Call it a sign of the times, but some of the best recent design work by architects has come in service of the humblest of projects.
At least according to judges of Kansas City architecture awards handed out Friday night.
Top honors in the American Institute of Architects/Kansas City design competition went to Helix Architecture, designers of a utility conduit bridge that spans Interstate 670 downtown, and to SFS Architecture, for a swimming pool facility constructed on a shoestring budget for a YMCA in Nevada, Mo.
The utility bridge, replacing the abandoned McGee Street overpass directly south of the Sprint Center, is covered by perforated zinc panels and, with pulsing blue LED lights, glows from within at night. Judges were impressed by how such a mundane project was elevated by inventive design.
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“I think it’s an amazing project,” said Mark P. Sexton, a Chicago architect and one of three awards jurors. Other members of the jury panel were Malcolm Holzman, a New York architect, and Susan Szenasy, editor in chief of Metropolis, an architectural magazine.
Receiving merit awards, or second place, were the city’s new Vehicle Impound Facility (El Dorado Inc.), a compound of buildings and parking areas that also incorporates stormwater treatment and other elements of sustainable design; a Missouri Bank building in the Crossroads Arts District (Helix); and an elegant trailhead shelter, designed by third-year architecture students at the University of Kansas. A citation award, or third place, went to El Dorado’s Quonset hut office complex for the Hodgdon Powder Co.
The AIA also gave awards in its Allied Arts and Craftsmanship competition. Top honors, chosen by another panel of jurors, went to four projects. They included the zinc paneling on the utility bridge (Helix and the fabricator, A. Zahner & Co.) and another project that spans I-670: the translucent “Pedestrian Strands” overpass fencing, which was a public-art collaboration involving El Dorado and artist James Woodfill. A residential exterior by Hufft Projects also won an honor award, as did the ornamental plaster work in the restoration of the Midland theater (Helix and Artisan Industry of Brentwood, Tenn.).
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