Last night in a virtual celebration, the AIA Dallas announced the winners of its 2020 Unbuilt Design Awards. A jury made of Inanc Eray, founding partner of Eray/Carbajo; Jen Maigret, founding principal at PLY+ and an associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, and Jesús Robles, founding principal of D U S T and an instructor at the University of Arizona, selected projects from Gensler, Dallas-based designer Eric Gonzalez, and Dallas-based firm Agent Architecture as the night’s winners out of a pool of 42 entries. Dallas-headquartered firm 5G Studio also won a people’s choice award.
The winners showcased a variety of styles and approaches but shared a sensitivity to context and regional landscapes.
The Dallas: Freeways Hacked proposal from Agent Architecture cheekily advertises a future Dallas where the highways ringing the city have been converted into a linear park system featuring elevated habitats for wildlife, recreational waterways, a hippodrome for drone racing (“the premier hygienic sport,” said the designers), and a venue for contactless outdoor dining. The proposal was the only winner to explicitly address life in the age of COVID-19, though it was not the only one to sensitively engage with public outdoor space and think about its site on a regional scale.
Gensler’s Frisco Public Library proposal, an adaptive reuse of an industrial “tilt-wall structure [that] was once used to manufacture rocket ships,” according to the firm, was inspired by the surrounding Blackland Prairie’s Dogtrot-style homes, which feature a breezeway through a small cabin. Gensler’s design would add a new volume to an existing Frisco, Texas, building and would add entrances where the new and old masses meet, just as Dogtrot homes feature entrances on either side of their breezeways. The project’s site plan also includes extensive landscaping meant to recreate a slice of the almost completely destroyed local prairie ecosystem.
The Converse Guest House by Eric Gonzales, which previously won the Iceland Thermal Springs Guest House competition, envisioned two sensitively sited cabins for a resort in Northern Iceland. In the design, two single-story, wood-clad buildings with nine-square grid plans sit askew from one another while long boardwalks approach them through the rugged Nordic landscape.
5G Studio’s Batu Hotel, the people’s choice award winner, envisioned a 28-story tower in the Indonesian countryside, and the jury conjectured that the proposal’s dreamy imagery of foggy mountain views and moody spalike interiors won over the voting public.
In a discussion after the awards announcements, jurors emphasized the importance of exploring bold ideas in design, especially in the era of COVID-19 and acute climate change, and celebrated the role of the Unbuilt Awards in highlighting ideas that push the boundaries of the profession and guide the world toward a better future.