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December 18, 2019
Chapter News

AIA Philadelphia Announces Annual Award Winners

By Elizabeth Paul
2019 Design Awards Celebration at The Fillmore, December 5, 2019

Awards honor individuals and architecture firms based in Philadelphia.

AIA Philadelphia celebrated the culmination of its 150th anniversary year by celebrating the accomplishments of member architecture firms and individuals. More than 20 local architecture firms were honored for their excellence in design and 6 individuals for their contributions to the architecture industry. Five new categories of awards were introduced this year including the first-ever Sustainability Award. 

This year’s Austin, TX-based jury included: Wendy Dunnam Tita, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP and Principal/Interior Architecture Director for Page; Juan Miró, FAIA, LEED AP and Principal of Miró Rivera Architects; and Michael Hsu of Michael Hsu Office of Architecture.

Gold Medal Award

DIGSAU, a 28-person architecture firm based in Philadelphia, brought home top honors winning the AIA Philadelphia Gold Medal, an award honoring the year’s best built project, for their PPR Apartments project. DIGSAU practices contemporary architecture, urbanism, and environmental design and was the 2017 recipient of AIA Pennsylvania’s Firm of the Year.   

PPR Apartments

Located at the urban edge of Swarthmore College’s arboretum campus, the PPR Apartments creates a dynamic new residential village on a highly constrained site between three 19th-century residence halls and the outfield fence of the Clothier Baseball Field. Modeled after classic asymmetrical ballparks shaped by their urban context, the western side of PPR forms a reconfigured outfield fence with public spaces that are also spectator spaces. The building’s apartment-style residential suites are grouped in three clusters that reference the scale of the three adjacent residence halls and shape a village courtyard on the east side. The new building is the center of this 240 student residential community and a threshold where athletics and residential landscapes converge. This project is the first building to employ the ambitious Swarthmore College Environmental Sustainability Framework and includes comprehensive water management systems, ecologically sensitive landscapes, a zero-waste initiative, and a wide range of energy production and conservation systems to meet the College’s net-zero and carbon-neutral goals.

Silver Medal Award

Moto Designshop, a progressive architecture and interior design studio based in Old City, Philadelphia was the recipient of this year’s best unbuilt project award, the AIA Philadelphia Silver Medal, for its St. Joseph’s University Arrupe Hall.

St. Joseph’s University Arrupe Hall

Saint Joseph’s University, founded in 1851 by Felix Barbelin in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, shifted locations over the next several decades until moving to its current home along City Line Avenue, on the western edge of Philadelphia, in 1922. The project establishes a residence for the Jesuit priests who work at the University and the Jesuit high school in Philadelphia. The goal is to provide them with not only a home but a space that supports this religious community of men and their shared common life.

Inspired by the Gregorian Calendar, the chapel form takes on a curvilinear form, based on geometric studies. The brick pattern further explores the initial geometries of form, then morphing to create a veil, filtering light and views.

Sustainability Award

This award hones in on the sustainable metrics and data presented for a particular project. HOK’s Penn State University Chemical and Biomedical Building was the inaugural recipient of the brand new Sustainability Award. 

Penn State University Chemical and Biomedical Building

The new Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building (CBEB) is in the heart of the ‘sciences district’ on Penn State’s University Park campus. It collocates the university’s Chemical Engineering and burgeoning Biomedical Engineering departments in a space that enhances collaboration. The design creates a modern form composed of contextual materials including brick masonry, cast stone, sandstone, zinc cladding, and glass curtain wall. The building’s simple massing emerges from a fieldstone base rooted in the landscape and extends upward into a volume of glass that appears to float along the horizon. The northwest-facing glass curtain wall shears away at each lab floor, creating a feathering effect that breaks down the scale of the facade while engaging it with Penn State’s established greenway. The CBEB includes 13 research neighborhoods with modular labs, classrooms, conference rooms, common areas, the Dow Chemical Knowledge Commons student space, and a 150-person auditorium. A cantilevered ‘prow’ creates the building’s central architectural expression. This angled form extends into the greenway and marks the main building entrance. Bathed in natural light, this four-level space includes collaboration areas, a common pantry for students and teachers, and a transparent conference room—all with panoramic views of the campus.

