By Charles Linn, FAIA
Photos by Jeff Wolfram
So perfect was the AIA Committee On Design’s second annual reception and dinner for the recipients of the Institute’s top award winners that it would be easy to believe that Benjamin Henry Latrobe himself was smiling down upon on the event. The honorees were feted under crystal clear, starry skies on May 18th, 2012 in the courtyard behind the Decatur House in Washington, D.C., which Latrobe designed in 1817.
The COD was founded for the purpose of promoting design excellence within the Institute’s own membership; the broader design community, and the public at large. One of the most important roles it plays toward that end is recommending to the juries which of a plethora of worthy candidates should receive the Institute’s five most prestigious awards: the AIA Gold Medal; National Firm Award; recipients of Honorary Fellowship; the Collaborative Achievement Award winners, and the Twenty-five Year Award.
On this glorious evening Anne Schopf, FAIA, COD’s immediate past chair, briefly interrupted the roots-inspired music of the Sligo Creek Stompers to introduce many of the 2012 honorees. On hand were AIA Gold Medal winter Steven Holl, FAIA, who was joined by his senior partner, Chris McVoy. Members of the 2012 National Firm Award winner VJAA of Minneapolis, Minn., who enjoyed the event included Vincent James, FAIA; Nathan Knutson, AIA; Jennifer Yoos, AIA, and Paul Yaggie, AIA.
Paul Lubowicki, formerly of Frank O. Gehry & Associates represented the firm in the celebration of the Twenty-Five Year Award, which was given this year to Mr. Gehry’s own quirky Santa Monica residence.
Several Honorary Fellows, who were invested into the College of Fellows the day before, enjoyed the AIA’s own brand of American hospitality including Solano Benìtez, of Gabinete de Arquitectura from Asuncion, Paraguay; Richard Francis-Jones of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, from Syndey, Australia; Pierre-Antoine Gatier, Hon. FAIA who heads up his own firm in Paris, and Anya van der Merwe, Hon. FAIA, of Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architects, Cape Town, South Africa.
The Institute Honor Awards for Collaborative Achievement went to two different non-profit organizations. Abby Suckle, FAIA, Anne Lewison, AIA and Susan Chin, FAIA, took bows for cultureNOW, a nonprofit organization mapping history, art, and architecture in the public realm to create a “museum without walls.” A second Collaborative Achievement Award was given to the Rice Design Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of architecture, urban design, and the built environment in the Houston region. It was represented by its president-elect, Lonnie Hoogeboom, AIA.
Of course, the reception and dinner was made possible through the largess of a number of generous donors including EFCO, a Pella Company, and Delta Light. A number of past National Firm Award winners also helped sponsor the event, including Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners; BNIM; Ennead Architects; Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson; Centerbrook Architects and Planners; Olson Kundig Architects, and the Miller Hull Partnership.
Jeff Wolfram of Wolfram’s Architectural Photography, graciously served as the evening’s photographer. Schopf took a moment to thank the White House Historical Association, which made Decatur House available. She concluded the evening saying, “We hope to see you next year in Denver, where we can only hope to find a venue as wonderful as this one. And, we’d better start looking now!”