AIA Arkansas Blog

6 of 10 Gulf States Design Awards go to AIA Arkansas Members

Gulf States Architects Celebrate Design Excellence

Architects from the Gulf States Region of the American Institute of Architects gathered in Chicago to celebrate the 2014 Honor Awards program.  The renowned members of the Kansas City jury noted the diversity and outstanding design of the projects they viewed from architects practicing in the Gulf States. “Respect for history in the renovation/restoration projects,” “attention to detail,” and “simple yet elegant detailing” were some of the common themes running through the jury comments when discussing the merits of these designs.  This Honors program identifies built works of distinction, and ten projects were recognized as exemplary design solutions.

An accomplished group of design professionals from the Kansas City area juried the projects.  David Powell, AIA, of Hastings Architecture Associates in Nashville, TN acted as Program Chair.  Jury Members: Chair, Steve McDowell, FAIA, founding Principal and Director of Design at BNIM; Jamie Kolker, AIA, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Planning and Director of Capital Projects in Facilities Planning & Management at Washington University; and Laura Pastine, AIA, Project Architect at BNIM.

Together, they awarded ten projects from the 109 submittals from architects in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.


Vol Walker Hall & The Steven L. Anderson Design Center, Fayetteville, AR
Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architect (Fayetteville) with Polk, Stanley, Wilcox Architects (Little Rock)

Program Statement:
The addition and renovation to the Fay Jones School of Architecture in Vol Walker Hall at the University of Arkansas is a complex but resolute hybrid of a beautifully restored historical building (65,000 SF), and a modern addition and insertion (37,000 SF). This restoration instills new life in Vol Walker Hall, the campus’s original library and home to the School of Architecture since 1968.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Composition of two masses is so compelling with the new complimenting the mass and proportion of the old, but with new language
  • Fits the context in a contemporary way
  • Could have been foreground building, but works wonderfully as backdrop
  • Great interior integration – seamless
  • Nice to see forward thinking, not looking back (stuck)
  • Could have been so pretentious
  • Really nice project masterfully pulled off

Conservation Hall, Tennessee Governor’s Residence, Nashville, TN
Architect: archimania (Memphis)

Program Statement:
The architects’ challenge was to create a progressive multi-use space for a State Governor’s Residence.  The high-performance addition should be site-friendly and accessible, and sympathetic to the existing Georgian Home with minimal impact.  The project honors the State Residence by framing and supporting it, rather than upstaging it.  It is currently awaiting LEED Gold Certification.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Bold proposal, doesn’t compete
  • “unbuilding” is brilliant
  • Clever solution to common problem of adding to historic architecture
  • So well done – could have been awful
  • Made mansion more important by memorializing it
  • Deals with B.O.H. functions quite well
  • This is not just about the gimmick of going subterranean, the details are really fantastic (and many are hard to pull off)

North Presbyterian Church, Cleveland, OH
Architect: SILO AR+D (Fayetteville)

Program Statement:
This urban church houses a unique congregation in Cleveland, Ohio.  The architect undertook a renovation to an existing warehouse for an urban church which includes multifunction sanctuary space, small conference rooms, offices and support spaces.  The new facility had to be extremely low cost to build, operate, and maintain.  The result is a unique, distinguishable, and inviting image.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Jurors were quite taken with this project
  • Jurors believe that the award should also go to the congregation and community for believing in such adventurous thinking
  • Fabrication is impressive, but purposeful
  • Really beautiful – high impact with few resources
  • Incredible budget


Northwest Arkansas Free Health Center
Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architect (Fayetteville)

Program Statement:
Previously located in a moldy and dilapidated space, the new home of the Northwest Arkansas Free Health Center (FHC) is bright and airy, and is located on the University of Arkansas Medical School campus.  The architect designed a new home to bring dignity to the underserved.

