The 2012 Inform Awards

The 21st annual Inform Awards—honoring the best mid-Atlantic designers of landscape architecture, interior design, and object design projects from the past five years—drew 149 submissions. Seven projects received honor or merit awards, and the jury recognized another 28 projects as exemplary design works. The seven are published here, and the 28 will be published individually throughout the remainder of the year on readinform.com.

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

Jury Chair Michael J. Crosbie, PhD, FAIA, is the chair of the University of Hartford department of architecture, author of more than 30 books, and former senior editor at both Progressive Architecture and Architecture magazines. He currently serves as editor in chief of Faith and Form magazine and has long been a broadcast and lecturing advocate of architecture nationwide.

Thomas Fisher is dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design. He was the Progressive Architecture editorial director, has lectured or juried at more than 40 schools and 60 professional societies, and has published 35 book chapters or introductions and 250 articles. He has written six books on architects and architectural thought.

Cindy Pavlinac is a fine-art photographer and author, working out of San Rafael, Calif., with a special interest in the power of place. Her images have won numerous awards and appeared in more than 800 publications. Accomplished on the viola and Celtic fiddle, she also photographs artwork for artists and advises on professional presentation and publication.

To a person, the jury commended the submitted works and expressed their sense that “design, landscape architecture, and architecture are alive and well, with extraordinarily good work overall in Virginia.” They expressed some level of regret that the space limitations of Inform would not allow them to select many more projects, and therefore asked to include an additional two-dozen-plus submissions for jury recognition.

In addition to “light-filled, elegant, beautifully detailed [and] sustainable projects,” the jury commended “very spare, affordable” designs, strong landscapes, and “incredible Neo-Classicism [from designers] who really know how to do it.”

“I was heartened by the fusion of old and new, honoring historic origins while incorporating sustainable, local, and reused materials,” one jurist adds. “I looked for grace in design, practical inhabitation, respect of the environment, symbolic harmonics in shapes, elegant integration, and organic invention balanced with smart use of materials.”

As thought for future submission, the jury provides this advice:

Submitting designers need to take on the very important role of submission editor. The real mark of a good designer is knowing when there’s too much information and then pulling things out and paring things back. Sometimes with a submission, there are too many ideas, and the designers should have stepped back and focused on two—three at the most—really strong ideas and get rid of the other stuff. The other thing is to balance words and images. For a jury, seeing all photographs with only two or three sentences is not very helpful; neither is extensive text at the expense of illustration. Somewhere between half and three-quarters of a page of text that really explains the important ideas in the project is probably the best balance.

Landscape Architecture Honor Award

Memorial to the Magar Ancestors
Bhedetar, Nepal
Travis Price Architects—Spirit of Place-Spirit of Design, Inc.—The Catholic University of America School of Architecture and Planning

Villagers in the Himalayan foothills of eastern Nepal adhere to a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. In the course of creating new agriculture learning fields near their traditional burial grounds, old tombs had been disturbed, and people of the Namje and Thumki villages feared having disrespected their ancestors while their souls were regenerating and reincarnating.
Using symbolism derived from the regional burial customs, in which mourners carry stones up the hill to create burial tombs, the design-build team of students created a place of communal reflection where village shamans could also conduct ceremonies. The seven-foot-high stacked-stone walls surround a 3×6-foot opening in the earth, edged with standing stones—connoting the sea of souls—and covered by laminated glass. The glass connects the reflected sky above with the earth visible beneath it.

The project is part of a graduate/undergraduate elective course in which students design a project in the spring semester for a remote location and spend nine days the following June to construct it. (Just published is a heavily illustrated history of the 18 years of the Spirit of Place program, The Mythic Modern: Architectural Expeditions in the Spirit of Place, by Travis Price, FAIA.)

“This student design-build project for a memorial in Nepal is an extraordinary example of how a deep understanding of a place and its local building and religious traditions can lead to a very powerful and evocative structure,” commended the jury. “The stonework in the memorial is very beautiful and the simple forms and the central void have an almost primeval quality.”

Primary Subcontractors: Karna Magar, Meck Magar
Professors: Travis L. Price III, FAIA, and Kathleen Lane, Assoc. AIA
Student Team: Andrew Baldwin, Miguel Castro, Liz Marie Fibleuil, Suzanne Humphries, Carrie Kramer, Ashley Marshall, Kristen McKenzie, Chloe Rice, Abigail Rolando, Arvi Sardadi, Allie Steimel, Kevin Thomson, Lauren Warner, Evan Wivell
Photographer: Travis Price, FAIA

Jury Recognition of Landscape Architecture Excellence

Dogon Eco Tourism Center, Bandiagara, Mali, ISTUDIO Architects; The James Hoban Memorial, Desart, County Kilkenny, Ireland, Travis Price Architects—Spirit of Place-Spirit of Design, Inc.—The Catholic University of American School of Architecture and Planning; Adventist Health System Headquarters, Altamonte Springs, Fla., Little; Kalevalakehto: The Shaman’s Haven of the Kalevala, Travis Price Architects—Spirit of Place-Spirit of Design, Inc.—The Catholic University of American School of Architecture and Planning; University of Richmond Carole Weinstein International Center, Richmond, Higgins & Gerstenmaier; The 9/11 Memorial of Maryland, Baltimore, Ziger/Snead Architects; Urban Landscape, Washington, D.C., KUBE architecture PC; Combs Point Residence, Ovid, N.Y., Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, LTD.

