Mark Lamster + Alexandra Lange | Distinctions

Lunch with the Critics: Fifth-Annual Year-End Awards

Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, and two critics kvetching. What would the holidays season be without some lumps of coal? For the fifth consecutive year, prodigal contributing editors Alexandra Lange and Mark Lamster return to these robin's egg blue pages to pick the best (and) worst of this year's architecture and design. No middle fingers, we promise.

The 2014 LWTC Year-End Awards

Jabba the Hut Award for Sensitive Urban Design: To George Lucas, for thinking he can dock that facocta Space Mountain on Chicago's Lake Michigan. PS: Hey George, no design approvals until you release the original Star Wars on DVD without your "fixes."

Most Unexpected Blobmeister: Peter Zumthor, whose hovering black form for LACMA continues to provoke headscratching.

Top Jargon of 2014: "tactical urbanism," now enshrined in a MoMA exhibition, and close colleagues "pop-up urbanism" and "bottom-up urbanism." We're dangerously close to enshrining the small moves as we once did the big plans.

Best Architecture Money Can Buy Award: Tadao Ando's new campus for the Clark Art Institute, a pristine if pricey exercise in museum building, with assists from Reed Hilderbrand and Annabelle Selldorf.

Most Architecture Money Can Buy Award: Frank Gehry does his thing in Paris, now with lots of glass.

Bringing Brutalism Back Award: David Adjaye's Sugar Hill tower, in Harlem. A kinder, gentler brutalism. 

Brutal Rejection of Brutalism Award: The Whitney departs its brooding, beautiful bastion by Marcel Breuer to hang out with Jean-Ralphio and his ilk in the Meatpacking District. Sigh.

First Brutalism, Best Brutalism Award: To Timothy Rohan’s long-in-the-writing (but couldn’t be more timely) The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. The rare monograph that leaves you wanting more—and we do wish there were more photos.

High and Low Award: Mailing tube maestro Shigeru Ban, admired for his humanitarian and sustainable design work, wins the Pritzker Prize and opens a striking art museum in Aspen.

You're So Money Award: Snohetta's pixelated redesign of Norwegian currency is the best thing to happen to cash since Phil Rizzuto. 

Austin Powers International Man of Mystery Award: The Museum of Modern Art, finally, announces the new chairman of its architecture and design department, and it's … Martino Stierli? Yeah, your guess is as good as ours.

Lousy Stewardship of Modern Architecture Award: At least Stierli wasn't around to see MoMA knock down the Folk Art Museum. Was it perfect? No. But what exactly is MoMA Inc. about?

Beyond Beige Prize: To Memphis, the 1980s Italian design collective that made laminate chic. With Nathalie Du Pasquier at American Apparel, Peter Shire at the A+D Museum, and a massive monograph on guiding light Ettore Sottsass, it’s clear we needed a break from good taste all over again.

Exhibition of the Year: The Thomas Heatherwick retrospective at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, coming soon to New York and Los Angeles, is a happy celebration of creativity. 

But Will It Play IRL Award: Heatherwick’s privatized “park” spaces for London (Garden Bridge) and New York (Pier 55), set up an uncomfortable choice between supporting design innovation and letting donors set urban priorities.

Making Mountains Award: To Bjarke Ingels, whose 57th Street peak will likely be the architectural opening of 2015, but who was canny to propose a gentler slope next to the Smithsonian’s Castle. No city left un-terraformed.

Atmospheric Effect of the Year: Fujiko Nakaya’s Veil, which enveloped Philip Johnson’s Glass House in mist. A rare piece of installation art (and Instagram catnip), that allowed you to see the architecture fresh.

Resistance is Futile Award: Philip Nobel quits criticism, joins the Borg that is SHoP Architects as editorial director. 

I Can See for Miles and Miles Award: Horizons, Sze Tsung Leong's monograph of precision panoramic landscape images, is our photographic monograph of the year.

Gritting Our Teeth Award: Postmodernism preserved? Michael Graves’s Portland building, as well as a host of other 1980s pediments, podia, and pilasters, are going to need their own defense fund.

