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Small is big in KC architects’ design awards

Updated: 2013-11-16T06:16:04Z


The Kansas City Star

Size may or may not matter, but small projects dominated Friday when Kansas City architects handed out their annual design awards.

A compact private residence and a pair of cabinlike shower facilities for a Girl Scout camp won top honors among recently built projects in the American Institute of Architects/Kansas City’s design excellence awards program.

Also winning an honor award — the top level of three awards categories — was a student research project focused on a proposed revival of Independence Avenue.

A panel of three jurors considered nearly 60 entries, and selected those three winners, plus six more for recognition.

The preponderance of smaller buildings perhaps reflects the lingering economic sluggishness, they said, but a project’s scale was hardly an issue. What stood out about the winners was how they resolved ideas and problems effectively and made “you see the world in a completely different way,” said juror Mark Reddington, design partner at LMN Architects of Seattle.

The winners were scheduled to be announced at an event Friday at The Guild, a Crossroads event space. Also announced were awards for arts and craftsmanship, the AIA/KC’s first award honoring sports architecture in its own category, and a people’s choice award.

KEM Studio, a small firm of architects and industrial designers, won its design excellence honor award for an airy and modern 1,200-square-foot house on Madison Avenue on the West Side. One juror was impressed by how much the architects accomplished on a small site.

El Dorado designed the shower facilities for Camp Daisy Hindman near Topeka, which reflected an elegant simplicity in vernacular forms. A year ago the firm received recognition for buildings it designed for a Girl Scout camp in Missouri.

The Independence Avenue project, “Urban Vision,” was developed by students at the Kansas City Design Center, an urban outpost of the Kansas State University architecture program. The project entry was packed with analysis of the district and ideas for encouraging small-scale urban agriculture sites, a farmers market and other blight-reducing solutions along the avenue.

Awards of merit went to BNIM for a renovation of its Des Moines office, and to El Dorado’s transformation of an old warehouse into the fiber department at the Kansas City Art Institute.

And citation awards were given to BNIM for Bloch Hall, the new business school building at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; the DLR Group for a proposed Joplin High School; Hufft Projects for Baulinder House, a modernist residence in Mission Hills; and International Architects Atelier for the Roasterie’s coffee factory and renovation, complete with a DC-3 turboprop on its roof.

Along with Reddington, judges for the design excellence awards were Margaret Cavenagh of Studio Gang Architects in Chicago, and Deane Madsen of Architect magazine.

HNTB won the AIA/Kansas City chapter’s first sports venue award for the renovation of California Memorial Stadium at the University of California, Berkeley, and an adjacent student athlete center (both in collaboration with Studios Architecture of California). Judges Kiku Obata of St. Louis and Paul Jorgensen of Kansas City chose the winner from seven entries and noted how well the project fit into its surroundings. AIA/KC established the award to recognize the major role Kansas City-based firms play in the stadium and arena world.

Top awards (out of 23 entries) in the allied arts and craftsmanship program: A curtain wall by artist Anne Lindberg in a Helix Architecture + Design renovation at the Richard Bolling Federal Building; a sculptural freight car designed for the Prairie Logic public art site by artist Janet Zweig and El Dorado; and a faceted wood wall at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s new campus by HNTB; and BNIM for a staircase by Central Western Fabricators and RCS Millwork for an Iowa office building.

Jurors for those awards were Eric Hoffman of Washington University in St. Louis; Mitchell Squire of Iowa State University; and May Tveit, a Kansas City artist who teaches at the University of Kansas.

The people’s choice award, based on online votes for 20 projects, went to Matrix Architects for the Saint Luke’s Hospice House.

Steve Paul, senior writer and arts editor: 816-234-4762,; on Twitter: @sbpaul.

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