december 8, 2006

2007 Architecture Firm Award Goes to Leers Weinzapfel

by Douglas E. Gordon, Hon. AIA
Executive Editor

Summary: Leers Weinzapfel Associates, the Boston–based magicians who create beautiful public architecture and space, received the 2007 AIA Architecture Firm Award December 7. The AIA Board of Directors voted to award the firm based on its proven consistent ability to accept complex challenges and envision design of elegant distinction.

The AIA Architecture Firm Award, given annually, is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm and recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.

Partners Andrea P. Leers, FAIA; Jane Weinzapfel, FAIA; Joe Pryse, AIA; and Josiah Stevenson, AIA, meld a bold and refined architecture for the public realm, including transportation and urban infrastructure, the joining of new elements to existing buildings, and athletic and campus-life facilities.

“We are speechless,” Leers said when AIA President Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, phoned the firm’s office to tell them of the Board’s decision. “We are really delighted.”

“There are a lot of smiling faces standing here,” Weinzapfel concurred. “We thank all of the Board members.”

Modernist precision appropriate to place
“Their commitment to the public realm and to the craft of building in dramatically complex projects represents a remarkable commitment to ingenuity, resourcefulness, and design excellence in the most extreme circumstance,” writes David B. Greenbaum, FAIA, chair of the AIA Committee on Design Firm Award Jury Task Force in his nomination letter.

Greenbaum also offers this insight from architecture critic Robert Campbell, FAIA: “Leers and Weinzapfel are architects who take as much delight in a crisply machined joint as an old-time craftsperson would take in an ornamental carving. For them, Modernism is an aesthetic idea. Their building expresses that conviction and triumphs in it.”

With a passion for material and detail exploration and desire to create meaningful social interaction, the firm develops a refined and tailor-made response to each set of project conditions. As architecture critic Robert A. Kliment, FAIA, notes: “The work appears to be driven by fundamental values, searching for expression appropriate to the program and the place, and even to the budget and the capacity of the builder.”

“Besides the exceptional quality of their portfolio, the firm of Leers Weinzapfel is remarkably generous in their support of the American architectural profession and the future of the profession,” adds Edward A. Feiner, FAIA, in his letter of support.

James Steward Polshek, FAIA, focused his supportive comments on the founding partners. “It would be nice to be gender blind,” he writes, “but our social construct is not yet reconfigured to allow that luxury. The fact is that for a woman-owned firm to succeed as spectacularly as Leers Weinzapfel has required persistence, diligence, and inventiveness.”

The firm has garnered more than 40 national and regional design awards, including:

  • Blue Hill Avenue Youth Development Center, Boston
  • Cambridge School of Weston Mugar Center for the Performing Arts, Weston, Mass.
  • Harvard University Science Center Expansion, Cambridge, Mass.
  • MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Operations Control Center, Boston
  • U.S. District Courthouse, Worcester, Mass.
  • University of Pennsylvania Gateway Building, Philadelphia

Leers Weinzapfel and Associates also received letters of support from Mack Scogin, AIA, and Adèle Naudé Santos, FAIA. The award will be presented at the American Architectural Foundation Accent on Architecture Gala February 9, 2007, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Previous recipients include Moore Ruble Yudell (2006), Muphy/Jahn (2005), and Lake/Flato Architects (2004).

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Celebration of the awarding of the 2007 AIA Gold Medal to Edward Larrabee Barnes and the 2007 AIA Firm Award to Leers Weinzapfel will take place at the annual Accent on Architecture celebration on February 9 at the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. The AIA Board of Directors noted how fitting it is that these awards be made during the AIA150 sesquicentennial celebration year, the slogan for which is “Celebrating the Past—Designing the Future.” Barnes through his architectural legacy represents the firm foundation of our past, while the young firm of Leers Weinzapfel represents our faith in a future of excellence.

For more information on the firm’s work, visit the Leers Weinzapfel Assoc. Web page.

Image 1: Leers Weinzapfel Associates pose before the firm’s award-winning Operations Control Center, Boston. (Photo courtesy LWA.)

Image 2: Blue Hill Avenue Youth Development Center, Boston. (Photo courtesy LWA.)

Image 3: Harvard University Science Center Expansion, Cambridge, Mass. (Photo copyright Alan Karchmer/Esto.)

Image 4: U.S. District Courthouse, Worcester, Mass. (Courtesy LWA.)

Image 5: University of Pennsylvania Gateway Building, Philadelphia. (Photo copyright Peter Aaron/Esto.)