On Jan. 6, the Virginia Center for Architecture hosted the opening of the Virginia Society AIA's Awards for Excellence in Architecture. "This year's crop [of entries] was particularly strong in spite the economic downturn and serious challenges that firms have had to face in the last 24 to 36 months," says curator William Richards, and former editor-in-chief of Inform: Architecture and Design in the Mid-Atlantic.
Projects were submitted in three categories: architecture, historic preservation and interior design. Richards explains that members of the out-of-state jury asked themselves two questions: "How does each project advance the practice of architecture, historic preservation or interior design? How does each project compare to the other projects within its category?"
Large, striking photographs of the projects lined the walls in two of the Branch House's long galleries. Local winners included Glavé & Holmes, which won an historic-preservation award for the Newcomb Hall renovation at Washington and Lee University. Richmond firm SMBW won for its design of the new Luck Stone corporate headquarters, as well as for its contribution to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' expansion wing.
"If there is a common factor among the winning designs," says Richards, "it is a rigor and inventiveness in thinking about the design problem at hand."