Winners of residential architect's 2011 Leadership Awards were honored at a luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 8, during the first full day of sessions. The 2011 honorees are Will Bruder, AIA, Hall of Fame; Marlon Blackwell Architect, Top Firm; and Gray Organschi Architecture, Rising Star. Editorial director S. Claire Conroy presented the awards as well as project highlights from each firm's body of work. Full profiles on the winning firms can be seen in ra's September/October issue.
Following the awards presentations, the winning architects gathered on stage for a discussion with attendees. The theme of this inaugural award-winners panel was the future of residential architecture. All of the 2011 winners are actively involved in the education and mentorship of future architects, so they shared their philosophies on what students should be learning and experiencing during school as well as what direction they see housing design and construction heading.
This was an open panel consisting entirely of questions and answers about the future of residential architecture and interesting debate on the role of the architect in today’s challenging and changing world. Below are some highlights from what each panelist had to say.
Will Bruder threw down a gauntlet to ra and those present to revive the Case Study program. He feels those experimental houses “really speak to what it means to live in the present time and culture around you.” Bruder also emphasized education as the key to the future of residential architecture and said he wants to see more emphasis on basic principles of scale, proportion, and paying attention to the site. He says students need to experience more—travel, study history, learn to draw to scale. He adds that paying attention to pragmatic details is also being overlooked. An architect’s primary responsibility is to listen and pay attention to the pragmatic aspects of each project he explains. “It’s about communication with the client. All of my works are dialogues and that makes a difference. It’s why I have become friends with so many of my clients. To be both passionate and compassionate about what we do takes us a long way toward our goal of doing our best work every time.”
Marlon Blackwell agrees that basics are being overlooked in architecture schools. “I’m not seeing a lot of students focused on really fundamental aspects of building well or learning the crafting of light, material and space,” he says. “We have all of these things we’re trying to be responsible for like sustainability and project deliverability, but ultimately the challenge is making good architecture.” Blackwell doesn’t feel the private, single-family house will disappear although he sees it getting smaller and being of higher quality as a continuing trend. He says architects should evolve and adapt to such trends without forsaking core values of making beautiful places. He continued by admonishing the profession for not paying enough attention to quotidian buildings like retail malls, car dealerships, or housing. “About 80 to 90 percent of the architecture where I live is pretty bad,” Blackwell laments. “We as a profession are really good at honorific buildings like embassies, museums, and libraries, but when it comes to everyday buildings we’re pretty dismal. But you can make a difference one building at a time.”
Lisa Gray and Alan Organschi talked about what a pivotal time this is for architects. The believe that the profession is in place to effect change and do good in terms of helping with global issues like energy use, better urban planning, poverty, and preserving natural resources. “. It’s an exciting time to be an architect because architects are really trained to think about the kinds of issues concerning the built environment that are challenging our world today,” says Gray. She adds that architects are involved in a number of disciplines relevant to generating positive change and uniquely placed to manage some of these major challenges facing the world today. The couple feels architects should be at the center of sustainability issues and in their own practice they are focused on acting carefully in a local way while being aware of the effects on the greater community and city.