Written by Ann Thompson
Photos by Oscar Einzig
How appropriate that as the Committee on Design celebrates their 50th anniversary this year, they hosted the AIA’s 2013 top award winners in a building rich in history itself: the McNichols Civic Center Building, a recently-restored Carnegie Library in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The Denver Public Library, designed by Burnham Hoyt in 1955 with a Michael Graves addition in 1990, and the Denver Art Museum, designed by Gio Ponti (1971) and Daniel Libeskind (2006), are close neighbors.
The Committee on Design (COD) was founded to promote design excellence among members of the AIA, the broader design community, and the public at large, both nationally and internationally. One of the most important roles it plays in their mission is nominating candidates for the AIA’s most prestigious Awards: the Gold Medal; Architecture Firm Award; Twenty-five Year Award; Honorary Fellowship, and Institute Honor Awards for Collaborative and Professional Achievement.
Hosting a reception and dinner for the winners seemed a natural thing to do. The idea was hatched and implemented three years ago by past COD Chair Anne Schopf, FAIA, design director at Mahlum in Seattle. She pointed out, “In the past there was never a single event where all of the award winners could gather at one time and place, and spend time together with each other and AIA members. We thought it was far past time that we ought to have created one, and we did.”
The June 20th, 2013 event drew a lively crowd from those attending the AIA’s national convention. Sparkling jazz provided by Peneplain Quartet set the mood for scintillating conversation. Current COD Chair, Marlene Imirzian, FAIA took the opportunity between Catering By Design’s cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner to introduce many of the honorees to hearty applause. In attendance were Gold Medal winner Thom Mayne, FAIA who was joined by his colleagues Ung-Joo Scott Lee, Eui-Sung Yi, Brandon Welling, Nicole Meyer and Arne Emerson. The Architecture Firm Award winners, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, were celebrated along with their new partner Paul Schulhof.
Sheryl Kolasinski-Menil and Josef Helfenstein representing the Menil Collection, winner of the Twenty-five Year Award (Renzo Piano Building Workshop) and Ladislav Labus, Hon. FAIA, from the Czech Republic, who was invested into the College of Fellows this year, enjoyed COD’s warm hospitality.
Barbara Cain from the Board of the Palm Springs Modern Committee- a local volunteer nonprofit movement dedicated to maintaining the heritage of modern architecture and historic neighborhoods in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley area; Lynn Osmond, President & CEO of the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) and Jennifer Masengarb, Education Specialist (CAF) representing DiscoverDesign.org, a free website connecting teens, teachers, and architects across the country for real-world 21st-century project-based learning; and Rebecca Miller, Executive Director of the DC Preservation League which has developed and presented programs focusing on architecture, adaptive use of historic buildings, urban planning, and the nexus between historic preservation and economic development -–all winners of the Institute Honor Award for Collaborative and Professional Achievement, were especially delighted by the COD celebration event.
2014 COD Chair Steve Alspaugh, AIA presented his upcoming year’s intriguing theme—Big Cities, Big Ideas– and destinations for the Spring and Fall Conferences –New York City (May 15-18) and London (September 7-13). A highlight of the evening’s entertainment was the homemade COD History video put together by Ronnette Riley, FAIA (COD Chair, 2005) and Windom Kimsey, FAIA (COD Chair, 2004). Guests were mesmerized by the breadth and variety of destinations while the movie’s soundtrack of pop chart hits kept them smiling and tapping their toes. More than one guest was overheard to say that it was inspiring and asked how they could register for future COD conferences.
The COD Awards celebration could not take place without the generous sponsorship provided by EFCO, a Pella Company, and a number of past national Firm Award winners including: Davis Brody Bond; Jahn; Beyer Blinder Belle, Architects & Planners; BNIM; Centerbrook Architects and Planners; Lake-Flato; the Miller Hull Partnership; Olson Kundig Architects; and ZGF. A special thanks to Ron Pollard Photography.
Next year’s awards reception venue in Chicago won’t be revealed til the spring but make a note to attend; it’s certain to be memorable.