DePauw, Ball State, Purdue buildings among top AIA design winners

November 10, 2008
Three university projects, two of which contain green-building elements, dominated the most recent design awards presented by the American Institute of Architects Indiana chapter.

Of the four award winners, three involved college buildings: the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue University, and the Straw Bale Eco Center at Ball State University.

The annual AIA Excellence in Architecture Awards program is a way to recognize the top architectural designs in the state of Indiana. Thirty-nine projects were submitted. This year, judges — a panel of architects from Colorado — gave the nod to designs that included green elements and energy efficiency.

What is significant about the Prindle Institute is that it is the first newly constructed building in the state to achieve gold status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.

Ball State's Straw Bale Center has not yet received LEED certification but is seeking the designation.

For the architecture profession, green building is a high priority, said Jason Shelley, executive director of the AIA Indiana chapter.

"The fact that sustainability played such a key role in those designs says a lot about our profession," he said.

Overall, about 110 projects in Indiana are registered and awaiting LEED consideration.

The renovation of a nearly 100-year-old house in Danville also received recognition from the AIA.

The awards banquet was Oct. 10 in Louisville during an annual convention held jointly with the AIA's Kentucky chapter. Here's a rundown of the four projects and the awards they received.

Outstanding Architecture Award

Designed by CSO Architects Inc. in Indianapolis, the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics building at DePauw opened in October 2007. Yet, it already has quite a history.

It is built at the DePauw Nature Park on a site that 60 years ago was a limestone quarry. No one involved in the project knew that history, however, when selecting the site.

During mining, the limestone rubble and "rock flour" was dumped there —what today looks like nothing more than a natural hill. But when engineers conducted soil tests, they discovered the massive blocks of stone underneath the ground.

"Basically, we built the building on a rubble heap," said Randy Schumacher, a CSO principal. "It actually made it more difficult to design the foundation system and prepare the site for a building."

Designers used natural, regional and recycled materials, including Indiana limestone. The site and nearby habitat were restored with native Indiana plants and incorporated natural rainwater treatment ponds.

Inside, the building is built around a courtyard that floods the space with natural lighting, making it a favorite place for students and scholars to study and debate the ethics of today's environmental, political and economic issues.

CSO was assisted by Lake/Flato Architects Inc. in San Antonio, Texas.

Citation Award

A 1917 Danville country house got a modern update and a lot more space, compliments of J.W. McQuiston Architecture + Interiors in Indianapolis.

The design blends much of the original style of the house —including the gambrel roof — with contemporary updates. The interior includes wide plank cherry and maple floors, stainless and corten steel, and countertops of soapstone and granite.

Designers used several "green" design materials, strategically placed shade trees, overhangs and other design elements to improve the energy efficiency of the home.

Citation Award

The Straw Bale Eco Center — with walls made of straw bales and earth stucco — is an ongoing project by the Land Design Institute, a student-led firm at Ball State.

The goal of the center is to promote awareness of issues related to sustainable development. It generates all its own power and monitors the performance of its alternative energy systems, including photovoltaic, solar hot water and wind power.

Students from a variety of programs designed the facility that began with a $10,000 budget. The first phase of the project was funded by an Environmental Protection Agency grant, with some local matching funds.

The building sits on an 80-acre parcel owned by the university that is part of a restored prairie. The main part of the building simply is a rectangular room laid out on a bale module. The project was finished in the spring of 2007.

Merit Award

The 200,000-square-foot, $53 million Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering opened at Purdue in 2007. Designed by locally based Ratio Architects Inc., the building is the flagship of the university's engineering program and serves as the northern gateway to the campus.

Its location on campus required a design that would complement existing buildings but also provide a peek into the future, said Tom Cheesman, a principal at Ratio who directed the project.

The result is a brick and limestone exterior highlighted by a distinctive cantilever that mimics an aircraft's wing, to symbolize Purdue's contributions to flight and the space program.

Walkways traverse the space below a 53-foot-high atrium lobby ceiling. Suspended from the ceiling is a replica of the Apollo 1 command module identical to the one in which Roger Chaffee and Virgil Grissom, both Purdue alumni, and Ed White perished in 1967.

Floor-to-ceiling glass allows passersby to view the projects from the outside — a feature particularly important for visiting alumni and prospective students.

"It puts everything on display so it's all interactive and appeals to the younger generation," Cheesman said.

A four-story drop tower used to conduct gravity experiments was dissembled and moved from its home in a Purdue airport hangar to the engineering building.

An 8-foot bronze sculpture of Neil Armstrong as a Purdue engineering student sits outside the building's main entrance.

Individual honors

AIA Indiana also presented several awards to individuals who have made contributions to the architecture profession, including:

• The Juliet Peddle Award to Dean Illingworth, executive director of Habitat for Humanity. Illingworth, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, received the award for his leadership of the local, not-for-profit organization. Illingworth decided to join Habitat to expand his mission to support the organization and the city after working 28 years developing and building a design firm.

• The Walter S. Blackburn Award went to Tamara Zahn, president of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., who has been an advocate for good design through major redevelopment and building projects in downtown Indianapolis. The award was created in honor of architect and civic leader Walter Blackburn to recognize a non-architect for his or her support of the architectural profession.

• The Edward D. Pierre Award went to Don Altemeyer, executive director and a founding principal of BSA LifeStructures, for his civic and career achievements, including leading the Indianapolis Midfield Terminal project, promoting the relevance of good design and advocating that local companies hire local designers.

• The President's Award went to Ewing H. Miller II for the contribution and impact he and his family have had on the quality of architecture in Indiana, which spans nearly 100 years.

• Distinguished Service awards went to Wayne Schmidt, Tim Wall and State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Monticello).
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