23rd Annual 2014 Inform Awards

Landscape ∙ Objects ∙ Interiors

The 23rd annual Inform Awards—honoring the best mid-Atlantic designers of landscape architecture, interior design, and object design projects from the past eight years—drew 122 submissions. The jury, a team assembled by Clemson School of Architecture Chair Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, selected 13 projects for awards: 8 in the Interiors category, 3 in Landscape Architecture, and 2 in Object Design. Of those, the jury singled out one landscape architecture project for special recognition in a category they named the “Cultural Landscape Preservation Award,” the Hollywood Cemetery Master Plan in Richmond.

Our thanks go out both to the architects and related design professionals who submitted projects and to this distinguished jury.

kate-schwennsen-224.2Jury Chair Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, is a Clemson University professor and the chair of the School of Architecture. Her teaching and research focus on issues of diversity, leadership, and evolving education and practice models in architecture. Recent presentations include: “You Can’t Just Add Women and Stir” and “The Architect at Mid-(21st) Century.” She has extensive experience in practice and academia and has held many leadership positions in professional organizations, including currently serving as co-chair of the Education Commission of the International Union of Architects (UIA). Schwennsen was 2006 AIA president, the second woman to serve as the elected leader of the then-149-year-old, 80,000-member organization. She received her BA in Architecture and MArch from Iowa State University.

paduaMary G. Padua, PhD, ASLA, RLA, is founding chair and professor at Clemson University’s new Department of Landscape Architecture at the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities. She is a design educator, landscape architect, and contemporary theorist whose published research focuses on China’s post-Mao designed environments, adaptive urbanism, and the meaning of public space. Dr. Padua has been invited to lecture and conduct workshops at universities on four continents. She has more than 20 years working as a landscape architect and urban designer that involved collaborations with Weijen Wang, AIA; Pamela Burton, FASLA, and Company; Cesar Pelli & Associates; Lawrence Halprin; and Charles W. Moore. She maintains MGP Studio, a critically minded practice focused on selected projects that interrogate culture-based contemporary issues. Additionally, she is a fine art photographer and holds degrees from UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Edinburgh College of Art.

laurence-peter-224.3Peter Laurence, PhD, is director of Graduate Studies and assistant professor in the Clemson University School of Architecture. He studied architecture at Harvard and received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches design and architectural history. In 2006, Prof. Laurence’s writing on Jane Jacobs and the history of urban design contributed to the establishment of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medals. Laurence’s research has been supported and funded in part by fellowships and grants from Clemson University College of Architecture, Arts, & Humanities, University of Pennsylvania, the Rockefeller Archive Center, the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Prof. Laurence serves on the editorial board of Urban Design International.

satohJunichi Satoh came to the U.S. from Tokyo to follow his dream of becoming a rock star. A couple of decades and lots of stories later, he now lives in South Carolina, growing fruits and vegetables. When he is not at his farm, he teaches architecture at Clemson University and designs buildings, clothing, products, and more. He is the founder and the creative director of Gauche Concepts, a think-tank based in Tokyo, which owns and operates Utility Canvas Japan along with several clothing, food, and dwelling-related businesses. Since graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with a master’s degree in architecture and a BFA in graphic design, he has taught architecture, graphic design, industrial design, sculpture, and design foundations in various countries at several institutions, which include the Rhode Island School of Design, China Academy of Art in Hang Zhou, the State University of New York, and the University of Georgia.


Gensler Offices



image006Gensler has occupied 2020 K Street for more than a decade. Facing lease expiration and a growing staff in 2012, the principals decided to renew the lease and expand by 13,000 sf into ground floor space that had housed two restaurants. The program called for more teaming areas and spaces away from employee’s desks where they could collaborate. The design solution included storefront windows to give a street-level presence and increase the firm’s connection to the community.

