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Sunday, 29 September 2013 22:00

AIA Grand Rapids celebrates top local design in Honor Awards

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Residential complex designed by Integrated Architecture. Residential complex designed by Integrated Architecture. COURTESY PHOTO

GRAND RAPIDS — The American Institute of Architects Grand Rapids plans to celebrate the profession’s finest achievements in West Michigan over the last year at its annual Honor Awards.

The problem: Most area firms are so busy, the local organization doesn’t know how many architects will be able to put aside their work for an evening to attend the event.

A number of firms MiBiz spoke with are reporting a brisk uptick in work as the fall months roll on and the design and build industry starts to hunker down for the slow building season.

“It’s been difficult even putting this year’s event together, we’ve been so busy,” said Brian Swem, president of AIA Grand Rapids and architect at Lott3Metz Architecture. “We’re try to make it a lot less stuffy like in previous years and much more of a casual party than it is a suit-and-tie event. The hope is to keep

it exciting and something that people want to come to, rather just having the winners show up.”

Scheduled for 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5 at the former Junior Achievement building at 4 East Fulton Street, below the new offices of local architectural firm TowerPinkster, the Honor Awards are typically the most popular AIA Grand Rapids event and have the best member turnout, Swem said.

However, submissions for this year’s Honor Awards were down. In a typical year, the local chapter receives 35 or more submissions, but had just 20 entries year.

“It might just be the case that there was a shortage of really good projects to submit because of the lull in business earlier in the year when we asked for submissions,” Swem said. “In the next couple of years, we’ll probably see a lot more based on the work that’s going on right now.”

The lack of submissions this year might also be a factor of firms and individual architects being too busy to devote time to putting together the entries because work is piling up on the drawing boards across the region, said Neale Bauman, AIA treasurer and architect with the Design Forum Inc. A group of architects from the Minneapolis chapter of AIA served as the jury for this year’s Honor Awards.

While the latest data from the national AIA organization reports that the non-residential construction recovery slowed, the trend in the AIA Billings Index points to strong growth in 2014.

The AIA’s Consensus Construction Forecast for 2013 scaled back estimates for spending growth in the industry from 5 percent to 2.3 percent. However, construction industry spending growth for 2014 is estimated at 7.6 percent with hospitality and health care development leading the way, according to the forecast.

According the forecast, the hotel sector is expected to continue bouncing back from recession lows. With a 17-percent increase in construction spending nationally in 2013, the sector is estimated to increase spending another 15 percent in 2014, the report stated.

Strong but less impressive gains are expected from the office and retail sectors. Another bright spot for the design and build industry was the 20-percent increase in construction spending from the manufacturing sector that took place over last year. While gains are still expected for this year and next, the industry isn’t likely to see the same level of spending, according the report.

On top of the mixed, but promising data, organizers of this year’s national AIA Honor Awards have their sights set on furthering the architecture industry’s stewardship in sustainable and energy efficient design.

“Sustainable design has been generally perceived as somehow separate from our ‘real’ design pursuits,” William Leddy, founding partner of San Francisco-based design firm Leddy Maytum Stacy, stated in recent op-ed calling to reposition the awards. “Separate design awards programs are held for ‘good design’ and ‘green design,’ and separate design journals are produced for ‘architecture’ and ‘sustainable architecture’ — thus perpetuating a false distinction that the AIA and our profession can no longer afford to make.”

Locally, many of the Honor Award submissions address environmental issues, Swem said. While more recognition of the practices that promote sustainability and efficiency is important, he said that simply merging the ideas of “good” design and “green” design isn’t going to affect any major industry perceptions.

“The practice is always evolving, but real stewardship doesn’t change with the awards we hand out,” he said. “When we’re active in the community, advocating for smart and appropriate architecture, that’s what matters.”
In fact, the local AIA chapter is attempting to do just that. In a recent interview with MiBiz, Swem said the chapter is considering positioning itself to be more visible and act as a stronger voice in community discussions of purposeful and appropriate architecture.

The awards could provide a good vehicle to start pushing these efforts, he said. 

“An area we need to work on a little more is in engaging the public,” Swem said, noting the timing of the awards with ArtPrize. “(The awards program) is an attempt to reach out to the public a little more.”



HONOR AWARDS

Firm Achievement: Integrated Architecture

Integrated Architecture is celebrating more than 25 years in business and this marks the firm’s second AIA Grand Rapids Firm Achievement Award, which the company previously won in 2004. Based in Grand Rapids, Integrated’s portfolio boasts a number of high-profile projects, including the Lamar Construction Co. headquarters, the David D. Hunting YMCA in downtown Grand Rapids, the 38 Commerce building and the Forest Hills Public Schools Fine Arts Centers. The firm continues to grow its reach around the state and across the country and it has amassed numerous industry awards. Integrated has been involved with 35 LEED-certified buildings totalling nearly 2.8 million square feet since the late 1990s. Another 14 buildings of about 1.5 million square feet are in the certification process.

Jury comments: The jurors cited the firm’s diverse portfolio displayed a “clearly evident” commitment to design, community and sustainability.

Young Architect: Matt Slagle, TowerPinkster

Matt Slagle’s Young Architect Award stems primarily from his work with K-12 schools.

