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Architect Thom Mayne Takes Another Bow

By Linda Hales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 25, 2005; Page C02

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne picked up his second top award in a week, this time in Washington.

At yesterday's 10th anniversary celebration of the General Services Administration's Design Excellence program, 16 projects were singled out. Mayne accepted a coveted Honor award for a San Francisco federal building that is still under construction.

Thom Mayne received an Honor award for his design for a federal building in San Francisco, above, that is still under construction. The construction team that built a federal courthouse in Seattle, below, was similarly recognized. (General Services Administration)

Incorporated into the angular, high-design facade is a commitment to energy efficiency, a virtual requirement for a GSA award. An elaborate system of operable windows and "living walls" makes air conditioning unnecessary six months of the year.

An Honor award also went to the restoration and conservation project at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in the Federal Triangle. Restoring the classical-revival building with art deco detailing and a major collection of Depression-era "New Deal" art required eight years and engaged four Washington firms: Heery/Tishman, Burt Hill Kosar Rittleman, Page Conservation and Gilbane Building Co.

The third Honor award recognized construction feats at a 23-story federal courthouse in Seattle. The architecture firm NBBJ won a citation for interior and exterior design, including the graceful integration of broad steps and a fountain as a security perimeter at the building. But the GSA saved the top award for the construction team of J.A. Jones/Absher, which managed to finish the Seattle project on time and within budget despite "record inclement weather, a labor strike, the departure of the major joint-venture partner and contaminated soils."

"Superior value for the American taxpayer" is a top concern, acknowledged F. Joseph Moravec, GSA's commissioner of public buildings service.

The awards, which are handed out every two years, are intended to call attention to "the best of the best" in public design and architecture. The program has been widely credited with upgrading the quality of federal facilities, largely by attracting the participation of major architectural talents, such as Mayne.

The 2004 award winners were winnowed from a field of 143 applicants. They ranged from a Texas border station with an inspired winged sunshade to the elegantly simple dedication book for the World War II Memorial on the Mall.

Among prominent firms in this round, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners led the design team for a classic limestone federal courthouse in Hammond, Ind., which won a citation. Kohn Pedersen Fox won for a smartly curving courthouse under construction in Buffalo. A model for Antoine Predock's design for a courthouse underway in El Paso appears more iconoclastic than most, with angular walkways of glass and towers of limestone on a plaza that incorporates a broad pool.

Kallmann McKinnell & Wood of Boston won a citation for architecture and engineering excellence for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' forensics and fire research laboratory in Beltsville.

The Design Excellence program was created largely under Chief Architect Ed Feiner, who retired in January. GSA's Moravec said a national search for a successor will begin soon.

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