Meet the winners of our 2021 Best of Practice Awards

Best of Practice Awards

Meet the winners of our 2021 Best of Practice Awards

The design of the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre, by Trahan Architects, was recently honored by the AIA Awards. (Leonid Furmansky)

For years, The Architect’s Newspaper has acknowledged the work of industry leaders through its annual Best of Design and Best of Products Awards, but the firms themselves never got the star treatment…until now. With the first-ever Best of Practice Award, AN tips its hat to North American firms excelling at every level of the AEC industry. And we mean every level—from architecture and landscape to interiors and lighting, from construction and fabrication to wayfinding and photography. Honoring firms of all sizes and regions, and spanning 37 categories in all, the award offers a snapshot of what practice looks like today.

In the spirit of the past year, the judging process took place entirely online, with 16 jurors selecting the winners and honorable mentions according to relevant criteria. AN editors also singled out firms for special commendation in nearly all categories. Scroll on to see the winning firms!

The Best of Practice Awards Jury:

Verda Alexander
Founding Partner
Studio O+A

Refik Anadol
Refik Anadol Studio

Sean Canty
Studio Sean Canty

Katherine Darnstadt
Design Trust Chicago

Jared Della Valle

Erleen Hatfield
Managing Partner of Hatfield Group
Hatfield Group

Michael Hsu
Founding Principal
Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

Samuel Medina
Executive Editor
The Architect’s Newspaper

David A. Rubin
DAVID RUBIN Land Collective

Pascale Sablan
Beyond the Built Environment

Troy Schaum

Erica Stoller
Advisor/Former Director

Ian Thomas
Art Director
The Architect’s Newspaper

Kim Yao

Ann Yoachim
Alberta and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design at Tulane School of Architecture

Michael Young
Founding Partner
Young & Ayata


Architect (XL Firm) – Northeast

photography depicting a contemporary building with a sloping metal roof, with pedestrians underneath
SHoP Architects designed this canopy structure at Manhattan’s Pier 35. (Courtesy SHoP Architects)

SHoP Architects

“SHoP Architects has been at the forefront of architectural practice for decades—not just in terms of design caliber, but perhaps more importantly in redefining design process. Their model of practice demands that project tools, methods and modes of delivery evolve, and they expertly wield this arsenal to execute complex, ground-breaking work.” —Kim Yao

Honorable Mentions
Ennead Architects

Beyer Blinder Belle

Editors’ Picks
Behnisch Architekten

Architect (XL Firm) – South

exterior photograph depicting a contemporary single-story building at dusk
CallisonRTKL’s Warren Medical Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Charles Davis Smith)

Callison RTKL

Architect (XL Firm) – West

WRNS Studio designed this clubhouse for its redesign of Boeddeker Park in San Francisco. (Matthew Milman)

WRNS Studio

Honorable Mentions

Architect (Large Firm) – Northeast

photograph depicting the split-level interior of a major tech office in New York City
A+I designed Squarespace spacious Manhattan offices. (Magda Biernat)

Architecture Plus Information (A+I)

“The firm’s portfolio of workplace interiors were exceptionally well detailed and cohesive. These spaces would be a wonderful place to work in both a collaborative environment or more physically distant as we are now. In addition, the firm has a record of gender and pay equity that exceeds industry standards and should be celebrated.” —Katherine Darnstadt

Honorable Mentions
Pickard Chilton


Editors’ Picks
GWWO Architects

Architect (Large Firm) – South

photograph depicting the interior of a performance hall
The design of the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre, by Trahan Architects, was recently honored by the AIA Awards. (Leonid Furmansky)

Trahan Architects

“The diverse and thoughtful work in this portfolio exposed a clear and intense relationship to both client and context. The work was remarkably versatile, showed clear technical capacity, and was tailored in a way that allowed me to see how carefully they tackled each inquiry.” —Jared Della Valle

Honorable Mentions

Oppenheim Architecture

Editors’ Picks

Architect (Large Firm) – West

photograph depicting the exterior of a vineyard tasting room with a dramatically sloped roof
Designed by Lever Architecture, the tasting room at the L’Angolo Estate is located 45 minutes outside the firm’s home base of Portland. (Jeremy Bittermann)

LEVER Architecture

“The presentation of [LEVER Architecture] was concerned with human scale and accessibility on many levels. While the projects varied in size, there was a consistent sense of humility, not hubris, from concept to design and construction.” —Erica Stoller

Honorable Mentions
Pfeiffer Partners Architects

CCY Architects

Editors’ Picks
Montalba Architects

Architect (Large Firm) – Midwest

photograph depicting the exterior of a wellness campus in Chicago with an orange facade
JGMA’s award-winning design for the Esperanza Wellness Campus in Chicago (Courtesy JGMA)


“This practice is able to create buildings that articulate nuanced relationships between form and material. The inventive application of material often produces playful effects that are artfully imagined.” —Troy Schaum

