2016 Honor Awards for Design Excellence


Jessie Carroll

Patrick Costin AIA

Gavin Engler AIA

Paul Lewandowski AIA

John Priestley AIA

Jury Overview

This year we saw 122 projects that were submitted by Massachusetts architects working anywhere in the world and architects from anywhere in the world working in Massachusetts. The sole criterion was design excellence.

The overall body of work was competent, though the excellent projects, a small subset, quickly rose to the top.

The small number of residential projects was surprising. There were several commercial projects with very large budgets that represented strong design thinking. We recognized the challenge of comparing such widely disparate building types, budgets, and scales. And what a preponderance of glass! Endemic in the profession now, all this glass begins to seem like a very expensive but easy aesthetic solution that guarantees good photo opportunities, though we do appreciate transparency and the daylight that it provides. We were delighted when we found well-crafted space that used modulated light in new and more creative ways.

Design excellence cannot be fully appraised unless a building is shown in its context, because a building must be more than a beautiful object or an “evening gown” just as contextual response must be a core part of any meaningful design solution. We attempted to be objective in terms of style, which may be driven by client or architect, and likewise tried not to fall prey to contemporary notions about social or cultural norms. We shrank from projects that seemed to be designed for the sake of design. Instead, we looked for projects that articulated the design challenges particular to that building’s program and then provided innovative, authoritative, contextual solutions.

To future submitters to this program, let us know how you responded to your client’s requests. All good projects are collaborations, but unresolved moments are often driving by client’s requests, and it will be helpful for us to understand the client/architect balance. And please provide us with your decision-making criteria, so we might better assess design thinking.

Eleven projects emerged as winners, and represent a wide range of building types, programs, and budgets. Each represents work with a well-defined strategy for solving contextual design challenges. And each provided an additional “wow” factor that made us look twice.

We were delighted at this opportunity to see this work from our New England colleagues and want to thank the Boston Society of Architects for the opportunity.