Complete in June 2013, the 60,000-sf workplace exposes clients and guests to the design process when they walk in the door. Designers are working in an open studio space in the storefront area where passersby can see the firm in action. By knocking out a portion of the second floor, the design creates a grand atrium and a strong connection from the street through the office and up to the main workspace on the second floor. A new fabrication lab includes a 3D printer, laser cutter, table saw, and woodshop tools.

“The concept for a design studio to have physical connection to the community is very refreshing and this project does it very well,” noted the jury. “The material palette of cool concrete and warm wood, set off by white planes and punctuation marks of bright colors, makes an appealing environment. The project’s central circulation space, rendered in these materials and visible throughout, makes it truly inviting. Conceived of as kind of ‘main street,’ the lobby and vertical circulation atrium are anchored by a large platform-bench-stair that offers a place for informal conversations, non-cubicle coffee and lunches, and the display of projects.”

Photographer: Michael Moran


Gilliam Art Studio


Wnuk Spurlock Architecture

image012This project, created for artist Sam Gilliam, was a former warehouse and office building in Washington’s Brightwood neighborhood. With a limited budget, the client wanted a large open studio space, an office, storage, and a woodworking shop.

A high-bay masonry structure encapsulated an older two-story brick building. One two-story intervention, sheathed in gypsum board, houses offices on the first floor, with storage on the second. The adjacent original brick building now houses the woodworking shop on the first floor and storage on the second. The new intervention has selective openings that allow one to view fragments of the old brick building. A bridge spanning the interstitial space between the old and new volumes connects the storage areas. A second, subsidiary, freestanding storage intervention sits within the high bay studio space.

The jury lauded the minimal and deliberate interventions and the designer’s understanding of the innate beauty of the space. They called it “a great marriage between the building and the clients’ needs. The design intelligence brought to bear in the transformation of this warehouse space transcended its modest materials and budget. The brick shell’s gradations of raw, orange brick, and primer white painted brick was accentuated by crisp, white drywall layers, infills, and insertions that playfully reveal and juxtapose the brick’s texture against smooth planes while harmonizing the rust-colored ceiling joists and silver-white corrugated ceiling/roof deck. It is the perfect foil for the artist’s colorful work.”

Contractor: Glass Construction

MEP Engineer: Metropolitan Consulting Engineers

Structural Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.

Photographer: Anice Hoachlander, Hoachlander Davis Photography




Hickok Cole Architects

image026NPR sought a connected, open, collaborative work environment within a 330,000-sf historic warehouse and addition. Visitors are now greeted by the colorful Media Mosaic that encloses NPR’s largest studio. Simple materials—including steel, concrete, glass, and wood—complement the raw yet sophisticated interior. The interior radiates with end-grain wood floors and exposed plywood edges. Metal mesh, the material of a microphone, is used in the elevator cabs and ceiling.

Abstractions of sound waves in green, blue and magenta are expressed throughout the facility as way-finding elements. The angular form of the studios is a direct expression of their acoustic properties. The space also represents the NPR’s values of transparency, honesty, multiple viewpoints, and dedication to an informed public.

“The space is exciting, focused, dignified, and intelligent, just like NPR,” the jury agreed. “The design is serious without being sentimental, restrained without being minimalistic. The white surfaces of this interior suggest transparency and openness, while brightening a deep plan. Juxtapositions of bright blues, greens, magentas, and oranges offer playful, lighter notes, while the occasional appearance of dark wood trim suggests the underlying responsibility and tradition of the newsmaker’s enterprise.”

Contractor: Balfour Beatty

Development Manager: Boston Properties, Inc.

Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti

Building Envelope: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

MEP Engineer: Dewberry

Civil Engineer: VIKA

Acoustical Consultant: Shen Milsom & Wilke

Landscape: Oculus

Studio and Theater Architect: Bloomfield & Associatges

Lighting: Bliss Fasman Lighting Design

Branding: Poulin + Morris

Furnishings: Herman Miller & American Office

Historic Preservation: EHT Traceries

Architectural Specifications: Heller & Metzger

Photography: Adrian Wilson


Baltimore Design School


Ziger/Snead Architects

image031Baltimore Design School is a new $19 million, 115,000-sf combined middle and high school with a focus on fashion, architectural, and graphic design. It reuses a 1914 factory building that had been abandoned since 1985 and had become a major blight in the city’s burgeoning Arts District.

