2014 Small Firms Design


Stephanie Horowitz AIA
ZeroEnergy Design

Laura Meyer IIDA
Meyer & Meyer

Matthew Simitis AIA
LDa Architecture & Interiors

Carl Solander AIA
Reverse Architecture

Jury Overview

In the fifth year of this program, which is administered biennially, we received 43 entries, a flat comparison (plus one) against the number of entries in 2012. To be considered this year, projects must have been completed after January 1, 2008. Most of the work we saw was from New England.

The only thing tying this body of work together is the fact that it was done by small firms; otherwise, it reflects an impressive range of project types and budget size. We found it commendable when small firms were able to lead very large projects, even if the results were merely competent.

The majority of submissions fell within a range of small project types that left room for follies, creativity, and fun. Unlike many other juries (healthcare, sustainability, housing), we were unencumbered by a need to review projects against technical, social, or academic program requirements and so maintained a relatively narrow and specific definition of design excellence that highlighted aesthetics and innovation. Of course, a good story behind a project also caught our eye. And we looked for smart materiality and detailing, which reflect the designer’s decision-making making process.

To future submitters to this program, remember that presentation strategy is important. Text can hurt a submission if it is poorly written or exaggerated. Descriptions must always match accompanying images. Show only your best photos instead of trying to dazzle us with multiple mundane, low-quality shots. Focus our attention on what is extraordinary or commendable about the project, not what’s mundane. Also, drawings and sections help us understand the way you think—give us more. Finally, we understand that design is a collaborative process. Be clear about your role.

Each of the 10 projects that we chose to honor contains a “wow” factor that elevated it among the rest. We were delighted when designers did much with minimal budgets. One project in particular used spare design gestures to create a powerful emotional impression.

Serving as jurors in a design awards program such as this is always an educational experience. For that, we wish to express our appreciation to the Boston Society of Architects and to all the design professionals who submitted work to this program. We hope our comments above and on the specific projects we have chosen to honor are useful for all those who submitted work and other design professionals who may be interested in this program.