Divine Detail Award

The Divine Detail Award honors a particular aspect of built work (including furnishings) embodying exemplary design innovation and/or craftsmanship. This year’s recipient, Studio 6mm, a small firm based in Philadelphia and also the 2019 recipient of the Philadelphia Emerging Architect Prize which is awarded annually to a firm established within the past ten years for their high-quality design and innovative thought.

New Co-Operative Food Market

Where others saw blight, The Kensington Community Food Co-Op’s members saw an opportunity to bring healthy, local food options to an area once considered a food desert. With limited means, the project team embraced a ‘yes we can’ attitude to deliver big ideas on modest budgets. This perspective influenced the project from its broadest ambitions to its smallest details.

A small addition is constructed to serve as a cafe offering coffee during the day and spirits through the night. This new building is clad in a colorful cementitious fiber rainscreen cladding. The complexity of color borrows its palette from bodegas along an adjacent commercial corridor seeking to create a bold statement that is contextual, vibrant, and resonant of the vitality of the existing fabric of the neighborhood. In an effort to reduce cost and increase community engagement, the cladding was painted on the ground on sawhorses by community members during a series of ‘painting parties.’ The contractor then installed the skin per the Architect’s direction. The joining of community members, trades, and designers allows for investment of sweat equity, higher levels of community engagement, and participation that builds a sense of ownership for the project in the neighborhood.

In addition to the Gold Medal, Silver Medal, Sustainability, and Divine Detail awards, the following Philadelphia firms received honors for projects they submitted to the 2019 Design Award Jury: 


XS House – Honor Award, General Built Category

Design of seven apartments on an extremely narrow footprint (11’ x 93’) with strategic use of bays, mezzanines, and bi-level upper units while maintaining a minimal single-stair core layout. Despite being a three-story building, the 63-foot-tall stair section connects seven levels of occupied space within its very small footprint. 


The Discovery Center – Honor Award, General Built Category

An urban bird sanctuary and leadership development center conceived in partnership between The Audubon Society of Pennsylvania, Outward Bound Philadelphia, and the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. The project site surrounds a 37-acre decommissioned reservoir. The Discovery Center incorporates a broad range of sustainability strategies that set ambitious goals for energy efficiency, stormwater management, community enrichment, and habitat preservation. 

BLT – Architect of Record and Pelli Clarke Pelli – Design Architect 

FMC Tower – Honor Award, General Built Category

The FMC Tower is a key component of the Philadelphia 30th Street Station District Plan. The project vision was to knit the University City and Center City neighborhoods together, serving as an iconic gateway to the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and University City, Philadelphia's ever-growing innovation hub. The tower provides a vertical neighborhood of residential and extended-stay apartments, office, retail and shared amenity spaces in a sculpted contemporary form.


MSK Bergen – Honor Award, Interior Architecture Built Category

A former corporate office building renovated to deliver the latest in cancer treatment and care. The building design brings the soothing influence of nature and the comfort of home. The desire to bring natural light to the building interior influenced the building planning.

Patient reception and lounge areas accommodate different needs through a mix of seating styles and layouts. Patients can choose how they want to wait; whether in private, or in highly visible areas near staff, all with access to WiFi, outlets for device charging, and a café. Mobility zones within the chemotherapy suite allow patients or caregivers to leave their private rooms to stretch their legs, yet remain close-by their private room.

Every attempt was made to avoid creating the appearance of a hospital environment. Medical artifacts and engineering devices are screened from view. Storage places for equipment and devices are provided.


Cherry Street Pier – Honor Award, Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Built Category

A 55,000 SF pier structure on the Delaware River in Philadelphia rehabilitated to create a series of temporary and permanent environments for food, drink, work, shopping, recreation, art, and events. Open to the public every day of the week and year-round, the project returns a historic piece of the city’s infrastructure back to the public realm.