Working within a tight budget, the architect exposed the building’s historic fabric, using modern interventions as contrast to stimulate students’ curiosity about the building’s history and their future. The new exterior additions are modern and restrained in expression, clearly demarcating the difference between new and old. The interior aesthetic is that of an open industrial loft where cleaned and sealed existing walls and structure are exposed to view. The building promotes a dialogue inside and outside of the classroom.

The jury pointed out that the interior design “celebrates the architecture while finding the right solutions for the new tenant. Each space in the building is designed in very open-ended ways that encourage users themselves to be innovative. This is simply a fantastic renovation and reuse of a historic factory building. Originally meant for heavy machinery, the building’s structure has been exposed to monumental effect, while its rough grey concrete and brown brick materials have been juxtaposed with cool metals, chartreuse planes of color and chairs, and bright red signage.”

General Contractor: Southway Builders, Inc.

Graphic Design: Ashton Design

Concrete Sink Design and Fabrication: LukeWorks

MEP and Fire Protection Engineer: Henry Adams, LLC

Civil Engineer: Gower Thompson, Inc.

Structural Engineer: Columbia Engineering, Inc.

Landscape Consultant: Lazarus Design Associates, LLC

Acoustical Consultant: Acoustical Design Collaborative Ltd.

Life Safety: Hughes Associates, Inc.

Food Service: Nyikos Associates

Photography: Karl Connolly


Choice Hotels International Global Headquarters

Rockville, Md.

VOA Associates, Inc.

image037One of the largest lodging companies in the world, Choice Hotels relocated to a new 144,413-sf building that encourages collaboration among associates, franchisees, and external groups. The result is a consolidation of staff from multiple buildings into one central location, which acts as a catalyst for interaction. As a nod to the past with a look to the future, a prominent wall features artifacts and a timeline of the organization’s 75-year history. Logos of their franchised brands are displayed along the walls of the interconnecting stairway that connects the 5th through 9th floors. The transparent office spaces represent a culture of trust, where diverse groups can come together to work on common goals.

The jury commended the meticulous attention to detail in the design of these offices:

“This is a great example of how interior space can positively affect people who occupy it. The plan is clear and well-organized with modestly sized cubicle areas proximate to daylight and punctuated by break-out rooms. The interior design transcends the typical corporate office environment. The warmth of wood floors and trim, and the texture of a stone-clade elevator core is juxtaposed with bright white surfaces, splashes of red carpet and yellow walls, and the glint of chrome. With carefully selected furnishings and fixtures, the hotelier’s experience is brought to bear in making an inviting work environment.”

Contractor: Rand Construction

Photographer: Ron Blunt Photography


Dahlonega Residence

Bethesda, Md.

David Jameson Architect Inc.

image051Bracketed by a conceptual wicket of CorTen steel, this house is articulated as a portal to the landscape. An exterior living space is provided within the open area beneath the wicket as a counter-pressure to the steep-sloped site. The main level is veiled in stucco and acid-etched and transparent glass, providing layered contrast to the void above. The upper level glass cube and burned wood volume further the juxtaposition of the heavy and light.

The steel frame shelters the living space beneath it with powerful, primitive, and striking simplicity, the jury said: “Visible from within the house through a room-sized skylight, the underside of the roughness and patina of the frame accentuate the feeling of shelter. Inside and out are distinct, and the fittings and furnishings maintain the overarching elemental architectural concept. There is a great dialogue between the interiors and the architecture. Furniture, fixtures, and artwork are purposefully selected and elegantly placed, reflective of the great minimalism achieved in the building. The glass volume reaching to the CorTen ceiling is beautifully, cleanly detailed, taking full advantage of the potential of the architecture.”

