It's late fall and there's a perceptible change in the air. A quick frisson marks the transition from the warm, languid
flatness of late summer to the sharp chill of autumn. Something about this shift makes us feel more alert; attention must be paid. As we, the editors of residential architect, selected this year's Leadership Award winners, we sensed a deeper undercurrent of importance to this mission. That change in the air we all feel signifies a moment in time when architects finally have the ear of the American public once again. They are listening, they are learning, and they are hungry for answers to their questions. How should we live? Where should we live? Why are we dissatisfied with so much of what we see around us? They are indeed looking for leadership, but on the more intimate, democratic level of equals—as partners and collaborators.
When we looked for inspiring architects for this year's Hall of Fame, Top Firm, and Rising Star awards, we searched for practitioners who share a missionary zeal. They feel a deep and abiding responsibility to their clients, sites, towns, and planet. They're struggling with the big questions and they're making strides toward some important answers. Hall of Fame winner Sim Van der Ryn taught and thought about earth-friendly architecture ahead of most of today's green design experts. Top Firm winner Frank Harmon shed his ego long ago to make room for finer responses to site, client, and program. And Rising Star David Hacin is exploring the tension between what's old and new as he rescues and revives Boston's decaying buildings. As a group, these architects aren't grasping at fame and fancy in the short term; they're designing and building for the long haul. They're agents for thoughtful, sensitive, beautiful change.