What is an Award Winning Project?

Tim Hickman AIA, LEED AP, Principal at substance architecture

When you enter an AIA design awards program you may wonder what the criteria for judging excellence may be.  This year Substance Architecture was invited to organize the awards jury for the AIA South Dakota 2019 Design Awards. 

We were asked what we are looking for in an outstanding architectural design awards entry.  For us, an exceptional architectural project, first and foremost, must have a set of organizational ideas that are clearly expressed in the final construction.  Firms and individuals preparing awards entries should show these organizing ideas through the photographs and drawings you present.  When judging the entries we will ask ourselves some of the following questions: 

  • Is the project organization clear, and do all of the spaces, details, and material choices support the idea and the organization?
  • Based on the photographs that we are being shown, does the architect tell the story well? 
  • Do we feel like we are seeing the entire project (is the ugliest façade being left out)?
  • Does this project excel at meeting the owner’s needs elegantly?  Does it excel in terms of sustainability, cost effectiveness or other areas of technical innovation?

When all of these factors are weighed, some project stand out as examples of excellence.  The jury will typically review the awards entries many times, with the winners having been examined minutely.  After all of this review, by all of the jurors, from multiple perspectives, the award winners are selected.

Tim Hickman is an architect and Principal at substance architecture in Des Moines, IA.
substance is serving as the 2019 AIA South Dakota design awards jurors.

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