Lines Look Good On You Award: The Sea Ranch turns fifty. Still hard to beat that combination of stunning landscape, weathered architecture and intricate interior delight.

Blue-Light Special Award: Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum pulls out its checkbook, imports a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian to Arkansas.  

What Goes Around, Comes Around Award: Zaha Hadid goes to court, forces a retraction from critic Martin Filler due to inaccuracies in a diatribe against her Qatari World Cup stadium and human rights record. Meanwhile, Japan’s greatest architects (Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Kengo Kuma, etc.) line up against her planned Olympic Stadium for Tokyo.

It's a Tough Game Award: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Inga Saffron wins the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, the first solo architecture critic to win since Blair Kamin in 1999. Meanwhile, the ProJo said goodbye to longtime curmudgeon David Brussat.

Silently Judging You Award: To Amie Siegel’s video installation Provenance, damning our covetousness of, and the market for, modern furniture from Chandigarh via gorgeous image-making.

Just Get a Room Already Award: Tim Goodman and Jessica Walsh go viral, get a movie deal for their massively irritating (and, we admit it, addictive) illustrated dating saga. Not seeing that movie. No way. Never. Okay, probably. 

Grumpy Old Man Award: Frank Gehry's R-rated commentary on architectural production; the truth, if indelicately put. Now get off my billion-dollar titanium and fritted-glass lawn.

Robert Moses Award for Longevity: Michael Morris, the tinpot dictator of the North Texas highway system, in office since 1990—that’s before Democrat Ann Richards, bless her soul, was governor.
Good for Women in Architecture Award: Amale Andraos of WORKac becomes dean at Columbia's GSAPP. Looking forward to more conferences like the recent Architecture and Representation: The Arab City.

Bad for Women in Architecture Award: Whether you count working architects, architecture school deans, guest lecturers at schools, or professional prizes, women still come in at under twenty-five percent. Judith Edelman (RIP), started the fight for better representation in the early 1970s.

Don’t Touch the Art Award: Aby Rosen commissions a lame-o engineering study to justify the removal of Picasso’s Le Tricorne from the Four Seasons. Hands off. 

Enough Already Award: To the 1,715 designers who entered the Helsinki Guggenheim’s open competition. Couldn't they have capped it after 100 torqued towers?

There Goes the Neighborhood Award: Cooper Union joins the gentrifiers remaking the East Village, starts charging tuition. Boo.

Stolen Thunder Award: To the Fulton Center, the one piece of the Ground Zero puzzle that's both architecturally surprising and urbanistically useful.

Blue Steel for Fashion Award: To Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinsiki, for bringing camp glamour—and real criticism—to the kitschy sequined world of Olympic figure skating.  

Best Winter Break Read: Louise Sandhaus's Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California Graphic Design, 1936–1986. A blast of West Coast warmth to brighten even the darkest East Coast December day.

Practice What You Preach Award: The Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, which reopens after a long renovation on December 12 with sleeker galleries, timely exhibits, and some very intriguing museum-tech toys. (Alexandra might never leave the wallpaper room.)

The White-Pinkman Baby Blue Award: To the remade Design Observer, still the one that knocks for thoughtful design writing online.


Benevolent Patron Award: Metropolis publisher Horace Havemeyer III gave the design world serious journalism, and launched countless careers.

Brighter Than the Sun Award: Deborah Sussman, Los Angeles’s queen of supergraphics, who knew how to make every color count.

Perfection to the End Award: The world sends its farewells to beloved design legend Massimo Vignelli, and he reads (almost) every word. 

Lou Reed. Enough said.  

Comments [2]

Nice to see the term "facocta" entering critical discourse!
Michael Bierut

"Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum" -- as if it wasn't already apparent how little regard these two regard architects. Safdie anyone, anyone? Guess if it doesn't have something to do with MoMA/Women/Brutalism/SocialMedia, you can only expect fake interest. "Peter Zumthor, whose hovering black form for LACMA continues to provoke head scratching." What does this even mean? Call it Post-Criticism.
Brian J. McKnight

Jobs | April 23