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Architecture's Natural Winner

Arizona State University's Nelson Fine Arts Center, designed by Predock, resembles a futuristic adobe village.
Arizona State University's Nelson Fine Arts Center, designed by Predock, resembles a futuristic adobe village. (By Timothy Hursley)

Chase Rynd, president of the National Building Museum, was director of the Tacoma museum when Predock was selected. Yesterday, he recalled how a split board allowed him to cast the deciding vote. Rynd was won over by a visit to the architect's studio and a surprise side trip to Dallas to see the 1993 Turtle Creek house Predock designed for collector Deedie Rose and her husband, Rusty.

"I was just blown away," Rynd said. "I could not have been more taken by a building."

Predock makes clear that he is a modern architect on his own terms.

"Personally, I don't think the models to look toward for architects should be European models," he said, a pointed reference to 20th-century modernism, which emerged from the German Bauhaus. "We can derive our own power. We have our own cultural strata, our own spirit.''

More Americans have probably seen Petco Park, the San Diego Padres ballpark that Predock designed with HOK Sport, than any other of his projects. Predock sought to recast the traditional sports complex as an expansive Southern California garden. He delights in explaining that the park skirted the popular retro revival and imitation Mission styles in favor of an "authentic statement" of outdoor life, water views, the color of local cliffs and the natural dynamic of the game, which is movement.

In a conversation yesterday, Predock did not miss the opportunity to say he "wanted to be part" of the Nationals stadium project, which would have paired him again with HOK Sport and made his work visible in the nation's capital.

As a former Washingtonian -- he lived in Woodley Park while teaching at the University of Maryland in the early 1980s -- Predock gained a "really big" physical connection to the city. He ran "every inch of it" while training for marathons and skied among the monuments on the Mall.

"Washington is such a different animal," he said. "It has a beauty and scale. The cultural overlays having to do with being a world city are phenomenal," and yet it's a distinctly American place.

When reminded of the recent struggles by contemporaries Frank Gehry and Norman Foster to build here, Predock offered counsel to the guardians of tradition: It's okay to break out of the mold once in a while. He cites the "freakout" over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as an example.

"Look at it now," he said. "My point is, Washington can handle it, if the city is as great as we believe it is."

The Gold Medal will be presented Feb. 10 at the American Architectural Foundation Accent on Architecture Gala at the National Building Museum, where the "Liquid Stone" exhibition offers a stunning glimpse of Predock's work through next month.

Predock's name will be chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor in the lobby of the AIA headquarters on New York Avenue NW.

"That's pretty big time," he said. "It's huge."

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