Erdy McHenry Architecture

Arborcrest V (Woodlands I) – Honor Award, Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Built Category

An abandoned 200,000 SF office building with a fortress-like appearance is redesigned to introduce a two-story lobby allowing every tenant to have a physical connection to the central core regardless of their location within the building. Anchored by a cafe, a grand stair, and the elevator block, the central two-story lobby is further subdivided into a series of intimate gathering spaces through the addition used to define smaller scale social spaces. 

Atkin Olshin Schade Architects

Metropolitan Opera House – Honor Award, Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Built Category

$56 million renovation of the Metropolitan Opera House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. Focused on preserving the Met’s remaining historic design features the design team introduced new compatible elements that would allow the building to function as a contemporary music venue. Many of the building’s original features, including the original façade, plaster ornamentation, terrazzo floors, mosaic tile borders, Corinthian columns and ceiling coffers, have been restored to their former grandeur.

Richards Medical Research Laboratories – Merit Award, Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Built Category

The University of Pennsylvania’s Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Laboratory, designed by Louis I. Kahn, includes three original laboratory towers and a central service tower. Two additional towers, the Goddard Laboratories, complete the complex. AOS Architects completed two phases of renovations to create state of the art medical research space in the Richards building and one floor in Goddard.

The building’s design, while groundbreaking, never fully served the original laboratory program to its best advantage. AOS embarked on an ambitious restoration and renovation project for the buildings, replacing the exterior glazing and mechanical/electrical systems, and establishing design and preservation standards for interior renovations. Key to the success of this new program was the removal of wet labs from the buildings and replacing them with other medical research uses that required less plumbing and fewer air changes, which significantly reduced energy usage in the buildings.

AOS adapted research spaces for individual research groups each with specific spatial needs and technology requirements and designed the spaces to meet the needs of each user. The renovation removed layers of existing finishes to reveal the building’s original concrete truss construction. New mechanical and electrical systems were carefully integrated to respect Kahn’s original design intent.


Urban Wilderness Gateway Masterplan – Honor Award, Planning Unbuilt Category

Transformation of a dead-end highway into a linear park and gateway to the Urban Wilderness, a spectacular 1000-acre outdoor adventure area. The first phase of the project will be public realm improvements at the James White Parkway Terminus and at Baker Creek Preserve. The Terminus was also the site of a Community Event that reframed the space from a former highway underpass to an equitable public space focused on play, access, and community facilities. Phase I of the Urban Wilderness Gateway is scheduled to open in 2020.

Oval Plus – Merit Award, Small Projects (Under 500k) Built Category

Situated at the base of the Rocky Steps, Eakins Oval is both a chronically underused parking lot and one of the most visited spaces in Philadelphia. In 2017, our installation asked a simple question —“What’s your Parkway, Philly?”— intended to highlight the changing roles the Parkway and the Oval play in the daily life of Philadelphians. We then used that summer’s installation to test how people used the space during that summer, and how they would use the space in the future through a rigorous documentation effort coordinated with academic and institutional partners.

In 2018, we used this documentation effort to reframe The Benjamin Franklin Parkway around the theme of ‘More Park, More Play. The installation was designed to radically expand the possibilities for play across the entire length of the Parkway, not just at Eakins Oval. At Eakins Oval itself, we installed a series of large bespoke pavilions. Our 2018 documentation efforts showed that once people realized the Parkway had been closed, they wanted it to stay that way. The installation in 2019 then vastly expanded the type and range of activities across the entire length of Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

KJO Architecture

Shifted – Merit Award, General Built Category

Shifted is a small but tall mixed-use building situated on a forgotten L-shaped leftover lot which previously was the home of a 1-story garage. The site is on a wide and prominent commercial corridor that cuts through a dense residential neighborhood. Efficient living units are carefully perched above a small commercial shop. Each level is defined by a repeated box-like volume which shifts in and out and side to side from ground to roof, its displacement creating overhangs and small exterior balconies.


