Among the 10 projects Architect magazine has honored with its 65th annual Progressive Architecture Awards are three by Harvard Graduate School of Design faculty. The three GSD honorees are assistant professor of architecture/MArch I Program Director Jon Lott (MArch ’05) for “Pioneertown House”; associate professor of architecture Eric Höweler for “Float Lab”; and assistant professor of architecture Andrew Holder for “Restaurant in Los Angeles.”
“There is a thrilling moment in every creative endeavor, when an idea has been wholly fleshed out and developed, but not yet realized in physical form. That particular moment of anticipation, of innovation on the cusp, is what the Progressive Architecture Awards celebrate,” Architect magazine says. “For 65 years and counting, the P/A Awards has served as a crystal ball for the built environment, revealing the influences, typologies, forms, and techniques of tomorrow.”
Lott designed the winning “Pioneertown House” through his firm PARA Project, intended for a site in the “seemingly alien landscape” of the Mohave Desert, in California’s Pioneertown. The particular site is a 5-acre boulder parcel owned by a Los Angeles couple seeking a weekend getaway and artist studio.
Lott took the existing cabin, built in the 1950s, and designed “a house around this house.” As the firm’s project description reads, “[Pioneertown House’s] organization takes cues from the natural landscape. But rather than piles of boulders (objects) it experiments with piles of rooms (voids). It plays with a ‘pilgrimage’ for these domestic types: rooms, courts, closets, counters, bookcases, pantries… All are actors. All pile and gather around the homestead.
“The separation and movement between them makes common ground between interior and landscape,” the firm continues. “Each of the rooms relates to the natural in very particular ways.”
Awards juror Florian Idenburg, associate professor in practice of architecture, noted the project “is formally very interesting: a collage of almost found spaces assembled into a whole. There is also something really elegant about how the interior and exterior blend together.”
Höweler takes a pier along Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River as the site for Höweler + Yoon Architecture’s “Float Lab,” which garnered an honorable mention in this year’s awards. Höweler designed the project alongside Höweler + Yoon’s J. Meejin Yoon (MAUD ’97).
“Float Lab” comprises a downward-sloping path from the pier’s furthest end, eventually semi-submerging pedestrians under the water level; the river water is held back by a steel wall lining the walkway, and floatation is achieved by a ballast that maintains the structure at the water’s surface.
As visitors proceed, they hear sounds of the river’s current and splashes via speakers inside the promenade.
“Using the site of a polluted urban river system which continues to undergo clean-up efforts from coal mining and other industrial manufacturing by-products, ‘Float Lab’ proposes to create an environmental installation, to re-experience the river in a completely new way,” reads the firm’s project description. “The resulting design allows the public to experience a significant urban American waterway and its ecology in a manner that ties environmental science to environmental art, and allows us to learn about how perception can influence stewardship.”
“I think it’s very topical, and I think it’s interesting how it addresses the issue of rising tides,” noted juror Reto Geiser. “I imagine being there with your head just above the water is a powerful experience.”
Also receiving an honorable mention, Holder’s “Restaurant in Los Angeles” presents a freestanding, two-story, indoor/outdoor restaurant in Venice Beach, California. The project arose from an unusual commission: design on spec, for a developer seeking to fill the space with a concept restaurant.
“Restaurant in Los Angeles” aims to create a sense of space and interior without a permanent envelope. To do so, Holder and LADG employed a sequence of intersecting barrel vaults to create a spatial experience of “niches and episodes,” heightened by construction technique and materiality.
With an eye to sustainability, the building is designed to take advantage of its own thermal mass: concrete and masonry systems hold down the maximum daytime temperature while re-radiating heat as the air temperature cools at night. This and other passive systems are augmented by a hydronic heating and cooling system embedded in the concrete that will raise or lower the temperature of the mass a few degrees during the day.
Read more about each of these projects, as well as the seven other awardees, in Architect magazine’s full feature.