2016 Harleston Parker Medal


Dan Peruzzi AIA, principal and senior partner, Margulies Peruzzi Architects (jury chair)

Alex Beam, columnist, Boston Globe

Mike Cantalupa, senior vice president/development, Boston Properties

Racquel Davey AIA, project architect, Education Studio at ICON Architecture

Karin Goodfellow, director, Boston Art Commission

Mariana Ibanez, assoc. professor of architecture, Harvard GSD

Yugon Kim, partner, IKD / director, TSKP Boston

Andrew Plumb AIA, design partner and technical director, Aamodt / Plumb Architects

Cynthia Smith, FASLA, Halvorsen Design Partnership

Corey Zehngebot AIA, senior urban designer/architect, Boston Redevelopment Authority

Jury Overview

It was an honor to serve as Chair of the 2016 Harleston Parker Jury with the distinguished jurors who collaborated to select “the most beautiful building” in Greater Boston built in the past 10 years. The jury of 10 individuals represents a cross section of the broader design community, consisting of practitioners, developers, public officials, and journalists.

The jury spent six months and three meetings reviewing each submission and then narrowing those submissions to four finalists. It committed one long day to touring all four finalists and then deliberating until identifying a single winner.

The Harleston Parker Medal award was established in 1921 by J. Harleston Parker in memory of his father. The first award was granted by the BSA in 1923. The intent of the award is to acknowledge the most beautiful piece of architecture, building, monument, or structure within the City of Boston or Metropolitan Parks District limits. Specific goals of the award were not originally identified, but the BSA’s 1921 interpretation stated that the award would “stimulate the appreciation of good architecture by the public and give public recognition by the city to architects who have succeeded in doing…exceptionally good work”.

The 2016 Harleston Parker jury considered 80 very deserving projects. These buildings represented a fascinating cross section of Boston’s built landscape. Amongst the competitors were academic buildings, commercial structures, public buildings, medical and cultural facilities. The sheer diversity of the projects, all worthy of consideration, was inspiring.

This year’s jury confronted important questions about the nature of beauty and how it applies to buildings: What are the dimensions of beauty? Is beauty solely about the beauty of a building as an object, or does beauty also derive from what the building achieves? Is a building ever a sculptural object only, or does it fulfill other imperatives?

Functional, aesthetic, and cultural definitions of beauty were weighed, along with discussions of meaningful social impact, “soulfulness” (or the power to evoke emotion), and how well each building wears over time. Each of the four finalists excels at different areas, which made for a difficult decision.

The transformative qualities of a building—or the ability of a project to transform the neighborhood, the user’s experience, and even the user herself—quickly rose to the top of this jury’s defining characteristics of beauty. While acknowledging that beauty is about aesthetics, the jury maintained that the definition does not end there, moving toward a more socially conscious definition of beauty. Given this, a high priority was placed on the power of program to deepen the power of the building. Budgets for the finalist projects varied widely, a condition leveled by focusing the discussion on how the architects used the allocated money, regardless of amount.

The jury toured the four finalists, including the Boston Public Library, East Boston Branch; the Bruce C. Bolling Building in Dudley Square; the Korean Church of Boston, Brookline; and the Tozzer Anthropology Building at Harvard University. At each location, the tour was supplemented by commentary provided by the architects for each project, as well as enthusiastic owners and users. The perspectives offered by each designer and client lent depth to the presentations. It was clear in all four cases that these are not only beautiful buildings but highly functioning places that succeed in creating a strong sense of community and place, fulfilling not only the needs of their direct users but also those of the community around them.