Brooklyn Health Center – Merit Award, General Built Category

We conceived of the Health Center as a distinct element within the building’s teardrop-like form: the play of light throughout the day lets the eyes of passersby shift from the frits and fins of the glass curtain wall to the bright red, curving form of the Health Center bustling within. At the end of the day, when the sun sets, the lights of the building bring its interior into focus, on the Health Center, the building’s beating heart, in the midst of a diverse and vibrant neighborhood in Downtown Brooklyn.

To ensure members got the finest care experience possible, we decided to eliminate entirely waiting from the equation: members self-check-in then go directly to an assigned exam room — no waiting required. Physicians and nurses are notified electronically as soon as a patient arrives. The Health Center reports that thanks to the innovative and effective design, they now see 30% more patients per day than a typical health center, and the doctors report a greatly reduced stress level. The typical patient completes their visit within an hour.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

New College House, University of Pennsylvania – Merit Award, General Built Category

Spanning an entire city block, the 198,000 gsf facility is Penn’s first purpose-built college house designed to bring together 350 students, faculty, staff and graduate students into one community.

Blue Bottle Coffee Café, World Trade Center – Merit Award, Interior Architecture Built Category

This Blue Bottle café occupies a prominent street-level corner in Four World Trade Center. The location is a significant confluence of development, commerce, and tourism, and, with the adjacent 9/11 Memorial Plaza, one of the most iconic destinations in New York City. With one façade opening to Memorial Plaza, the café activates the newly created pedestrian retail walk, dubbed Cortlandt Way, while taking advantage of expansive views across Greenwich Street to the Shady Oak Grove. At the center of this bustling New York hub, the 1,000-square-foot café provides a moment of respite and calm under dramatic 26-foot-tall ceilings where a carefully arranged series of millwork ribs organize the soaring interior space into layers of finish and acoustic treatment and provide a modulated system for merchandise display and storage. The café’s modest size required utmost care in determining efficiency of flows and activity for the anticipated volume of daily customers. While service circulates along the interior, an eddy of perimeter seating provides flexible arrangements for individuals or small groups, inviting customers to take refuge from the buzz of the city at an ideal point of prospect and observation.


The Yard – Merit Award, Small Projects (Under $500k) Built Category

New outdoor pavilion accommodating a variety of public programs including children’s camps, fundraisers, and community events in a green, inviting space that better serves the area’s residents.

Featuring a large folded roof that hovers above the landscape, providing shade and shelter while also directing rainwater into a planting bed and rain garden. The roof’s ceiling is clad with mirrored, stainless steel tiles that playfully reflect the activities below. Concrete planters surrounding the pavilion double as benches for additional seating when necessary.

The former site was plagued by hard surfaces and a bare landscape that offered little privacy or shade. The landscape now features low-maintenance native plantings that support the local ecosystem and help mitigate stormwater runoff while also creating an intimate gathering space that is visually distinct from the Community Center’s adjacent playground.

As an inviting, flexible, and engaging new amenity, the Yard represents sustainable development in a booming urban neighborhood.

Dragani Martone Studio

Urban Cocoon – Merit Award, Interior Architecture Built Category

The flat, a home for a professional couple and their daughter, enjoys breathtaking views of Philadelphia’s skyline, and the green canopy of Rittenhouse Square below. The interior is envisioned as a sanctuary suspended above the city streets. Here, the rushed and irregular rhythms of urban life give way to a slower and harmonious pace defined by the regular cadence of changing natural light throughout the space. The effect of light on structure and wall surface is exploited, introducing a pattern of luminosity that references the passing of time, and the changing of seasons, in addition to enveloping the space in a constellation of ever-changing shadows. The optimization of natural light is a core objective of the design strategy, and plays a principal role in shaping the physical and emotional experience of the home.

The finish, color, and form of vertical and horizontal planes and surfaces are structured and calibrated to facilitate the passage of daylight deep into the spaces, and provide for an overall sense of well-being, and warm shelter.

A palette of natural materials consisting of walnut and stone paired with veneer plaster wall and ceiling surfaces reinforce the sensation of an urban cocoon.