Jury’s Comments:

  • This is a very humane solution, respectful to the use
  • Very clearly organized with beautiful contrast of colors
  • Well drafted
  • Nice that exterior was left alone – makes for intriguing contradiction with interior but with a hint of what’s to come via the entry
  • At $71/sf, it’s nice to know they could afford such nice furniture!

Civic Theatre Restoration, New Orleans, LA
Architect: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (New Orleans)

Program Statement:
Until recently, an 800-seat theatre venue in downtown New Orleans had been a shadow of its colorful days of stage performances, music and vaudeville.  This restoration and renovation brought it to life again.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Engaging, very nice; gritty in a beautiful way
  • Great entry experience, well-choreographed
  • Clear delineation of old and new
  • Captures historical spirit, but great that it’s been modernized and multi-purposed

Fayetteville Montessori Elementary School
Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architect (Fayetteville)

Program Statement:
The Montessori Elementary School sits in the small triangular remainder of a site prone to flooding and houses classrooms, a conference room, and a new commercial kitchen.  This certified LEED Silver project illustrates that a shared commitment to economy and environmental responsiveness is not exclusive, but can inform and act as an inspiration for the design.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Thoughtfully done, no wasted moves
  • Three materials, very simple, which is hard to do
  • Excellent detailing
  • Appears to be speaking to children in a playful, but mature way —  not in the obvious primary color way
  • Nice way to teach and learn


Jobie L. Martin Classroom Building, Hinds Community College
Architect: Duvall Decker Architects, P.A. (Jackson, MS)

Program Statement:
This new laboratory and classroom building on the Technical Center campus of Hinds Community College in Jackson, MS includes six classrooms, laboratories, offices and study areas.  The new building, sited to shape a future campus green, fits in this understated and pragmatic context, but it also elevates the prospect of the campus.

Jury’s Comments:

  • This project is practical, efficient and smart
  • They took a traditional building program and created something special
  • Really nice section – well thought passive sustainable solutions
  • Nice composition of strategically placed vision glass within translucent glass

Eco Modern Flats
Architect: Modus Studio (Fayetteville)

Program Statement:
Eco Modern Flats is a sustainable modern design renovation of an existing 96-unit apartment complex.  This project is the first LEED for Homes Multifamily Platinum project in the state of Arkansas.  It re-imagines space in a palette of steel and cedar to breathe new life into an otherwise banal, layered construction system.

Jury’s Comments:

  • This would be a really cool place to live; I want to live there!
  • Great example of doing a lot with a little
  • This could have been torn down, but in the right hands with a few simple, but effective moves, this is a surprising success
  • It’s like a little modern day Melrose Place!

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM)
Architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects (Little Rock)

Program Statement:
The repurposing of a small abandoned mid-century modern bank into the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM) lifts expectations for a neglected neighborhood, serves as an exemplary tale of urban reuse and renewal, and acts as a beacon for the arts.  The challenge of new architecture is creating that first personal statement that reflects a client’s mission through design – buildings should mirror their use.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Jury really liked the initiative and transformation of a building that would typically be thrown away
  • Great leveraging of what’s inherently nice about the building
  • Looks like a civic building new – it seems like it’s taking art to the people
  • Really holds up in the commercial strip (the last image is wonderful)

Old Briar
Architect:  Applied Research (Knoxville)

Program Statement:
Old Briar is a private residence in rural west Tennessee; the childhood home of the clients who are returning home after 25 years in Chicago.  Located on an 80-acre working farm, the home they envisioned needed to communicate respect for the landscape as a resource supporting the region, the ethics of sustainable agrarian practices, and humility, deeply rooted in their upbringing.

Jury’s Comments:

  • Thoughtful, well crafted, intentional design, custom tailored to fit the clients, nothing taken for granted
  • Nice story
  • Successful blurring of lives between indoor and outdoor
  • Beyond the obvious farm vernacular
  • Avoided (with great success) the typical traps of how these projects get stuck in pastiche

The Honor Awards were presented at the AIA Gulf States Region reception in Chicago, Illinois in conjunction with AIA’s National Convention.