Photographer: Paul Warchol


Casa Abierta

Chevy Chase, Md.

KUBE architecture PC

image057The Owners are from Costa Rica, and the original suburban box—closed, dark, and divided into very small rooms—did not at all fit their lifestyle. Nor did they feel it was sufficient for their growing family. They wanted a house of openness and light where their children could be free to explore and play independently and still be within view.

Part of the challenge also was a very limited budget to completely transform the house. The solution was to create a courtyard house, with large sliding glass doors to bring the inside out and outside in. A cathedral ceiling enlarged the living room, and two new wings provide a kitchen/dining area and master suite. Ipe from the deck, warm and textured, continues into the central interior. Exposed concrete block defines perimeter walls, and a sustainable cement board serves as a feature wall. The overall result is a series of transparent interconnected spaces, filled with light. The owners can now relax, entertain, and watch their children play inside and out.

Part of the appeal for the jury was “the intelligence and relative modesty of the renovation of a small suburban house,” they commented. “The two wings in the back of the house to frame the rear yard and create a courtyard between them was the first clever move. The second was to blur the boundaries between interior and exterior by finishing the floor of the central kitchen and living space with the same wood surface as the exterior platform-deck-outdoor room. The result transforms a nondescript house and typical suburban yard into something elegant and romantic. The minimally furnished interior design allows natural flow of movement, physically and mentally. Great lighting makes the nightscape as elegant as the daytime, keeping the connection to the outside at all times. Who wouldn’t want to live on this porch?”

Contractor: Housecraft

Steel Fabricator: Metal Specialties

Photography: Paul Burke Photography


Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Federal Office Building


Boggs & Partners Architects

image067The General Services Administration wanted to convert an existing 1970s 550,000-sf building into a Class A, LEED Gold, blast-protected federal office building. The project exceeded that goal, earning LEED Platinum certification.

The original eight-story structure was a highly compartmentalized laboratory facility with limited access to natural light and views. Circulation was rigid and confusing, with no visual access to the exterior. With 95 percent of the existing structure left intact, the building is now a dynamic, naturally lit, and open office space.

The design cut into the existing floor plate to create a six-story entry atrium and a seven-story central atrium to break up the volume of the building. Glass curtain walls replaced solid limestone at the east and west façades to open the office space to the exterior. By opening up the window bays at the north-south façades and adding projections at the first and second floors, the architect defined a base for the mass of the structure. A security entrance pavilion on the north side of the building further relieves the orthogonal mass of the structure.

The jury found this retrofit to be an exemplary case study of how to “significantly improve the lives of thousands of people who work in it. A new building skin, vastly expanded window surface, and reworked interior replace a crushingly monotonous and dark plan with a much brighter and more open plan that is now oriented around much more generous gathering and circulation spaces. The before and after plans represent a remarkable transformation through the power of interior design. The few simple but precise architectural decisions made by the design team were exactly the right decisions, so smart. They transformed the giant dark floor plates into a light-filled and cogent workspace.”

General Contractor: Turner Construction Company

Structural Engineer: AECOM

MEP Engineer: GHT Ltd.

Photographer: Michael Dersin Photography



Urban Outfitters Headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard


D.I.R.T. Studios

image078The Urban Outfitters Headquarters reclaims nine acres of the Historic Core at the decommissioned U.S. Naval Shipyard on League Island. Four corporate brands are now in one location on this corporate campus of huge masonry buildings, which the Navy left in 1996. The utilitarian pattern generated a design of sweeping paths, textured ground, and dense plantings. The strong landscape framework and rich patinas orchestrate new productive flows and unify the campus, rooting it in the site-specificity and history of the Yard.

The interaction of the design team with the Urban Outfitter founder and fashion designers was inventive and intense. Now there are enormous spaces for a growing firm and its corporate events along with more intimate places for everyday activity.