JKRP Architects

The Hale Building – Merit Award, Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Merit Award

The Hale Building was built in 1887 by Willis Gaylord Hale for the Keystone National Bank, and was known as the Keystone National Bank Building when first erected. Since that time, the building has had a variety of commercial uses and a tradition of a constantly evolving facade. The building has been meticulously restored after years of abandonment and neglect and a workshare company now occupies all of the upper floors and the ground floor and mezzanine is slated for a new restaurant concept. In keeping with the building’s tradition of changing with the times, the architects have created an unabashedly contemporary commercial storefront. The newly restored building brings new life to the street and has become the beacon of the neighborhood once again.

OOMBRA Architects

Brush + Watson – Merit Award, General Unbuilt Category

A once densely populated site, Brush and Watson is now a 60,000 SF vacant lot of City-owned parcels on the eastern edge of Brush Park. We were charged with bringing density back to the site in a rapidly changing neighborhood of scattered Victorian mansions and newer mixed-use developments quickly filling in the voids. In an effort to address the housing inequities, the City of Detroit has required all developers operating on City land or receiving public subsidies to provide a minimum 20% of the units to be affordable. Our Client has a long history of providing affordable housing, with over 12,000 units across the country. This mixed-use and mixed-income development sets aside half of the 180 units for affordable housing, targeting a wide range of affordability options with rent and income limits ranging from 30% to 80% of the Area Median Income. The affordable units will be financed using Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The project includes 10,000 SF of retail, 280 below-grade parking spaces and a wide range of residential unit types (micros, studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and live/work lofts).

Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association

The Laura H. Carnell Elementary School: Conceptual Design for Open Space Improvements, Community Design Collaborative’s Paul Sehnert Award for Community Development

The Laura H. Carnell Elementary School in the Oxford Circle neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia serves over one thousand K-5 students as well as the diverse surrounding community. The Collaborative’s conceptual design outlined strategies to improve the school’s open spaces to support a new project-based learning model, increase recreational opportunities for students, address stormwater management, and celebrate the cultural diversity of a school community where 23 languages are spoken.

A rain garden, an accessible ramp, murals, and reconfigured basketball courts that also accommodate soccer and hockey games will foster pride and interaction among students and the community. In 2018, this project received a $250,000 Greenways Grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

Individual awards were also presented to an esteemed group of deserving professionals.

The John Frederick Harbeson Award was given to Susan Able Maxman, FAIA, founding principal of Susan Maxman Architects/SMP Architects. This award is presented annually to a long-standing member of the architectural community and is intended to recognize their significant contributions over their lifetime to the architectural profession and its related disciplines. 

The Paul Philippe Cret Award was given to Elizabeth Kay Miller (Beth), Executive Director of the Community Design Collaborative, founded in 1991, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that strengthens neighborhoods through design. This award recognizes individuals or organizations who are not architects but who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the design of buildings, structures, landscapes, and the public realm of Greater Philadelphia.

The Young Architect Award was given to Fátima Olivieri-Martinez, AIA, an associate at KieranTimberlake, and Drew Lavine, AIA, Director of Architecture at Re:Vision Architecture. This award, given by AIA Philadelphia’s Steering Committee of Fellows, recognizes a registered architect between the ages of 25 and 39 for their contribution to the categories of leadership, practice, and service.

The Philadelphia Emerging Architect Prize was given to Studio 6mm, a design-focused firm practicing at the intersection of architecture, fabrication, and research. This award recognizes an emerging architecture firm, one that has been established and licensed within the past ten years, producing high-quality design and innovative thought within the Philadelphia region.

The Alan Greenberger Award was given to Paul Sehnert was the Director of Real Estate Development for Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services (Penn FRES) and a member of the Collaborative's Board of Directors for nearly a decade. Sehnert passed away on May 19, 2019. Presented by the Community Design Collaborative (Collaborative) this award recognizes Collaborative leaders/volunteers and AIA Member for their commitment and service to our mission.

Congratulations to all of the individuals and firms recognized for their exceptional achievements in design.

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