AIA Arkansas Blog


Jury Comments 2019 Honor Awards
Las Vegas; June 7, 2019
Sheila Leggett / 615.254.1233 /

Architects from the Gulf States Region of the American Institute of Architects gathered in Las Vegas during A’19 to celebrate the 2019 Honor Awards.  Seventeen projects were recognized for their innovative solutions to the design challenges presented.  Respected jury members chose these projects from those entered by architects practicing in the Gulf States region. The Honor Awards program identifies built works of distinction, and strives to promote the excellent work by architects from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Ronald B. Blitch, FAIA, FACHA with Blitch Knevel Architects in New Orleans assembled an outstanding group of design professionals to jury the entries.  Michael N. Lykoudis, FAIA (Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame) led the group as jury chair.  Dana K. Gulling (Assistant Professor + Director of Graduate Programs, School of Architecture, College of Design, NC State University, Raleigh, NC) and Aric Lasher, FAIA (Architect Principal, Director of Design, HBRA Architects, Chicago, IL) completed the jury.

The jury noted the wide diversity of project types and styles.  Among those recognized were a renovation from a conference center to a sushi restaurant, an auditorium, a treehouse, an ortho clinic, a cinema, a university residential project, educational renovations, a writing nook, an historic bank renovation, a TV studio, and an assisted living facility.  Jury members commented on the strong work being done in the region.  Together, they reviewed and selected the following 17 projects for recognition from the 169 entered.


Ozanam Inn Day Space
Architect: Tulane School of Architecture’s Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design (New Orleans, LA)

Jury Comments:

  • This ingenious and thoughtful amenity replaces an undignified, ad-hoc porch that served an essential purpose in less than satisfactory ways. This new space is comfortable, welcoming and gives pride of place for a community whose members were also engaged participants in the design process. Built with modest means, this element achieves design excellence, providing respite and refuge with dignity.

Tsunami Restaurant New Orleans

Architect: EskewDumezRipple (New Orleans, LA)

Jury Comments:

  • This interiors project brought an innovative use of natural light, materials and simplicity to create an elegant series of spaces divided by screens and floor levels. The use of ornament brought a layered level of scales to the wall planes of the screens and a transparency that facilitates the intimacy of the seating sections with a sense of connectedness to the entire restaurant.  The use of artificial light to emphasize the distinctiveness of each area was also noted.


Big Class Writers’ Room
Architect: Tulane School of Architecture’s Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design (New Orleans, LA)

 Jury Comments:

  • This innovative simple space received recognition for its architectural character and social mission to improve creativity in the school. Its use of inexpensive materials form an overall simple space that uses thin elements such as slats and wall panels to create a lively and layered space for elementary school children to write while offering tranquility and inspiration. The use of color and light were cost effective strategies that added to the ambience of the project.


Historic Federal Reserve Bank
Architect: Williams Blackstock Architects (Birmingham, AL)

Jury Comments:

  • This historic renovation preserves a beaux-arts jewel box of great refinement, and elevates a less-distinguished fifties addition through sensitive restoration, retention and repurposing of unique elements such as former bank vaults, and respectful incorporation of contemporary elements and finishes. Too often, historic buildings of this quality are lost due to their size, outmoded configurations or lack of imagination in finding new uses for them. A real gift to the street.

Hotel Napoleon

Architect: UrbanARCH (Memphis, TN)

Jury Comments:

  • This adaptive reuse project transforms a degraded component of the city’s historic streetscape, giving it new life serving new purposes. The restoration of the exterior is straightforward, and the street presence of the new hotel is bright and inviting. Contemporary interiors reveal original fabric where it survives and add vigor in place of dreary and anonymous preexisting office spaces. This is a tourist destination that speaks to Memphis’s historic past and present vitality with pride of place.


Renovations and Additions to Sophie B. Wright School, New Orleans, LA
Architect:  Waggonner & Ball, LLC (New Orleans, LA)

Jury Comments:

  • A renovation and adaptive reuse that respects the excellent bones of the existing building, revealing its best attributes, and expanding it in a way that is both dignified and contemporary. Interventions in the original building take advantage of historic features, and are beautifully resolved with sensitivity to existing conditions. A gentle approach that removed intrusive interventions that had occurred over time, yielding a bright and open environment that celebrates both historic fabric and contemporary needs.


Sue Walk Burnett Journalism and Student Media Center @ Kimpel Hall – University of Arkansas
Architect:  MAHG Architecture (Fort Smith, AR) & Dake Wells Architecture

Jury Comments:

  • This small project was noted for its animation of a space between Kimpel and Founders Halls. The placement of the building as a small object on an existing plaza allowed the large space between the two halls to be better scaled and creates an urban moment between the two buildings.  The use of artificial lighting also brings a golden glow to the space that lights and animates the space in the evening and night hours.


The Sutcliffe House
Architect: DEMX architecture (Fayetteville, AR)

Jury Comments:

  • This simple house is set in the rural landscape and is inspired by the physical and historic context of the area. Its glazed expanses focus views on specific buildings in the distance and are a reflection of the local vernacular farm architecture.  The section of the building allows for a visual fluidity between the loft and main living areas while the concealed stairs give privacy to the upstairs study and bedroom.  The location of the stairs also brings a complexity of the processional spatial sequence that is unexpected in such a small building.