Site forensics unearthed a palette of appliquéd asphalt, age-old concrete, tired brick, rusted metal, peeling surfaces, and enough residue to reconstruct this industrial-strength landscape. The team developed a salvaging strategy to harvest what most would consider undesirable detritus. No imported materials were necessary, nor desired. A network of bio-swales diminish runoff to the river and support hedgerows that shade west facing window walls. Dry Dock No. 1 is now a dog-friendly public park. And the result is a new campus that feels as if it has always been there.

“The landscape architect implemented ecologically sensitive strategies that honored the site’s industrial heritage and contributed to the local community’s public realm,” the jury observed. “The landscape architect successfully wove together an ambitious set of diverse elements to create a new landscape aesthetic. Re-purposed materials create new, permeable ground planes and define a strong sense of place and identity. This is an exciting collection of beautiful moments and preserved memories.”

Landscape Architect of Record: Advanced GeoServices

Architect: Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle

General Contractor: Blue Rock Construction

Landscape Contractor: Turning Leaf

Photographers: D.I.R.T. studio and JJ Tiziou


Seven Ponds Farm

Albemarle County, Va.

Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

image090The intent for a 140-acre cattle farm near Charlottesville was to assemble the greatest possible diversity of plants and animals native to Central Virginia. The master plan knits an existing house, garden, and surrounding pastures into an extensive array of native tree species, ecological restorations, gardens, walking trails, native grass meadows, and reforestation projects. Remediation of two distinct and severely damaged watersheds on the property has created a broad range of habitat for amphibians, reptiles, and marginal wetland plants. The ambitious botanical program has also fostered an aggressive invasive-plant management strategy.

Intimate gardens near the house balance the simpler and broader interventions in the distant landscape. The combination of garden design and ecological restoration in an agricultural setting suggests a new potential for the practice of landscape architecture whereby ecological production is equal in importance to agricultural production. Nelson Byrd Woltz reports that they are continuing to build on their research and collaboration with scientists, farmers, engineers, archeologists, and artists. Success, they contend, is based on ecologic performance, beauty, and creating an authentic engagement with people.

“Seven Ponds Farms represents the ‘magic’ of landscape innovation,” the jury concurred. “It demonstrates the importance of research-based design, the multi-dimensionality of landscape architectural practice, and renewed perception of beauty for the 21st century pastoral rural landscape. The landscape architect employs science, art, design, and craft to understand regional and site-specific ecologies and achieve the best of all possible worlds in ecological restoration and design intervention. This project is poetic, prolific, and a perfect example of the balance between nature and human habitat.”

Landscape Contractor: Jay Townsend

Structural Engineer: Nolen Frisa Associates

Pool/Fountain Consultant: Siska-Aurand

General Contractor: Alexander Nicholson

Bronze Work: Bronze Craft Foundry


Cultural Landscape Preservation Award

Hollywood Cemetery Master Plan


The Van Yahres Studio of BCWH Architects

image096Situated along the north bank of the James River since 1849, Hollywood Cemetery is rich in history. Its landscape of rolling hills, stone, iron, and century old trees is the final resting place of 2 American presidents, 6 Virginia governors, and 2 Supreme Court justices. Paths wind through 135 acres of monuments, statues, buildings, fences, and tombs. Space for new burials was limited, though, and the cemetery’s board wanted to update the master plan that had been in place for over a decade. The new plan affirms the reputation of an active cemetery for burial and commemoration of the dead; preserves the natural landscape, buildings, and historic structures; and addresses the cemetery’s financial security.

This plan renovates Presidents Circle, the burial place of James Monroe and John Tyler, and embeds more than 1,000 columbarium niches in a new granite walk leading up to and surrounding the Circle. It also provides more than 11,000 new options for interment that were not available before and restored selected monuments, fences, and curbing.

