Big projects command the most media attention, but small works of art and architecture can still make a splash. That’s the ethos of AIA Chicago’s fourth annual Small Projects Awards, which last week named 13 honorees among 96 entries that included Chinatown’s new boathouse, a barn-like complement to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house, and an un-built “Safe House” for tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri. The winners fell into one of five categories: 1,001-5,000 Square Feet, 500 Square Feet and Under, 501-1,000 Square Feet, Objects, Un-built Buildings. (Last year's winners.) Little You is a speech therapy center built with a modest budget of $154 per square foot. Made of black manganese modular brick and clear anodized aluminum, the modern building embraces the neighborhood’s 50s-era commercial building stock. Mies’ archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is sinking. While preservationists decide how to minimize damages from future floods, the Barnsworth Exhibition Center provides temporary exhibition space for Edith Farnsworth’s wardrobe. Recycled lumber scraps from the circular-plan barn went to create an end-grain floor. Not attempting to out-Mies Mies, the Barnsworth instead nods to the site’s agrarian setting. Safe House won the un-built buildings category for its mission to provide refuge from storms like the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri in 2011. Built with insulated concrete forms, from foundation to exterior walls to roof, the efficient construction method reduces energy bills by 50 percent, according to designers Wrap Architecture. The concrete roof is left exposed, pattern imprinted and sealed. Screens are rated to wind forces of 175 mph, so a safe room is included for the most severe storms. Read about all the entries here.
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It looks like design history is in the air here in Chicago. The Chicago Design Museum is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to launch an exhibition looking back at 100 years of graphic arts. Chicagoisms just opened at The Art Institute—a meditation on Chicago’s architectural history and mythology that builds off a previous exhibition of unbuilt work reviewed here. Now another exhibit glances at Chicago's design history to better assess its present and future. Chicago’s design history will be on the menu at a new exhibition, CHGO DSGN: Recent Object and Graphic Design, which opens at the Chicago Cultural Center on May 30, from 6:00–10:00p.m. The exhibition runs through November 2, 2014. “Chicago has long been regarded as an international center for design, and this retrospective celebrates the region’s creative and innovative spirit,” reads a press release for the show. Curator Rick Valicenti, who won Cooper Hewitt’s 2011 National Design Award for Communications Design, and display designer Tim Parsons said in a statement that they want to celebrate Chicago’s design history, from early print developments through international modernism, and probe its future with more than 200 works that range from functional objects to theoretical proposals. Among the pieces on display will be Ania Jaworska's 8-foot-tall architectural model, Monument for Them, and an 80-foot print by Chicago photographer Sandro that includes 115 of the exhibitors—an homage to Richard Avedon's famous portrait of the Chicago Seven.
The Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects honored 107 projects with its annual small project awards last Friday, putting the spotlight on objects, small structures, and small firms. According to the AIA Chicago, "the goal of this award program is to raise public awareness of the value that architects bring to small projects and to promote small practitioners as a resource for design excellence." This year, the third year for the awards program, small projects were honored in four categories: Additions/Remodeling, Kitchens, New Construction, and Small Objects. “Big ideas and transformational spaces come from creative people, and those people are at firms small and large,” AIA Chicago Executive Vice President Zurich Esposito said in a statement. “The Small Projects Awards reward that innovative thinking that works on a smaller scale.”