearly unlimited budgets, this architectural community has created some of the most exquisite jewel boxes I've ever seen. Perfecting an idea of craft, and a regional design aesthetic that has become stronger and more refined over time, architects and designers in the Pacific Northwest have created some immaculate spaces.
However, as the jurors repeatedly mentioned (and I wholeheartedly agree) this regionalism is lacking a consistent exploration of concept. Furthermore, many architects in this area seem to be too timid to push an idea or diagram that diverges from the local aesthetic. While I concur with the juror's statements up until this point, I disagreed on one of their last... The jurors all implored local architects to use their skill as master craftsmen and designers to create a beautiful space for the community, rather than creating a multitude of single family residences for wealthy homeowners. This seems like a valid request, except for the fact that its already been done, and the jurors seemed to ignore this fact.
The city of Seattle has put a great deal of money into the local library system, building a number of neighborhood libraries (not just Rem's SPL) by local architects. Many of these libraries are magnificent pieces of architecture, not just for their craft and design, but also for the ways in which they engage the community. In many neighborhoods, these libraries are quickly becoming icons and destinations in their own right. Now, I know that at least 3 of these libraries were entered into the AIA Honor Awards, and yet, not one of them won. While the jurors continuously asked us to create significant architecture for the entire community and not just the individual, they proceeded to select 4 single family 'jewel box' homes (of the 6 built projects). Personally, I would have liked to have seen them back up their statements with appropriate selections.