“Hollywood Cemetery is one of three burial places in the nation that contain two presidents. Given its landscape provenance and the graciousness of its execution, this is a cultural landscape worthy of recognition,” noted the jury. “With this significant cultural dimension, the landscape architect was able to rise to the challenge and provide both a revitalized landscape and financial stability. Along with restored roads and paths, the scope included new plant materials to enrich this significant American heritage site and reinforce the sense of dignity and honor it deserves. “

Contractors: KBS, Messer Landscape

Photographer: SkyShots Photography



Gallaudet University Residence Hall Renovations


Studio Twenty Seven Architecture

image107This project consists of very minor, but meaningful, insertions and modifications into existing residence halls, which are all in need of replacement over the coming years. This project is a stopgap measure to alter space that was originally designed without a full deaf-space consciousness by incorporating the principles espoused in Gallaudet University’s DeafSpace Design Guidelines.

Understanding deafness not as a handicap but as a culture based on four senses, this remediation engages salient perceptions and facilitates spatial scales of signing. Repetitive and continuous architectural elements reinforce continuous visual access. For instance, collective spaces at nodes along the way to other locations encourages spontaneous social interaction among deaf individuals.

Color and floor pattern can create feelings of intimacy for smaller conversations. Placing windows at the end of building corridors reduces the sense of confinement and provides a connection to the outside. Circulation, balconies, and activity areas within multiple-story spaces can be staggered to provide visual connectivity. And in hallways, corridors, and other movement spaces, transparency into adjacent spaces allows visual access to ongoing activities.

Recognizing that designing for individuals who are deaf or near deaf can be daunting, the jury appreciated this insight into “milled insertions” to enhance visual connection. “The design, material, and finishes—along with spatial articulation and visual rhythms—define a comfortable and inviting setting,” they commended. “This project, originally entered for an Interior Design award, receives an Object award for the great design and insertion of exquisite furniture-quality interventions. This design explores the enhancement of four of the five senses and evokes an awareness of relationships among occupants who share a very personal common bond.”

Contractor: Monarc Construction, Inc.

Photographer: Hoachlander Davis Photography


Lotus: A Kinetic Luminary Object

Blacksburg, Va.

Reza Mousavynejad

image122Lotus provides an operable mechanism to control the effect of its illumination. The object includes two parts. A blossoming luminary upper element changes the impact of the light while the lower base defines the relationship between the object and the ground and provides stability.

Aluminum and plastic parts are mechanically assembled with bolts and screws. Strong and light, aluminum provides internal structure and some of the operable mechanism. This aluminum skeleton, connected to the aluminum base also integrates the plastic parts. The transparent plastic allows the internal mechanism to operate without interfering with the light. The kinetic exterior envelope operated by this internal mechanism is made of translucent plastic to capture the effect of the light.

The base is cast aluminum while the internal structure is cut by water jet from aluminum sheets. To shape the plastic, a laserCAMM machine cuts parts for the internal mechanical system and exterior envelope. It is the accuracy of the cutting machines (water jet and laserCAMM) that makes it possible for the internal geometry of the movement to be executed precisely.

“This project represents the richness of various fabrication techniques: the lost-wax method, water jets, and laserCAMM machine,” the jury observed. “The selected materials and overall aesthetic could be construed as revisionist 21st century Bauhaus. The scale and proportion of the object’s base, and the geometry of the luminaire, are well articulated. The execution and attention to detail provide rigor to the overall design process. The elegance of the assembly and the incredibly rich light cast by the movement suits its name, Lotus. It is both meditative and a great source of light.”

Thesis Advisors: William U. Galloway, Howards S. Gartner, Robert J. Dunay, Steve R. Thompson

Foundry Advisors: Alan P. Druschitz, David C. Clark

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  1. GILLIAM ART STUDIO HONORED WITH 2014 INFORM AWARD | Wnuk Spurlock - June 9, 2014

    […] The 23rd annual Inform Awards – honoring the best mid-Atlantic designers of landscape architecture, interior architecture, and object design projects from the past eight years – drew 122 submissions, with WNUK SPURLOCK Architecture’s Gilliam Art Studio project winning in the interior architecture category. All the winners of the 2014 Inform Awards were published in the most recent issue of Inform Magazine. […]

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