Honorable Mentions
Bailey Edward Design

Editors’ Picks
Pappageorge Haymes Partners

Architect (Small Firm) – Northeast

photograph depicting the interior terraced courtyard of a Rwandan health center
General Architecture Collaborative is a design nonprofit with offices in New York and Kigali, Rwanda. (Courtesy General Architecture Collaborative)

General Architecture Collaborative

“This non-profit design organization reinvents traditional notions of practice, enabling work that marries direct community engagement with design excellence and impact. Their projects combine research and technological innovation with local building craft and materials, grounding the work in the place and community that it serves.” —Kim Yao

Honorable Mentions
Reiser + Umemoto


Editors’ Picks
Bates Masi + Architects

Architect (Small Firm) – South

photograph depicting the exterior of a cylindrical education building clad in brick
BLDGS converted a cylindrical midcentury building at Georgia Tech into a new campus commons, complete with a maker hub, labs, and classrooms. (Bruce Damonte)


“Editing work with such extreme efficiency and thought requires diligence. The reward of this portfolio of work comes from a requirement that we patiently experience place as details reveal a story that is complex and unexpected.” —Jared Della Valle

Architect (Small Firm) – West

photograph depicting a contemporary apartment building clad in cedar vertical boards
LOHA clad this Detroit apartment complex in Western red cedar. (Jason Keen)

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA)

“LOHA is the kind of firm you dreamed of working for in architecture school. They serve a wide range of users, place the community and those served before form-making, and build experience-centered, complex and rich places from simple, elegant systems.” —Michael Hsu

Honorable Mentions
Robert Hutchison Architecture

Design, Bitches

Editors’ Picks
Signal Architecture + Research

Architect (Small Firm) – Midwest

architectural drawing depicting a fantastical house
studio:indigenous’s design for a “moon domicile” is based on the moon calendar of the Oneida Nation. (Courtesy studio:indigenous)


Honorable Mentions
PLY+ architecture, urbanism, design

Ross Barney Architects

Architect (New Firm) – Northeast

an exploded architectural diagram depicting the rehabilitation of an old harvesting complex
Aurélie Frolet and David Shanks founded ASDF in Syracus, New York, in 2020.(Courtesy ASDF)


Architect (New Firm) – South

photograph depicting the exterior of a contemporary mountain retreat outside of Asheville, North Carolina
Founded in 2018, Vellum Architecture & Design designed this mountain retreat in Asheville, North Carolina. (Courtesy Vellum Architecture & Design)

Vellum Architecture + Design

Architect (New Firm) – West

architectural rendering depicting a conceptual alteration of a historic Detroit house
The Los Angeles–based firm Shin Shin Architecture exhibited four hybrid homes in early 2020 at the city’s Wedge Gallery. (Courtesy Shin Shin Architecture)

Shin Shin Architecture

Landscape Architect – Midwest

photograph showing a newly landscaped park near Chicago’s Chinatown
Designed by site design group, the Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chicago was realized over two decades. (Andrew Bruah)

site design group, ltd.

Developer – Northeast

photograph showing the facade of a waterfront mixed-used development in Brooklyn
The mixed-use One John Street was developed by Alloy on the last waterfront site in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. (Laurian Ghinitoiu)

Alloy Development

“One of the impressive aspects of this submission is the high level of attention to design quality across different scales and contexts. This manifests in how the architecture is articulated in both the interior and exterior through subtle detailing and material decisions.” —Michael Young

Honorable Mentions
JDS Development Group

Developer – West

photograph of a midcentury California home with a wavy roof
The Los Angeles-based Stayner Architects says it doesn’t fit “squarely into the definition of architect, contractor, developer, or operator.” (Tim Hirschmann)

Stayner Architects

Developer – Midwest

aerial photograph depicting a Detroit development of Quonset hut–like homes
Prince Concepts’ True North development in Detroit previously won AN’s Best of Design Award for Residential – Multi-Unit. (Chris Miele)

Prince Concepts

Fabricator – Northeast

photograph depicting a series of metal panels configured in a spiral
The Toronto-based custom fabrication firm Eventscape recently opened an outpost in Long Island City, Queens. (Courtesy Eventscape)

Eventscape NYC

“The firm’s portfolio represented a scale of work from interiors to art objects and building facades that was indicative of the exemplary attention to detail and acumen with both digital tools and limitations of materials.” —Katherine Darnstadt

Fabricator – Midwest

photograph depicting the exterior of a contemporary glass office building at dusk
Erie Architectural Products deployed 3D modeling and other cutting-edge technology to realize complex curtail wall systems. (Courtesy Erie Architectural Products)

Erie Architectural Products Inc.

