2018 Design Excellence Award Winners Announced


33 projects from firms with local and national reach honored at annual celebration

The Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Chicago) honored exceptional architectural projects at Designight 2018, the organization’s 63rd annual Design Excellence Awards ceremony and celebration. More than 1,000 architecture, engineering and construction industry leaders and professionals attended this year’s event at Navy Pier, which was hosted by Chicago television personality, producer and WTTW host, Geoffrey Baer. 

“Each year, we are proud to honor Chicago architects who continue to meet ever-changing project demands with progressive approaches that not only pay homage to rich architectural traditions but also address evolving global and cultural shifts with diverse and innovative solutions,” said AIA Chicago Executive Vice President Zurich Esposito, Hon. AIA.

Thirty-three awards were presented to projects in four categories:

  • Distinguished Building
  • Divine Detail
  • Interior Architecture
  • Unbuilt FORWARD

In its first year, the new Unbuilt FORWARD Award recognizes architectural design for projects that will not see completion but put a focus on relevant social, cultural and environmental challenges, as well as technological innovations that will drive the architecture profession into the future.

Twelve nationally renowned architects comprised the juries and evaluated hundreds of entries before selecting the winning projects. Each winning project received a specific distinction with the award. Honor Awards denote AIA’s highest distinction, emphasizing that Honor Award projects embody all elements of excellent design. Citations of Merit denote accomplished projects where the jury may have been divided. The Special Recognition category is by juror nomination, in which a project is recognized for a specific strength or accomplishment.

Among the entries awarded were a number of educational projects, including

“This year in particular, we saw many remarkable institutional projects that reimagined educational spaces as vibrant, inspirational destinations that truly have the ability to revitalize a community. These projects went beyond function - demonstrating unique details, intelligent concepts and distinction in architecture,” noted the jury.

Other awards recognized projects ranging from innovative manufacturing facilities to a major lifestyle center, including:

DMAC’s Midtown Athletic Club (Chicago, IL)

With its renovation, what was the largest indoor tennis club in the country transformed to the country’s largest lifestyle center. Finishes and materials were salvaged from the old club and reused for sustainability value as well as emotional value - original copper from the old fireplace and oak paneling from the lockers were repurposed as featured design elements.

Perkins+Will’s SRAM Headquarters (Chicago, IL)

The global bicycle component manufacturer’s active and high-performance environment connects employees through collaborative spaces and centralized social areas and reinforces their unique culture with a working lab and machine shop.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Optimo Hat Factory (Chicago, IL)

The workshop and headquarters can be found in a renovated, hundred-year-old, decommissioned firehouse on the city’s South Side where the contemporary design mingles with historic elements as well as both antique and modern machinery.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Peter Landon, FAIA, founder of Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA), established in 1987. With more than 40 years in practice, Landon’s portfolio includes a multitude of urban development and affordable housing projects. He attributes LBBA’s success and ability to offer designs that address the needs of diverse populations to its long-term relationships with developers, housing advocates and the local community.  

Winning projects will be featured in Chicago Architect magazine and highlighted in a presentation that includes all awards submissions on the AIA Chicago website.