“His exhibits from Linden Grove Middle School and Thornapple-Kellogg High School are excellent examples,” said Thomas Mathison, senior principal at TowerPinkster, said in his nomination of Slagle. “His work under construction at Battle Creek Math and Science Center, as well as at Northview Public Schools, promise more outstanding expressions of Matt’s design creativity and leadership.”

Slagle serves on the board of AIA Grand Rapids, is a member of the building committee at his church and volunteers in the community as a team organizer for Habitat for Humanity and with ArtPrize.

The Young Architect Award not only recognizes an individual with exceptional professional skill, but it is an encouragement to maintain that high level of commitment throughout a career.

David D. Smith Humanitarian Award: Suzanne Schulz, director Grand Rapids planning department

In honoring Suzanne Schulz, AIA Grand Rapids recognized her efforts to reform city policies and land development practices toward more sustainably focused initiatives. Schulz served as the project manager for the city’s master plan, known as Green Grand Rapids, and is involved in projects including the Michigan Street Corridor Plan and Sustainable Streets Task Force. 

Schulz is also responsible for overseeing city development functions on the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Historic Preservation Commission. 

She graduated with honors from Michigan State University in urban and regional planning and is a member of the Michigan Association of Planning, American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planners.

Building Award: Hagerty Insurance building, Traverse City
Design: Cornerstone Architects
General Contractor: Spence Brothers

The newest addition to the Hagerty Insurance agency’s campus is a 58,000-square-foot, three-story structure designed as a flexible office and conference space capable of accommodating 270 employees.
Cornerstone Architects’ design is intended to reflect the “pedestrian-scaled character of downtown Traverse City” and fit with the surrounding shopping district and other nearby new developments.

The building features a “Ferrari-inspired” coffee shop and offices for the Historic Vehicle Association. Upper floors feature open office spaces with limited interior partitions, and the design called for large expanses of glass for natural light. The structure also features sunscreens to control the amount of direct sunlight allowed into the building, while a white roof and efficient windows help reduce solar heat gain.

Jury Comments: “A very successful urban building that adds to the context of the city.  It has an appropriate scale and a disciplined but imaginative composition. It handles the triangular parcel well and opens the ground floor to the street in a convincing way. The central stair is particularly well detailed.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Building: The Rapid, Wealthy Operations Center
Design: Progressive AE
General Contractor: The Christman Co.

The project expands The Rapid’s capabilities to store and maintain its buses while capitalizing on technically advanced materials to create a highly efficient operations center, that runs nearly around the clock. The design prioritized sustainable features such as natural lighting and ventilation.

Jury Comments: “This is a wonderful intervention on an existing structure. The material use seems a little cold, but the aesthetic feels right given the function. The building has a very good interface between the inside and outside as well as a successful pedestrian buffer to the street. There is a great use of natural daylight throughout.”

Building: Fulton Street Farmers Market
Design: Lott3Metz Architecture
General Contractor: Rockford Construction

The Fulton Street Farmers Market project improved circulation of people in the facility by focusing on the relationship between the plaza, market building, a vendor shed and the street. The new market building houses the organization’s offices and year-round vendors. The project started with a neighborhood plan in 2005 that presented a vision for an improved and expanded facility and was completed in phases from 2010 through 2013.

Jury Comments: “Certainly a standout when compared to other farmer’s market infrastructure this jury has seen. The street front presence is inviting, at a nice scale, and strongly defines the site as a public space. The project is indebted to the uniqueness of the site. The telescoping nature of the shed is particularly interesting.”

Interior Architecture: MLive Media Group Regional Hubs
Design: Progressive AE

Using an accelerated timeframe, Progressive AE designed spaces ranging from 6,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet intended to help MLive execute a new business model at its locations across the state. The new environments supported “new behaviors and provided an energetic brand experience.”

Jury comments: “Interesting program and a fascinating conceptual issue with a good amount of successful risk taking. There are clear applications of Steelcase systems and workplace research. Submission of all four projects together makes for an excessively eclectic view of the issues.”

Small Commercial Design: Baker Book House
Design: Integrated Architecture LLC
General Contractor: Orion Construction

The project called for bringing a retail space to the front of the facility and moving offices to the rear, along with a more than 2,300-square-foot contemporary addition. Constructed of cast stone, glass and metal panels, the design is intended to offer a solid, permanent appearance that communicates that “we are here for the long run.”

Jury comments: “Feels like library meets bookstore. The retail aspect of the program is successfully toned down and not overdone. There is a smart and thoughtful use of materials inside and out. The clean simple elevation is nice.”

Osgood & Osgood Award for unbuilt projects: Music Complex
Design: Cornerstone Architects
General Contractor: N/A

After a visioning and planning session to develop an all-inclusive music center, Cornerstone developed this as-yet-unbuilt, 106,000-square-foot project that includes practice and rehearsal spaces, larger venue performance spaces, instructional classrooms, equipment storage and a lobby. The facility is also designed to fit into the client’s surrounding campus.

Jury comments: “The structural glass in contrast with the massive wood ‘tree’ columns behind give this project an unexpected front adjacent to the massive structure of the auditorium. The renderings successfully show the openness of the lobby and how these columns begin to integrate with the landscape. The curved portion of the building is weak from both a site planning and an articulation standpoint, but this is still a project we’d like to see built.”

Read 2820 times Last modified on Saturday, 28 September 2013 14:52

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