Structural Engineer – Northeast

collage of photographs depicting a contemporary library that incorporate extensive wood boarding inside and out
LERA Consulting Structural Engineers is a M/WBE structural engineering firm providing services to architects, owners, contractors, and developers. (Courtesy LERA Consulting Structural Engineers)

LERA Consulting Structural Engineers

“Describing complex mathematical impossibilities of architectural and artistic form with lyrical grace and a lightness of being, all while mentoring and empowering the collective consciousness of the studio: these are the characteristics of Best of Practice for a structural engineering firm. LERA’s breadth of impact, both within practice, within discipline, and within a portfolio of excellence elevated their submission to worthy recognition.” —David Rubin

Honorable Mentions
CRAFT | Engineering Studio

Structural Engineer – West

photograph depicting a rounded living room in a midcentury hillside Los Angeles home
Working with Bestor Architecture, Nous Engineering revitalized the structure and interiors of John Lautner’s Silvertop house in Los Angeles. (Tim Street-Porter)

Nous Engineering

Structural Engineer – Midwest

aerial photograph depicting a playful curvilinear building at night
HDR’s work for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska, has been commended by numerous professional organizations. (Corey Gaffer)


MEP Engineer – Midwest

photograph showing the interiors of a new university science lab
HDR developed the interiors of the Bellevue University Science Labs. (Courtesy HDR)


Photography Studio – Midwest

photograph showing a domestic interior with a faceted ceiling feature and light-filled hallway
Steve Hall and Nick Merrick founded Hall + Merrick Photographers in 2017. (Hall + Merrick)

Hall+Merrick Photographers

Honorable Mentions

Sustainability – Northeast

photograph depicting a shedlike structure with an open garage door and drone in the foreground
The Living’s Embodied Computation Lab in Princeton, New Jersey, repurposes salvaged scaffolding boards. (Courtesy the Living)

The Living

“I am impressed by the scope of ambitions reflected in work that is seeking to redefine the terms of the conversation around sustainability in design. The continuity of projects that bridge between research and built work is an important model for reimagining the relationships between building practices, material and energy.” —Troy Schaum

Honorable Mentions
Arrowstreet Inc.


Sustainability – Midwest

photograph depicting the exterior of a contemporary residence featuring prominent wood cladding
In its design of the Sikes Residence, Sol Design + Consulting attained a 45 percent reduction in energy use and a 29 percent reduction in water use, while diverting nearly all construction waste from the landfill. (Courtesy Sol Design + Consulting)

Sol design + consulting

Interior Design – Northeast

photograph of a restaurant with a prominent brushed mirror feature wall at center
The work of interior architect Rafael de Cardenas spans multiple continents. (Floto Warner)

Rafael de Cárdenas, Ltd.

“This submission caught my attention because it was such a curious and unusual portfolio. At once unexpected and familiar, the details and spaces are beautifully poetic, but also challengingly innovative. I see the references to music, film, fashion and design history they mention, and I think it’s this familiar yet futuristic presentation that makes this work so powerful.” —Verda Alexander

Honorable Mentions
Fogarty Finger

Hacin + Associates

Editors’ Picks
Arrowstreet Inc.

Interior Design – South

photograph depicting a domestic living room filled with plush pink furniture
Based in Miami, Britto Charette specializes in ultra-luxury residential interiors. (Courtesy Britto Charette)


Facade Consultant – Northeast

photograph depicting the exterior of a contemporary office tower with a patterned facade
Based in New York, CANY has more than 25 years of experience working with building enclosures. (Courtesy CANY)


Graphic Design & Wayfinding – Northeast

diagram showing the translation of patters textures and colors into wayfinding devices
Based in Boston, Arrowstreet is an architecture and design firm with a focus in graphics and wayfinding. (Courtesy Arrowstreet Inc.)

Arrowstreet Inc.

Lighting Designer – Northeast

A nighttime photograph showing a contemporary monument defined by a wide steel screen with trees and a lawn in the foreground
L’Observatoire International routinely collaborates on high-profile projects such as the new Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Halkin Mason Photography)

L’Observatoire International

Honorable Mentions
Fisher Marantz Stone, Inc

Editors’ Picks
TM Light

Lighting Designer – West

exterior photograph depicting a contemporary California residence that is partly suspended above the ground
For this hilltop Bel Air residence, Oculus Light Studio designed a lighting scheme that accentuated the home’s propellerlike form. (Matthew Momberger)

Oculus Light Studio

Lighting Designer – Midwest

photograph depicting an animated feature wall in the lobby of an office building
With offices around the world, HDR’s practice encompasses many disciplines, including MEP engineering, acoustics, and even lighting design. (Courtesy HDR)


Urban Planning – Northeast

architectural section drawing depicting a city street with a linear greenway down its center
With offices in Amsterdam and New York, One Architecture & Urbanism looks to connect themes of resilience and smart city techonology in its projects. (Courtesy One Architecture & Urbanism Inc.)

One Architecture & Urbanism

Acoustics Consultant/Engineer – Northeast

picture depicting a floating aquarium bowl with visitors resting underneath
Acentech’s acoustical expertise was pivotal to the experience of Miami’s Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, where large mechanical systems and crowds threatened to generate excessive noise. (Rafael Gamo)


Acoustics Consultant/Engineer – Midwest

photograph depicting the reading room of a healthcare center
(Dan Schwalm Photography)