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Architecture Awards Fete Designs That Go Beyond Mere Style

October 15, 1989|SAM HALL KAPLAN | TIMES DESIGN CRITIC

A variety of projects, from a residential remodel in Santa Monica to a major branch library in Berlin, West Germany, took top honors in this year's design awards program of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Honors also went to an addition to an artist's studio in Venice that was once a gas station, an ocean-side fourplex in Malibu and a commercial complex in Santa Monica that includes an art museum. Also awarded were seven citations to a variety of other projects by local architects.

The designs, selected from a total of 135 submissions, "went to those projects which weren't necessarily avant-garde, but to those which the jury felt were well executed, beyond stylistic concerns," commented Larry Schlossberg and Herbert Nadel, co-chairmen of the chapter's awards committee.

The jury was composed of three out-of-town architects, Joseph Esherick of San Francisco, A. Eugene Kohn of New York City and Myron Goldsmith of Chicago. All are honored Fellows of the AIA, with Esherick also a recipient of the coveted AIA Gold Medal.

Concerning the overall quality of the submissions, Kohn said the large commercial architecture category was "most disappointing."

"It looks like buildings are still being transplanted from other places," he said, and that "tall buildings here tend to still be objects."

The jury also said it was disappointed in how few quality residential projects they saw. However, the three that did receive awards were cited for being firmly in "the great tradition of Neutra and Schindler."

These were a remodel of a 1960 tract home into a studio and residence for the Edwards family, designed by the firm of Appleton, Mechur & Associates; the Seacliff Homes in Malibu, by Stephen Kanner of Kanner & Associates, and the Tanaka/Ho residence in Venice, by Ted Tanaka. The former two received honor awards and the latter a merit award.

Transformed House

"The architect and an equally creative owner have succeeded in transforming an old tract house into a single unified house-garden design," said Esherick of the Appleton, Mechur & Associates project. Kohn noted in particular how the design "provides a sense of privacy and street wall along the street and a sensitive relaxed and light-filled response to the terraced gardens at the back."

The Seacliff design by Kanner was praised by Kohn for, among other things, "its simplicity of form, its clarity of plan and section, its feeling for light." Esherick added that "The project is a model of what can be achieved by a compact row house scheme, admittedly opulent but graceful and elegantly handled." The design also has been honored in this year's state AIA awards program.

In bestowing an honor award on the Okulick Studio in Venice, designed by Steven Ehrlich, the jury cited how the renovation and addition captured the essence of its uses, "vertical spaces, natural translucent light and large wall surfaces to feature objects of art."

Also honored were the designs by Frank O. Gehry & Associates of the Edgemar commercial and museum complex in Santa Monica, and Moore Ruble Yudell of the Humboldt Bibliothek in Berlin. The latter is the first phase of a cultural center for an ambitious government-sponsored master plan.

The Gehry design was praised by juror Goldsmith for its "mixture of simple buildings with sculptural elements," and the Moore Ruble Yudell design by Kohn for being sensitively sited, and for its interior.

Besides the Tanaka design of his own residence, other merit awards winners were Maris Peika of Gruen Associates for a parking structure in Beverly Hills; Leroy Miller Associates for the Leonard I. Beerman Early Childhood Center off of Sepulveda Boulevard in Bel-Air and the O'Leary Terasawa Partnership for the Marymount High School library, north of UCLA and Sunset Boulevard.

Parking Structure Cited

The parking structure adjacent to Santa Monica Boulevard between Linden and Beverly drives was praised by Esherick for greatly improving the street environment rather than degrading it, "as too often the case with parking structures"; the center by Goldsmith as "very appropriate for children," and the library by Esherick for fitting "gracefully" into a setting of older structures.

Other winners of merit awards were David Lawrence Gray & Associates for the adaptive reuse of the landmark Sunset Tower on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood from an apartment house to a hotel; Dworsky Associates for an expansion of an engineering building on the State University campus in San Jose, and Frank O. Gehry & Associates for the Herman Miller office furniture distribution center facility in Rocklin, Calif.

The reuse of Sunset Tower was called by the jury a "sensitive" and "faithful restoration"; the San Jose State expansion "a most successful solution, well executed" and "very professional," and the Herman Miller facility "refreshingly unconventional."

In a summary of the program, Schlossberg, a member of the firm of Gruen Associates, noted that of the 12 projects honored this year, at least five had been submitted last year but did not win.

"This brings up at least two points," Schlossberg observed. "First, persistence pays off, and second, we should all bear in mind, winners and losers alike, that these design awards while justifiably coveted, largely represent the opinions of three individuals on a particular day."

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