Performed?/Transformed?

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AIA Seattle has posted the 2008 Honor Awards winners, though holz beat them to it with this play-by-play (scroll down to 11/04/08). So then, what about that “Perform/Transform” theme?

As noted over at the DJC Streetscape blog, out of fourteen awards, only one went to a single-family home, as compared to last year’s awards when the tally was four out of seven. Several awards went to civic buildings and urban infill multifamily. And the award to NBBJ’s Banner Gateway Medical Center was a surprise to me until I reconsidered the profound role hospitals can play in people’s lives. OK.

On the other hand, consider the honor award winner “7” shown in the photos above, the one entry that all three jurors agreed on right from the beginning. No doubt it’s a transcendently beautiful art piece. And while it has the potential to transform the consciousness of those who have the opportunity to see it, its impact on the greater community is minimal and ephemeral.

Only one of my picks made the cut — must be the urban planner in me.  It’s a given that dense urban infill is important. But the new century demands buildings that go beyond just being well-designed in the traditional sense. Multifamily infill worthy of an award should incorporate features such as modular construction, vastly reduced energy and water consumption, reduced on-site parking, green roofs, and affordability to middle-class workers.

Weinstein’s Montlake Library is an elegant building, but unfortunately the requirement for parking resulted in a blank wall at street level across a large part of the most prominent facade. The library would be a lot more transformational if it had no parking. And Weinstein’s EX3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center is also inspiring work. Yet its potential to transform would be greatly magnified if it was part of a larger whole, as in the case of the Northgate Library, Community Center & Civic Park.

Perhaps my interpretation is narrow, but the word transformational makes me think big. Projects like Foster+Partners’ More London Masterplan come to mind (photo below). Such projects are rare — two to keep an eye on in Seattle are Yesler Terrace and Civic Square.

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