AIA Chicago Honors Three SOM Projects in 2018 Design Excellence Awards

The Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has honored three SOM projects with 2018 Design Excellence Awards. The award winners were announced at the 63rd annual Designight ceremony, which took place at the Navy Pier Aon Grand Ballroom on Friday, October 26th.

Optimo Hat Company won the Honor Award in the Interior Architecture category. The adaptive reuse project allowed Optimo—a luxury hatmaker with 25-year roots in the city—to consolidate its design, operations, and production spaces into a single headquarters in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Located in a decommissioned firehouse, the LEED Silver project preserves the historic character of the building while providing a contemporary workspace. Throughout the two-story headquarters, traces of historic details, including the original brick exterior and “City of Chicago Fire Department” bronze plaque, evoke the building’s origins. Interior architectural surfaces incorporate durable materials such as blackened steel, walnut, and cork.

The Elgin Laundry Building Study received an Honor Award in the Unbuilt Forward category, which recognizes projects that will not see completion yet address relevant social, cultural, and environmental challenges. Commissioned by Landmarks Illinois and developed in collaboration with the City of Elgin, the award-winning study proposes an adaptive reuse of the existing Elgin Laundry Building, originally designed in 1967 by Bertrand Goldberg, as a center for recreational and community use. The study aims to achieve zero net-energy status in line with sustainability goals set by the Living Building Challenge 3.0 by: incorporating photovoltaic panels in the roof geometry; introducing additional daylighting by providing skylight glazing infill to existing removable precast ventilation panels; and supporting natural ventilation and rainwater harvesting and reuse.

Ningbo Bank of China Headquarters received a Citation of Merit in the Distinguished Building category. The citation recognizes the building's design concept, execution, and originality. Anchoring the skyline in Ningbo Eastern New City, Zhejiang province, the 50-story building serves as the regional headquarters for the Bank of China. Each floor of the tower rotates one degree and steps in 100mm around the central core to create a seamless, twisting form from base to crown. Ample natural light permeates the interiors, which provide shifting vantage points of the city, mountains, and sea. A landscaped public plaza surrounds the building and connects the site with the nearby Fenghua River, encouraging foot traffic and creating pathways through the heart of the Financial District.