Architect: archimania (Memphis, TN)

Jury Comments:

  • This new office building with a complex program for out patient medical services provided waiting areas that offered tranquility and elegance with the use of light and natural colors of the wall, floor and ceiling surfaces. The well-ordered floor plan brings legibility and easy navigation for the patients and staff while allowing for the efficient distribution of circulation and the programmed spaces.  The light well with its exterior garden is an amenity that inserted green space and nature within the interiors of the building.


The Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
Architect: Lake|Flato Architects and unabridged architecture (Bay St. Louis, MS)

Jury Comments:

  • The environmental issues that were addressed by this beautiful design were of particular note. From the siting of the complex to the use of open spaces and exterior covered areas, the approach to the criteria for the design was commendable.  Locally sourced wood for the structure and much of the enclosure provided ecologically sound strategies for the construction and natural durability and resilience over time.  This project is a wonderful illustration of how ethical decisions can create an esthetic continuity from the site to the individual buildings and pavilions.


The Eastland
Architect: Hastings Architecture (Nashville, TN)

Jury Comments:

  • This innovative design brings affordable and small sized apartments in a modern and beautiful building. With some gentle references to the original Bauhaus, the facades of the apartment building create vertical planes and surfaces that break up the scale of the complex and bring a unique character to each side of the building. The use of dark gray and white planes reinforce the layering of the façade.  The interiors of the apartments are simple and reflect the dynamic gestures of the exterior character of the building.


Georgia Tucker Assisted Living Facility
Architect: TBA Studio (West Monroe, LA)

Jury Comments:

  • An adaptive reuse project that achieves two admirable results: Restoring a long-neglected gem of great dignity and charm, and providing supportive housing for elders in an uplifting and architecturally excellent setting. This housing type is typically relegated to serviceable but undistinguished new construction or renovated buildings, but here both building and purpose elevate one another. Its excellence resides in its gift of two resources: One historic and architectural, the other, dignified, welcoming and essential to a multi-generational community: A twofold manifestation of respect for both past and present. A testament to endurance.



The Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Architect: modus studio (Fayetteville, AR)

Jury Comments:

  • This impressive tree house allows children to gain a connectedness to nature through an innovative and beautiful architectural statement. Made of wood with and careful use of transparency and dynamic forms, this tree-house brings the wonder of the natural world to those who traverse its various levels and spaces.  Beautifully simple, the architecture firmly embeds the project within the woods of the garden by perching it high above the grade as if suspended within the canopy of the trees.  The Venetian screens take on their form from the structure of leaves further expressing the nature that surrounds it.


The Montgomery Interpretive Center
Architect: Chambless King Architects (Montgomery, AL)

Jury Comments:

  • This museum, designed to commemorate the events and route of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, is an architecturally elegant building. Its design with the use of solid and transparent planes and surfaces provide legible and clear processional sequences in an ordered and dynamic manner. The use of natural materials to soften wall textures, also bring a sense of scale.   Of particular note is the graceful exterior ramp for accessibility and passage into the covered exterior entry. The use of a sandblasted limestone wall on the front of the museum to create an image of the march was particularly inspiring.


Vanderbilt University, E. Bronson Ingram Residential College
Architect: David M. Schwarz Architects and Hastings Architecture (Nashville, TN)

Jury Comments:

  • The new college for a major university demonstrates how to engage traditional forms in a carefully researched and knowledgeable manner. The use of traditional elements integrates this new building into the historical context of the campus while also exploring how modernity and tradition are complementary approaches for contemporary life.  The finely layered plan brings spatial complexity without sacrificing legibility.  The ornament and other architectural elements create a finely scaled building despite its large size.  The use of large expanses of glass brings transparency and light yet allow for intimate spaces through the well-thought out calibration of open and solid wall surfaces.


Skylight Cinema
Architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects (Little Rock, AR) in collaboration with Bercy Chen Studio

Jury Comments:

  • This simple design approach is complemented with exciting and bold materials such as copper and wood with architectural concrete, that animate and adorn the wall surfaces. Skylights bring a complexity to the section and allow natural light into the lobby of the building.  The well thought-out plan is both ordered and thoughtful and the placement of the program’s elements is legible and appropriate to its use.


Robinson Center Renovation & Expansion
Architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects (Little Rock, AR) in collaboration with Ennead Architects

Jury Comments:

  • The integration of the historic building’s façade with a modern expansive addition is an exemplary illustration of how historical and modern buildings can be brought together in a single, unified composition. In addition, the exterior walls of the western side of the building define and delineate the public plaza and entrance to the bridge.  Use of materials from the demolition such as the wood from the stage floor for the Patrons Lounge was seen by the jury as an important reminder to reuse materials whenever possible thus avoiding landfills and wasting embodied energy.

The Honor Awards were presented at the AIA Gulf States Region reception in Las Vegas in conjunction with AIA’s ‘19 Conference on Architecture. The assembled group took special pride in seeing that all five states had awarded projects, demonstrating the strength of the architecture profession in each.


More Information, contact: Sheila Leggett /AIA Gulf States Region/615-254-1233/