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Designers and Patrons Honored at American Architectural Foundation Gala

March 26, 2013
Photo by Architectural Record
The American Architectural Foundation's Accent on Architecture gala was held in Washington, D.C., at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium—a Neoclassical building designed by San Francisco architect Arthur Brown Jr. and completed in 1931.

“Steve said that he was at the nexus of art and science,” said Peter Bohlin, referring to the late Steve Jobs, the Apple founder and his most famous client. “We are at the nexus of people and places.” Bohlin used the analogy to explain the success of the Apple stores designed by his firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, after receiving Architectural Record’s Good Design is Good Business Lifetime Achievement award on Friday night.

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He was one of three honorees at the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) Accent on Architecture gala, which packed the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., with a sold out crowd of more than 500. While Bohlin won for his firm’s architecture, powerhouse real-estate developer Gerald Hines accepted Architectural Record’s lifetime achievement award on behalf of his eponymous company’s patronage of architecture. The AAF conferred its own Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in Urban Design on Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett.

AAF president and CEO Ronald Bogle kicked off the evening with an update on the foundation’s work and a few announcements, beginning with the news that the AAF’s Sustainable Cities Design Academy, which provides ecologically focused educational programs and technical expertise to local leaders, will expand into China this year. Bogle also announced that the foundation’s Center for Design and Cultural Heritage is wrapping up negotiations with the National Park Service to partner with its Save America’s Treasures grant program, which provides direct support for historical conservation work on architecture, sites, objects, and other cultural patrimony. Finally, he drew applause for the news that retail giant Target has pledged support for the AAF’s new Design for Learning initiative. “The initiative will be focusing on school design and highlighting the role that architecture plays in contributing to student success,” he said.

When Bogle wrapped up his announcements, Record editor in chief Cathleen McGuigan took the stage to introduce the Good Design is Good Business awards, a 15-year-old program recognizing architecture that quantifiably helps businesses achieve strategic goals while benefitting employees, clients, and the public. After presenting Bohlin with his lifetime achievement award for architecture, McGuigan sat down with the architect for a talk show-style interview. When asked about working with Jobs, he looked back at his firm’s Emeryville, California, building for Pixar. Completed more than a decade ago, the 200,000-square-foot building, now named for Jobs, organizes workspaces and a theater around a massive open area. “It has this great social heart,” said Bohlin. He related his work on that project to the 19 (and counting) Apple stores his firm went on to design, including the landmark glass cube on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, which he said, was inspired by the design of Jobs’s NeXTcube and Power Mac G4 Cube computers. The visionary and notoriously controlling Jobs was a hands-on client, explained Bohlin. “He was certainly fully involved in the early years, and we found the right solutions together,” he said. “As time went on, he trusted us more and more.”

The evening moved from civic landmarks to city planning when Bogle returned to introduce the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award. Named after the longtime mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, and given in conjunction with the United States Conference of Mayors, the award recognizes the mayor of a U.S. city who has used architecture and planning to improve constituents’ quality of life. Accepting the honor, Cornett celebrated his city’s economic boom and attributed its series of new downtown projects—including the 52-story Devon Energy Center designed by Pickard Chilton, who were also sponsors of the gala—to an investment in design for everything from streets to bridges to fire stations. “We have successfully convinced the majority of suburbanites that the quality of their lives is directly related to the intensity of the core,” he said. “You can't be suburb of nothing. We tried that. It didn't work.”

The final honoree at the event is also familiar with reshaping skylines. “Long before anyone coined the word ‘starchitect,’ Gerald Hines understood that good design added value to commercial real estate,” said McGuigan before giving the Good Design is Good Business lifetime achievement award for a patron to Hines. From Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s 1976 Pennzoil Place in Houston to the Norman Foster-planned CityCenterDC taking shape a few blocks from the event, the developer’s company has long hired prominent designers to realize ambitious projects. “Great design is helpful, but what it really meant to us was that we could be a very major symbol in a city,” he said accepting the award. “If we can achieve that, then we're going to be the last to lose a tenant and the first to gain one.”

His coupling of public benefits with private interest resonated with a sentiment voiced earlier by McGuigan that became a refrain for the evening. “Over the years, we've seen the world of architecture change the design priorities of businesses with new types of workplaces, a growing emphasis on sustainability, and enhanced contributions of corporate architecture to the public realm,” she said. “That last point ultimately makes the Good Design is Good Business program so important, and it echoes the mission of the American Architectural Foundation to improve the places where we live and work.”

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