Presenting the Project of the Year and finalists from AN’s 2023 Best of Design Awards

Winner Among Winners

Presenting the Project of the Year and finalists from AN’s 2023 Best of Design Awards

International African American Museum by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Hood Design Studio, and Moody Nolan (Fernando Guerra)

This year, AN crowned 37 winners, 45 honorable mentions, and 46 editors’ picks in our annual Best of Design Awards. Out of this robust roster, AN continues to elevate projects that truly push the boundaries with our final award: Project of the Year. This winner and each of the finalists have each won in their respective categories but, due to their excellence, deserve to be further distinguished.

A jury of respected architecture and design professionals combed through all 37 winning projects, considering aesthetics, social impact, and environmental responsibility, to arrive at a winner among winners. Here is 2023’s Project of the Year and runner ups.


Project of the Year

(Fernando Guerra)

International African American Museum

Sited at the port of arrival for nearly half of all enslaved Africans brought to North America, the design of the International African American Museum grants primacy to the seascape on which it fronts, the landscapes that frame it, and the memorial for which it provides shelter.

The 426-foot-long, one-story building volume, raised 13 feet above the ground on a double row of cylindrical columns, shelters a large open space that is the heart of the site’s collective memory. The materials reflect a careful contextual response to a highly charged historical site. The building is clad in a warm brick, with its glass-enclosed ends shaded by angled wooden louvers. Oystershell tabby clads the supporting columns and serves as paving in portions of the ground plane.

The site’s historical significance is honored with a stainless steel band symbolizing Gadsden’s Wharf and a brick-paved strip tracing the former storehouse where enslaved individuals suffered. A boardwalk with kneeling figures connects the past and present through polished granite walls.

At Gadsden’s Wharf’s edge, one’s gaze extends to Sullivan’s Island and beyond. A water feature pays tribute to the Atlantic Passage, revealing and concealing figures in its flow, encouraging reflection on history and dialogue for the present and future. These gardens draw inspiration from local and global African diaspora landscapes, providing serene spaces for meaningful discourse and contemplation.

This description was adapted from Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ and Hood Design Studio’s submissions

(Scott Norsworthy)

Neil Campbell Rowing Centre
“The Neil Campbell Rowing Centre (NCRC) serves as a venue for elite tournaments as well as a year-round training centre for athletes, continuing the site’s legacy as a historic rowing course. With a biased and overhanging roof, extensive glazing, operable sliding doors, and located steps to the racecourse, the profile of the building is expansive and striking. This architectural language is a nod to the passive measures that help the facility meet both zero-carbon emissions and net-zero energy design benchmarks, with cross-ventilation and sun control built into its form. Complemented by a material palette that is simple and robust, with mass timber as a defining element, the pavilion carefully balances visual appeal with concerns for operations and maintenance. Housing an entry space, rowing ergometers, a weight-lifting gym, lounge, and universal change/washrooms, the NCRC is a vital amenity on Henley Island.”MJMA Architecture & Design

(Naho Kubota)

East Flatbush Library
New York
“The East Flatbush Branch Library Renovation scope includes a full renovation of the entire exterior facade and roof, as well as the 8,000-square-foot interior. The design approach was three-fold. First, to create a more open and inviting facade that would make a direct connection to the street and community. Second, to bring in as much natural light as possible. As a single-story library with low rise neighboring buildings, the existing roof was transformed by cutting six large north-facing skylights that provide natural light throughout the central reading room. Third, the plan is organized with all support spaces (meetings rooms, offices, etc.) orbiting around the central naturally lit reading room. All rooms have either direct or shared light from this central space providing for an equity of light throughout the library where all rooms—like people—are created equal and having a right to light and views.”LEVENBETTS

(César Béjar)

Pabellón de la Reserva
Mexico City
“Nestled within Reserva Santa Fe, Pabellón de la Reserva emerges as a testament to a balanced way of life—an existence centered around the intimate embrace of nature, all conveniently situated just minutes away from the bustling metropolis of Mexico City. It represents an initial exploration, inviting users to embark on a transformative journey of experiential discovery—a testament to the possibilities and aspirations encapsulated within a living, regenerative building. It beckons individuals to immerse themselves in a realm where the boundaries between the built and natural environments blur, ultimately reshaping their understanding of what it truly means to inhabit and engage with the spaces we inhabit.”HEMAA

(Paul Vu)

Watts Works
“Replacing a vacant single-family home on a 6,140-square-foot lot, the project comprises a 25-unit affordable housing community in Los Angeles’s Watts neighborhood. An innovative building approach utilized 58 modular shipping containers to create micro-living studio apartments for unhoused individuals. The project features a community space, laundry room, secure bicycle storage, and service provider offices that offer on-site counseling, healthcare, and employment training.

The ground floor community room has street access and a landscaped patio. Boldly colored exterior stairways animate the facade and open-ended corridors connect outdoor spaces and promote natural cross-ventilation for the apartments.

Each micro-unit covers 320 square feet while optimizing efficiency and reducing waste by combining two standard 8 feet by 20 feet containers. The financing includes Proposition HHH funds and Mayor Garcetti’s Housing Innovation Challenge.

In 2022, the project gained global recognition as a circular building case study, presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.”Studio One Eleven

(Courtesy Mutuo and There There)

Mutuo+There There
Merida, Mexico
“Otoch reveals the layered stories of a 19th century house in Merida, Mexico’s historic core. The old stone house was Carlos Germán’s life project, and we come to Otoch to restore the existing building and continue to write a new episode in this enduring narrative. Our intervention is conceived as a distinct layer juxtaposed to the existing colonial-style building. The stepped arch—a reinterpretation of the Mayan arch—houses the new addition. The existing kitchen becomes the meeting point of old and new, with a new stepped roof that replaces the metal roof. A pool turns the garden into an outdoor living room, and a stepped chimney houses the mechanical room. To make each layer legible, our intervention uses a sole material—pink pigmented concrete— molded to generate distinct spatial conditions. The resulting home becomes a unique balance between past and present, traditional and original, that welcomes residents and visitors to experience this living narrative.”Mutuo