Katie Cressall AIA, RODE Architects
Ben Rosenberg PE, Silman
Elizabeth Whitaker AIA, MERGE architects
Shelly Wood Ziegelman AIA, SWZ Architects
Sited predominantly in New England, projects representing a range of building typologies and budgets were submitted, tied together by having been designed by small firms. Perhaps most notable was the surprising number of projects using wood as the primary building material instead of the expected concrete, metal, and glass. There was so much timber, in fact, that we’re citing a trend.
The work we reviewed represented competent, even thoughtful design; among it, we discovered many instances of intelligent detail and craft. For this jury, design excellence meant working with an economy of means, knowing where to use restraint, and expressing concepts across all scales. Doing a lot with a little was a highly valued maneuver.
Eventually, 14 projects emerged as notable examples of resourcefulness and restraint. These structures are well designed but not overdesigned. They are cohesive through and through—holding together from the finest detail to the overall concept. Materials are pushed to the limit, expressed in inventive ways.
In 2017, there were 68 projects submitted to the Small Firms/Small Projects program. Eligible firms were those with 10 or fewer full-time employees in all categories (not just designers). The sole judging criterion was design excellence, as defined by the jury. Structures or buildings of all project types built anywhere in the world by design firms located in Massachusetts were eligible. Design professionals anywhere in the world were eligible to submit projects built in Massachusetts.