The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the recipients of the 2018 Institute Honor Awards. The annual program recognizes excellence and distinction in architecture, urban design, and interior architecture. Two SOM projects were selected as winners: the new United States Courthouse in Los Angeles received an Honor Award for architecture, and the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library received an Honor Award for interior architecture.
The New United States Courthouse in Los Angeles, completed in 2016, is located on a prominent block in the city's downtown core. Both modern in spirit and rooted in classic principles of federal architecture, its design strengthens the Civic Center setting. Envisioned as a "floating" cube, the building employs an innovative structural engineering concept that cantilevers the structure's main glass volume above its stone base. A key challenge for the design team was to manage intense sun exposure while maintaining the building's alignment with the street grid. The solution is an innovative pleated glass facade that maximizes natural daylight while minimizing negative solar impact. Additionally, water harvesting techniques provide for 100% of the site’s landscape irrigation, plus a surplus that can be used for street cleaning.
In selecting the courthouse as an Honor Award recipient, the jury commented: "Traditional materials and architectural elements enliven its civic presence, while modern elements introduced through the glass assembly facade create an iconic image for a 21st-century courthouse building while also providing positive environmental performance. This powerful composition and the generosity of its public spaces gives the project a clear civic presence, separating it from its commercial neighbors."
Opened in 2015, the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library is a civic, educational, and social hub for Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. SOM designers worked closely with Chicago Public Library officials to find opportunities to increase the building's flexibility and utility. A central gathering hall provides clear orientation and spatial cohesion, reflecting Chinese Feng Shui principles. An adjacent glass-enclosed community room provides space for lectures, cultural gatherings, and other events. The colorful children’s area features playful dragon-inspired bookshelves and a family reading space. The second floor features panoramic city views and a 60-foot mural by Chicago artist CJ Hungerman that depicts the history of the neighborhood. The multimedia teen area incorporates space for studying, reading, and library programs, while the adult reading section includes open areas and collaboration rooms.
Sustainable design features include exposed radiant cooling and heating panels, LED lighting, a green roof, permeable paving, and a natural daylighting strategy. A solar shading screen integrated into the building’s curtain wall reduces heat gain without compromising views from the inside.
In awarding the library for its interior design, the jury noted: "The conscious approach for the building’s ideals for interior decisions are evident in the artistic expression of the history of the cultural identity of the community" and that "This is an exceptional project that...engages in a highly successful manner while being understated and fun."
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, and Mumbai.
About The American Institute of Architects
Founded in 1857, The American Institute of Architects consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world.