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1991-1992 Western home awards.

WHEN A JURY OF EXPERTS gathers to pick the best in Western residential architecture, as the American Institute of Architects/Sunset Magazine Western Home Awards jury did in June, the merits and flaws of individual houses are argued at length. Here and on the following pages, where we present the wineers, we'll try to give you some insight into what an architectural jury looks for in a house, and why this jury picked these 23 entries from a record 405 submitted.

Entries were scrutinized by four Western architects, two architectural writers, and a well-known architect from outside the West. Each juror had his or her own definition of what makes a successful house, but all looked for originality, skill in planning and use of materials, and appropriateness of solution to the client's program as well as the site.

After two full days of deliberation, the results--with few unaminous decisions--were 3 Honor Awards ("projects worthy of study by the profession"), 7 Awards of Merit ("outstanding examples of today's architecture"), and 13 Citations (projects considered well above the level of most entries in their categories).

The jury also gave one Special Award for Redefining "House." This project (page 96) polarized the jury in terms of esthetics and, more importantly, for its appropriateness as a house. Typical deliberations went something like this:

"It's too massive; it's not residential." (Goldstein)

"It's a movie set." (Hood)

"You don't feel like you can sit in there." (Hull)

"I'd like to set in there." (Hood)

"I bet kids would love it." (Simon)

Among the winners, you'll find great variety in style, location, scale, and resolution. As Ehrlich put it, "Good design has no style of preference: it's what the architect says, it's not how he says it that's significant."

The variety among the Honor Award winners is testimony that no one building category swayed the jury. One is a modern, metal-clad custom house, another a remodel that's respectful of the original design, and the third an innovative answer to low-cost housing.

As discussions went on about individual entries, inevitably the question of what makes a good house surfaced. Here are a few of the jury members' comments:

"They support life with a mixture of stimulation and tranquillity." (Hood)

"They solve certain conditions (site, existing structures, program, etc.) with clarity and vision, and they offer new concepts in the process." (Hull)

And Morrall quoted John Ruskin, 19th-century champion of the Arts and Crafts Movement, who said, "We require from buildings as from en two kinds of goodness. First the gling of practical duty well. And then that they be graceful and pleasant, which last is in itself another form of duty."
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1991
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