Architects recognize excellence in buildings both simple and stunning in W.Pa. region
The Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced its 2017 design awards, citing 26 notable examples of work by our region's architects at its annual awards ceremony and gala on Oct. 19 at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh.
The top awards — judged by a panel of architects from Chicago — ranged from the new environmental center in Pittsburgh's Frick Park, to the hip and trendy ACE Hotel, housed in a historic 107-year-old YMCA in East Liberty, to a one-room stone chapel built for a small town in southeastern Ohio that lost its only church to a fire.
Frick Environmental Center
The Environmental Center at Frick Park is a large, modern building tucked unobtrusively into a hillside in the park. Just one story faces the park entrance, but three stories open up to face the nature preserve behind. The center is used for teaching, as a base for tours of the nature preserve and as offices for staff.
The judges praised it as a "quiet" building "beautifully integrated into its surroundings" and compared it to being "in a box in a theater, with the surrounding nature being the performance." It was designed in the Pittsburgh office of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a national firm.
Lafferty, Ohio, chapel
At another end of the spectrum, two young architects who have formed a firm called Midland Architecture, with one office in Pittsburgh and another in Columbus, Ohio, designed an elegantly simple rural stone chapel at Lafferty, Ohio (population, 304), which is about 25 miles west of Wheeling. The client was the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville.
The chapel is sited on a cemetery hilltop and its traditional forms and materials make it seem timeless. It was described by the judges as creating a welcoming and contemplative space that "feels very local to the site and the community."
Cohon University Center
Cohon University Center at Carnegie Mellon University, planned by the Pittsburgh office of Cannon Design, an international firm, and LGA Partners, a local firm.
Photo by Massery Photography
Also winning a top award in the architecture category was the Cohon University Center at Carnegie Mellon University, a major addition to an existing structure. It deftly re-orients the entrance to the existing student center toward Forbes Avenue. This will relate well to the school's current expansion of its campus on the other side of Forbes. It was planned by the Pittsburgh office of Cannon Design, an international firm, and LGA Partners, a local firm.
Two Lawrenceville firms — mossArchitects and Wildman Chalmers Design — combined their efforts to turn East Liberty's historic, five-story former YMCA into the new ACE Hotel. The 1910 building, with an ornamented brick and terra cotta exterior, was vacant for many years.
The judges noted that in most such renovations of a historical building, "you see the interior modernized and decorated in a way that is not reflective of the building's character." But here, they said, the designers have been "sensitive and creative" in repurposing the original public spaces of the historical YMCA for use by hotel visitors.
• The local office of Stantec, an international firm, which designed the new Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland in partnership with William Rawn Associates, a Boston-based firm.
A mixed-use office, commercial and medical building in downtown Braddock, designed by Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.
Photo by Massery Photography
• Perennial award-winner Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, headquartered in the Strip District, won top honors in regional and urban planning for a mixed-use office, commercial and medical building central to the renovation of downtown Braddock.
• Downtown-based Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Gottel was cited for its work in Nashville, Tenn., with Deborah Berke Partners of New York, where it planned the remaking of a warehouse and hardware store into a new hotel
• The Urban Design Build Studio was cited for renovations at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh. The studio also won an award for its design of a unique fleet of modular, mobile carts that together make up a café kiosk called the First Course Café. The Design Build Studio is a project of Carnegie Mellon's architecture school that involves students and faculty in community and nonprofit endeavors.
• The AIA's "Peoples Choice Award" — based on an online poll conducted by the AIA — went to IKM Incorporated for its designs for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Strip District facility, which features studio spaces visible from the street.
John Conti is a former news reporter who has written extensively over the years about architecture, planning and historic-preservation issues.