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Awards tout creator of hip hotels

October 24, 2002|Susan Freudenheim | Times Staff Writer

Rooftop waterbeds and Jetsons decor caught the attention of the arbiters of design when they anointed hotelier Andre Balazs with this year's Design Patron award, as part of the Smithsonian's prestigious National Design Awards announced Tuesday night at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York. Balazs' hotels include Los Angeles' Standard Downtown, a former office building turned hipster haunt by the Santa Monica architecture firm of Koning Eizenberg last summer. He also revived the down-and-out Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip into a celebrity favorite, turned a nearby bland '60s building into the Standard and transformed a 19th century SoHo warehouse into the Mercer Hotel in New York.

"We've tried to create unique places which capture the spirit of the geographic location and the audience it's addressing," Balazs said Wednesday from New York. Using a different designer for each project is "more difficult, but worth the effort."

This year's Lifetime Achievement award went to landscape architect Dan Kiley, whose designs deftly merge building and site at some of the nation's best-known civic spaces, including New York's Lincoln Center, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the New York Botanical Gardens. Kiley also was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 1997.

Steven Holl, winner in the category of architecture design, is working on a new home for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The project's scheme, combining new construction with restoration and seismic retrofit of some of the existing structures, will be unveiled sometime in 2003. The New York-based architect said Wednesday that the Los Angeles museum is "my biggest project on the horizon right now." He is best known for his Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle and Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki.

Other winners include fashion designer Geoffrey Beene, named an "American Original"; the Whirlpool Corp. for corporate achievement; Lucille Tenazas for communications design; James Carpenter for environment design; and Niels Diffrient for product design.

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