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Behind the scenes, jurors search for excellence

Judith Harlan

Architectural award jurying is a mysterious process that’s cloaked in confidentiality and closeted behind closed doors.

It’s done by professionals who are appear just for that purpose and then disappear home again after the awards are handed out.

So, who are those experts who came to Reno last week to jury the American Institute of Architects Nevada annual awards? And what did they think about as they perused the project presentations? Good question.

This year’s AIA Nevada jurors – four of them came to Reno from all over the western United States to consider the 2004 entries into the American Institute of Architects Nevada “Excellence in Design” awards.

Ted Luna of Ted Luna & Associates in Santa Fe,N.M., chaired the jury.

Luna has won numerous design awards himself – local, state and national.He designed the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial in Angel Fire, N.M., as well as several high-rise hotels and casinos in Nevada and throughout the Southwest.

As chairman of the jury, he hand-picked the jurors who gathered around the table with him to review the AIA Nevada entries.His jury included:

* Randy Byers of The Design Studio, Inc., Cheyenne,Wyo., and director of the American Institute of Architect’s western mountain region, whose works include restoration of the Elk Mountain Hotel and the master plan for Harmony Community in Cheyenne.

* Kim Ferranti of ABA Architects PC in Tucson,Ariz., whose works include the Morris K.Udall Regional Park and Recreational Center, several churches, and schools.

* Jim Morter, of Morter Architects,Vail, Colo., whose residential works include mountain estates and whose public work includes the award-winning Gerald R.

Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

And how were these particular architects out of the thousands of architects in the western region chosen to be jurors? “I selected them based on their reputations,” said Luna – the esteem in which they are held within the architectural community.

Once chosen, the jurors were approved by the AIA Nevada officers and awards committee members.

As they began the day-long process of reviewing and evaluating the award entries 58 entries in six separate categories, representing some of the best work of architects from throughout the state of Nevada the jurors paused to discuss their views of design excellence.

Some of the evaluation of design excellence is subjective, said Byers.”It’s not a checklist,” but instead “is an aggregate of elements,” all of which must be taken in context.

Included in that aggregate would be use of materials, classic design elements, and context.

As he judged the designs, Byers would be looking for overall quality of design, he said.

“A design tells a story,” added Ferranti.”The story is created by the client, the site, and the location.”

She would be looking for how well that story is carried through the whole project, she said, and for an elegance in the use of materials and in the way that the project is completed.

Morter, too, would be looking at the overall project, he said.

An entry might show “a hint of a great project,” he said, but he’d be looking for the evidence that the hint was followed through, that the design was “site-conscious,” and “context-conscious,” as well as appropriate to the project.

“Excellence is an indicator of a thought process, and a strong relationship to the client and the client’s needs,” said Morter.

“It’s a marriage,” summed up Lunas.

Excellence takes into consideration “how the design is impacting and enhancing the human experience.

Excellence in design “is a noble thing,” he said.

The discussions kicked off the day’s real work poring over the 58 entries, deciding which ones were obviously excellent and would send the architect up to the dais for a coveted Honor Award, which would would warrant a merit or a citation, and which would have to go back to the owner with just a “thank you for entering” note.

The group worked through the day, not finishing until 6:30 p.m.

They evaluated each one separately, using a method Lunas, as chair, presented to the jurors.

They would each study all of the projects, decide what they thought it deserved, and then when all jurors had considered all of the projects, they would compare their notes.

The projects, all presented in identical black binders,were laid out around the periphery of the room on long tables.

The jurors spread out and then silently worked their way around the room,moving from binder to binder,making their judgments at first, there was “excellence anxiety,” said Lunas.”There’s often anxiety at first amongst the judges.” Still, the jurors got to work.

Each project was studied individually by the four separate jurors.

After the individual study, the jurors sat down to discuss the projects.

On some of the projects they found themselves in total agreement and the judgment was recorded; on others they differed.

On those, they discussed their evaluations and reached a decision on the award to be given.

The jurors did not know which project belonged to whom until the next night when the awards were presented at a gala evening event a mystery revealed to the jurors only after they had finished their work.

AIA Nevada Honor Award Winners The award The jury said Honor Award – Interior environment Very elegant and well-executed tenant HMC Architects of Nevada, Reno improvement.

If we worked there,we Office relocation and improvement would be inspired to do good architecture.

Honor Award – Unbuilt architecture Wonderful integration of structure and JMA Architecture Studios, Boulder City plan…An elegant new direction for high- Summit luxury condominiums, Las Vegas rise solutions for Las Vegas.

Honor Award – Built architecture High level of architecture…Lot of integri- Carpenter Sellers Association, Las Vegas ty.

Nice to think of the influence this Don W.

Reynolds Girl Scout Center, Las Vegas building will have on its users.


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