Object Design Honor Award

The Crib at Strathmore
Bethesda, Md.
Broadhurst Architects, Inc.

“This small, demountable ‘corn-crib’ cabin creates an elegant shelter, complete with a kitchen and sleeping loft, that has a minimal impact on the site and that allows for rapid construction,” the jury observed. “While it could serve eco-tourists, the cabin could also serve as a model of emergency shelter.” The corn-crib shape, elevation of the floorplate above-ground, and light-transmitting slatted cladding all help make the small space feel much larger, the jury added: “It is fun, portable, environmentally responsible.”

The 250-sf prototype is currently a temporary, habitable exhibit in the Music Center at Strathmore sculpture garden where it serves the Strathmore Fine Artists in Residence program. Its high-recycle-content and recyclable materials are fabricated off site into components designed for quick on-site assembly. Although its form is based on traditional corn cribs, it is a sophisticated kit of parts: two galvanized steel bents for the main structure, engineered-wood and steel structural elements span the bents to connect insulated panels for the floor and roof, prefabricated wall panels are of unpainted heat-treated poplar, and layers of recyclable translucent insulating polycarbonate sheet clip into the framework.

Additional environmentally responsible elements of the Crib include its minimal site disturbance, high insulation values, a propane fireplace, limited interior finishes, rain-water collection, light-emitting-diode and compact-fluorescent light fixtures, cooling through ventilation and a ceiling fan, and ready re-location and re-use. Operable window walls allow air circulation and expansion of the space out to the fiberglass deck.

Fabricator: Added Dimensions Inc.
Landscape Architect: Lila Fendrick
Photographer: Anice Hoachlander

Object Design Merit Award

Pope John Paul the Great High School
Dumfries, Va.
MTFA Architecture

Designed for the chapel of a new Catholic high school, the chancel furniture pieces stand at the end of a procession for the Eucharist. The rising curved lines of the wooden chapel structure inspired the design of the altar, tabernacle, and ambo.

The altar symbolizes sacrifice, with its curved wooden legs recalling the form of a chalice. The top is of white granite with deep burgundy speckles symbolizing the spilled blood of Jesus.
The tabernacle table symbolizes the presence of Christ, and its legs bring to mind the shape of a fish tail and thus the long-prevalent Christian symbol of Ichthys.

The ambo, with its stainless steel legs rising up like hands, symbolizes prayer.
The chancel furniture and its pointed-arch supports, “sensitively echoes the pointed-arch architecture of the chapel in which it is set,” the jury agreed.

Owner’s Representative: Jim Robinson
Interior Consultant: Sharon Cantwell
Contractor: Wellingford Systems
Photographer: James Clark, FAIA

Object Design Merit Award

Seminar Bench
Bethesda, Md.
Thomas Shiner, AIA, Museum and Library Furniture

The elegant simplicity of this bench belies its sturdy construction and light weight, which define its intended use in museums, libraries, and education settings as a short-term seat to accommodate one or two people. Its splayed-leg design allows easy stacking for space-efficient storage.

The bench is made from a plank of solid white oak, several oak blocks, and two stainless steel tension rods that both connects the wood pieces and reinforces the bench span. The bench works in multiples as mobile seating elements that can be easily rearranged to define and activate architectural space by innately inviting people to sit and join in a discussion or lecture.
The designer specified polished, quarter-sawn oak so that the benches will improve in appearance with age and use.

“This is a very simple, beautiful stacking bench that reveals the structure that gives it strength and allows it to stack,” noted the jury.

Woodwork Fabricator: Raymond Amos
Metalwork Fabricator: Jeff Steele

Jury Recognition of Object Design Excellence

clearly_HERE, Raleigh, N.C., Tonic Design; Folding Chair, Alexandria, Monstrans; 1170 RS Ducati, Barber Motorsports Park, Ala.; 111 K Street, NE, Feature Wall, Washington, D.C., reform, llc; The DOCKr, Washington, D.C., inNuevo, LLC; BENCH|WALL, Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America School of Architecture and Planning

Interior Design Honor Award

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Campus East
Springfield, Va.
Joint-Venture of RTKL and Kling Stubbins

This new facility consolidates all 8,500 NGA staff supporting East Coast operations into a single 2.4-million-sf secure environment that both reflects its mission and fosters a more collaborative work culture. The agency is the nation’s primary source of geospatial intelligence.

