Announcements November 24, 2020

AIA Chicago Honors Five of Our Projects for Design Excellence

The designs from our Chicago studio received high recognition in this year’s AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards across all three categories. The annual award program honors originality and execution of design by Chicago architecture firms as well as Chicago-based projects by national and international firms.

Our own Jessica Figenholtz, AIA Chicago Board of Directors First Vice President/President-Elect, offered some reflections on 2020. “What we’ve learned this year is that coming together doesn’t mean tightening your circles. Coming together in crisis often looks like opening: to new people, new ideas, new ways of working together, and collaborating toward common goals… I have found, within myself and many of the designers that I work with, a new sense of resilience that has resulted from opening ourselves up to each other and to our neighbors.”

Read more about our winning projects below, and the AIA Chicago award site for more information:

University of Cincinnati Health Science Building in Cincinnati, Ohio
AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Honor Award

The Distinguished Building Award recognizes excellent architectural design that sets itself apart from the norm. The new medical school building was designed with a holistic approach to patient care that supports students’ academic success. The result is a building that acts as a key driver for an integrated, healthy medical campus. “We particularly enjoyed how the atrium’s openness provided spaces of calm,” comments the jury. “There are delightful eddies that students and others are invited to sit in, so it doesn’t feel like waiting.” See the project page

This bright, holistic design prioritizes green space, wellness, and hands on learning. The design and material selection looked at creating a resilient building in this midwestern climate, that saved and maximized energy as much as possible. The reintroduction of native species helps remediate the existing overstressed storm water pipes and provide exterior social spaces for students, teachers and parents. An outdoor planted terrace adds even more greenery to the site, which can be classified as an arboretum due to the number and variety of species of trees and shrubs on the site. “It’s a well-done school with a unique program type,” the jury commented “For a big footprint, it’s very impressive!”

Lisle Elementary School in Lisle, Illinois
AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Award, Citation of Merit
Northtown Affordable Apartments and Public Library in Chicago, Illinois
AIA Chicago Interior Architecture Award, Citation of Merit

West Ridge is one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods in terms of income, ethnicity, race, religion, and age. Here, we built an intergenerational community hub, accented with work by local artists and generous daylight and views to the park. Combining these amenities with improved access to the local library and affordable apartments for seniors, it’s a project that encourages life-long learning. The jury comments, “They created really human spaces. I can’t tell if the building is wrapping around nature or bringing nature into the building. It’s wonderful and responsible.” See the project page

The Divine Detail Award recognizes “an instance in which the expression of architectural theory becomes an artistic medium”. The Northwestern Ryan/Walter Athletics Center Coastal Wall received this recognition for its artful responsiveness to the environment. Made of pre-cast concrete, this sinuous piece of sculptural architecture protects the lakeside university and its athletic fields from the waves. What would otherwise be a utilitarian element of the Northwestern University campus is instead an iconic architectural statement.

The Coastal Wall received Special Recognition for responsiveness to the environment. Jurors commented, “What could have been a terrible sea wall becomes a sculpture.” The Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin put it best in his architecture column about the project: “This wall truly is big and beautiful.”

Northwestern Ryan/Walter Athletic Coastal Wall in Evanston, Illinois
AIA Chicago Divine Detail Award, Special Recognition
Mansueto Office in Chicago, Illinois
AIA Chicago Interior Architecture Award, Honor Award

The Interior Architecture Award recognizes unique interior design according to considerations, such as detailing of project concept and achievement of difficult or unusual program goals. For the Manseuto Office, its design features fine attention to detail yet an overarching simplicity. Its sleek, timber-forward interior elevates the workplace experience and employee well-being. “I like the material palette: a lot was accomplished in a few moves,” the jury comments.