[Originally published 1st quarter 2006 in arcCA 06.1, “Imbedded Knowledge”]
In Autumn 2004, The American Institute of Architects, East Bay launched Exceptional Residential: Bay Area Regional Design Awards (ExRes), a Bay Area design awards program offered every other year. What sets ExRes apart from other design award programs is that it is open to residential projects only, and those projects can be submitted by anyone: architects, design professionals, self-designing home owners, and so forth. ExRes requires only that the projects be located within the Bay Area.
Since many of the construction projects in the region are residential in nature, one would assume a large proportion of design award winning projects would also be residential. And, while we see juries awarding affordable housing and mixed-use projects, the number of single-family homes selected is always low. It’s not because of a lack of design excellence in these so-called “jewel-boxes”; it is usually because juries have a communal sense towards awarding projects that serve the greater good of our communities.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, our homes are a defining element of the fabric of our community. Recognizing this, the AIA East Bay leadership decided to highlight residential design excellence through an award program of its own. “The AIA East Bay knows it’s important to honor exceptional residential design that exemplifies what Bay Area living is about,” explains John Nelson, AIA, 2004 AIA East Bay President, “More importantly, the AIA strives to inform the public of the impact good design has on our lives. ExRes aims to do just that by examining what we all have in common: a living space.”
Equally important, the program is open to the public. In 2004 a number of the projects entered were submitted by residential designers and homeowners, groups that do not often have the opportunity to enter AIA awards programs. “While many awards programs tend to be exclusive, ExRes honors first-class residential design—no matter who was responsible for the vision. Most times, an architect is behind design excellence, but when the person is outside of the profession, we need to applaud their success,” asserts Nelson.
The ExRes 2004 jury (David Miller, FAIA; Larry Scarpa, AIA; and Lisa Findley, AIA) recognized projects ranging from a unique Airstream trailer to 60,000 square feet of affordable housing infill. Speaking on behalf of the jury, David Miller, FAIA, said, “Each of the twelve residences selected for an award uses a different approach to create a sense of home. Whether the project is affordable housing, single-family renovation, or mixed use, they each demonstrate an attitude toward issues and ideas. Focusing on good design, they offer experimental and clear solutions to critical issues.”
The AIA East Bay has grown more than 60 percent in the past two years, largely due to the fact that its membership highly values the role of the residential architect and sole proprietor in the profession. Exceptional Residential: Bay Area Regional Design Awards is one of the many programs this chapter uses in educating the public on the importance of design excellence in building and renovating homes.