The arc of the two large office bars reduces the apparent scale of the building’s interior while optimizing daylight and outside views. The upper levels are configured in workplace neighborhoods which focus on a light-filled atrium featuring agency-wide communal spaces. The office neighborhoods connect via an interior main street overlooking the atrium. With teaming areas and cafés, the elevated main street draws people out of their typically insular workplace neighborhoods for collaborative interaction.

Patterns and layered colors on the atrium glass are reminiscent of both the earth’s grid as mapped by this agency and the complex interconnectivity that describes the intelligence community as a whole. The use of color—based on a “colors of the earth” palette—and light is also a welcome respite from the intense analytic work taking place in the building as well as an aid to orientation in this immense series of workspaces.

“Gentle arcs cradle a dramatic atrium anchoring office neighborhoods connected by bridges and open views,” the jury enthused. “Collaborative interaction is encouraged and guided with bold color and patterns.”

Photographer: David Whitcomb

Interior Design Honor Award

U.S. Green Building Council Headquarters
Washington
Envision Design, PLLC

Because of its explosive growth, by 2008 USGBC needed to lease space on two floors of a 1970s building to triple its office space and, within 12 months, fit it out as the first LEED®-certified project under its rigorous Version 3.0. The result, earning 94 points, is a LEED for Commercial Interiors Platinum design that is timeless in its sophisticated flexibility of use and yet classically modern.

The entire client, design, and construction team came together at the outset to conceive the building and worked closely to realize it. Goals included .5 watts/sf for lighting and a 60 percent reduction of water use below the base building’s existing standard.

To accommodate a monumental stair, the design penetrated a concrete floor slab and used carbon-fiber reinforcement instead of steel, greatly reducing the embodied energy and increasing the available space. All workspaces have ready views to the outside, with ample daylight and sensor-activated thermal, lighting, window-shade, and plug-specific controls. Materials are predominately salvaged or recycled and locally sourced, and 97 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

Biophilic elements for increased user comfort include natural materials, indoor plants, images of nature throughout, a noise-suppression system, daylight, and views to the exterior.
“This interior for the USGBC serves as a model of what a sustainable office interior might include,” the jury extolled, “ranging from ample daylight, energy-efficient systems, and recycled materials, to bringing nature indoors and minimizing construction waste. The open interiors also promote visual connection and the indoor stairs promotes physical activity, both of which enhance social sustainability.”

General Contractor: James G. Davis Construction
MEP Engineer: GHT Ltd.
AV Consultant: Audio Video Systems
Structural Engineer: SK&A
Lighting Consultant: Clanton & Associates
Commissioning Agent: Advanced Building Performance
Water Feature Consultant: Crystal Blue Creations
Photographer: Eric Laignel

Interior Design Merit Award

Nevis Pool and Garden Pavilion
Bethesda, Md.
Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect

The jury characterized this project within a suburban site and adjacent to woodlands as a “wonderful shelter retreat.”

Through expanses of glass walls in the main area of the pavilion, the interior extends visually to the existing house and woods on two sides and a new pool, stone walls, and terraces that organize the back yard. The frameless glass walls with mitered-glass corners open to allow breezes and open access, as desired.

The building includes a stainless steel kitchen component with adjacent seating in the main living area.

The space is anchored by the stacked-slate-wall food-preparation space and a large Rumford fireplace at the end of the main glassed-in area. Bluestone flooring, mahogany walls, and a Douglas-fir ceiling provide visual warmth year-round while heated floors keep the space comfortable in the winter months.

Contractor: Ted Peterson
Engineer: D. Anthony Beale, LLC
Photographer: Maxwell MacKenzie Architectural Photographer

Jury Recognition of Interior Design Excellence

VCU Brandcenter, Richmond, Baskervill; CompTIA, Washington, D.C., KUBE architecture PC; Wissioming2, Bethesda, Md., Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect; United States Naval Academy King Hall Galley Renovation, Annapolis, Md., HKS, Inc.; Piedmont Farm, Howard County, Md., Muse Architects; 308 Mulberry, Lewes, Del., Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect; Becherer House, Earlysville, Va., Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect; id Software, Richardson, Tex., Frederick Cedema Architects; Lorber Tarler Residence, Washington, D.C., Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect; Rock Creek Residence, Washington, D.C., Marshall Moya Design, LLC; World Wildlife Fund – 1st Floor North Renovation, Washington, D.C., Envision Design, PLLC; Volkswagen Group of America U.S. Headquarters, Herndon, Va., VOA Associates, Inc.; Eat, Play, Cleanse, Washington, D.C., KUBE architecture PC

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