America's (16) Top Models
The U.S. General Services Administration buys design for you; its biennial design-excellence citations celebrate the best of those precious commissions
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 5/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
A courthouse, a public art installation, and a World War II memorial book may seem to be disparate pursuits. But what they share—based on a litmus test of a handful of criteria administered by nine judges—is the official designation as the best design contributions commissioned last year on behalf of the American people.
Of 143 entries vying for the U.S. General Services Administration's 2004 Biennial Design Awards, 16 were named models of superior federally funded work. Three emerged with honors.
GSA is the agency that allots the government's $66 billion budget for federal buildings, services, and equipment. Roughly $1 billion is earmarked annually just for design and construction. This year, the agency's prized commissions passed the judges' scrutiny for aesthetics, function, cost-efficiency, and perceived lasting impressions. Submissions may be in any of 20 categories—hence the wildly varied winning projects.
Among those receiving special honors, Morphosis's green proposal for the Federal Building in San Francisco was particularly remarkable. Its planned tower would feature walls that "breathe," thanks to a sophisticated metal skin built to reduce heat-retention.
Citations, such as one for the interiors of the Phoenix Courthouse and Federal Building by Thomas Phifer and Partners with Gould Evans Associates, also represent outstanding achievements. "Many courthouses have excellent interiors, but too few focus on needs of the everyday worker," says jury chair Mack Scogin, "These winners show their commitment to improving the public realm."