AIAGV will ‘join’ ArtPrize


    ArtPrize won’t be alone in honoring finely crafted works in September. The Grand Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will hand out its own design awards downtown during this year’s ArtPrize competition.

    The organization’s prestigious Honor Awards will be given to winners Sept. 25 — the first Saturday of ArtPrize — and the entries then will be on display for the duration of ArtPrize.

    It’s the first time AIAGV is tying its annual presentation of awards to the event that will draw tens of thousands to downtown Grand Rapids during its 16-day run.

    “How do you promote local talent? How do you make people in West Michigan realize what kind of great local talent we have? That’s always in my head. So this year I thought, ‘ArtPrize draws 30,000 to 40,000 people from all over, and it brought people here who really didn’t know a whole lot about art and actually started to educate them about it.’ So I said, ‘Why don’t I do this with architecture?’” said Greg Metz, a principal in Lott3 Metz Architecture and 2010 director of AIA Michigan.

    “Instead of having (the awards presentation) as a closed session for architecture only, which is usually what it is, let’s make it open to the general public. Let’s let the public see what kind of talent resides here in West Michigan,” he said.

    Metz actually began moving the chapter in that direction last year when, as AIAGV president, he had the organization collaborate with three other professional design groups to hold public events at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, including a NoshNight that drew 350 people.

    His underlying goal is to make potential clients aware that local architects are as talented as those in larger cities. “I’m going to stop thinking about hiring a Chicago firm. I’m going to stop thinking about a Detroit firm or a Philadelphia firm. Let’s hire right here. Look at these great people,” Metz said of the response he hopes occurs.

    “I just want to promote Grand Rapids. I just want to promote West Michigan.”

    Two types of awards will be made: the Honor Award and the Honorable Mention Award. The Honor Award is the highest distinction and the first award the jury considers in each of the building and design categories. The award categories are: building, interior architecture, sustainable design, regional and urban design, small commercial design, historic preservation and adaptive reuse, and residential architecture.

    There is also a new category this year for projects that have been designed but haven’t been built. For now, it’s simply being called the “unbuilt award,” but it will be renamed soon to honor a local architect.

    “These are projects that were entered into competitions or didn’t get built. So many times we do projects for developers or investors, and for whatever reason, they don’t happen. So I thought there is some really good stuff there and let’s show that. It’s not uncommon for chapters around the country to have that category,” said Metz.

    Michael VanGessel, president and CEO of Rockford Construction Co., agreed to have his firm sponsor the unbuilt award, and AIAGV set the category’s entry fee at $50. The rest of the building and design awards have a $300 entry fee.

    “Maybe start-up firms that don’t have a lot of money to submit for a full award can submit for this,” said Metz.

    “I needed somebody to underwrite it so I talked to Mike VanGessel of Rockford and he thought this was just the greatest thing. He said, ‘What a great way to celebrate the projects that never saw the light of day.’ The award is sponsored by them, but they would like it named after a Grand Rapids architect.”

    Hugh Newell Jacobsen and his son, Simon Jacobsen, along with Robert Gurney served as jurists for the building awards. The three are nationally known architects who have captured hundreds of awards for their works. All work in Washington, D.C., and their biographies will be displayed at the event. Metz said Hugh Newell Jacobsen, born and raised in Grand Rapids, has been the subject of three books. “He has a fond, fond, fond regard for the city,” he said.

    An award also will be given to an outstanding young architect, and the David D. Smith Humanitarian Award will go to someone outside the field of architecture who has made a tremendous contribution to it. Philanthropist Peter M. Wege was last year’s winner.

    AIAGV will hold the awards event and an ongoing display of the nominees’ works in the two ground-floor retail spaces at Thirty-Eight for the duration of ArtPrize, which will run through Oct. 7. Thirty-Eight is the new mixed-use development at the downtown corner of Commerce Avenue and Weston Street recently completed by John Green and Andy Winkel of Locus Development.

    “They donated the space for us to use. They’ve been very generous to us,” said Metz.

    The Michigan Architectural Foundation also will participate in the event. The mission of the Detroit-based organization is to increase the public’s appreciation of how architecture enriches everyone’s life.

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