Small Projects Honored At Third Annual AIA Large Party

Large Partiers Hank Rubin, Walter Fydryck and Vargas Hernandez

Large Partiers Hank Rubin, Walter Fydryck and Vargas Hernandez

The Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architect’s third annual Small Projects Competition generated a record high 107 submissions this year and the winners ran the gamut from a treehouse chapel designed by Architecture Is Fun, to an art studio in the woods designed by David Genc.

Craig Cernek with Equilibrium

Craig Cernek with Equilibrium

For sheer weirdness, though, Craig Cernek’s “Equilibrium” was the clear frontrunner. Cernek’s cocktail table might well have given Isaac Newton the heebie-jeebies. The 24-inch-high table received a Citation of Merit. It looks like a unicycle from the side and seems to defy the laws of physics by standing on its own.

Its balance derives from the principles of the Taolu form of Tai Chi, leveraging the force of gravity through its center. The sleek looking table was deemed “very Dada-esque” by one Small Projects juror.

Cernek’s table and the other 2013 honorees were featured Friday, May 3, at Architectural Artifacts during the Small Projects Large Party.

“It’s a way to showcase how small firms are designing innovative projects,” said Ben Schulman, communications director of AIA Chicago. “We had more submissions this year than ever before. The economy is getting better and small projects are one of the first indications of that, so it’s a good sign for the profession.”

Jurors had their work cut out for them during the selection process, said Greg Metz of Lott3 Metz Architecture.

“There was vigorous debate during the judging,” Metz said. “Every juror wanted to speak. We spent a lot of time determining ‘what is a small project?’ That was a great take-away. It really brought out passion in us as jurors. These awards put the spotlight on architecture

Ben Schulman

Ben Schulman

that all of us do—this is our everyday life.”

Honor Awards went to:

  • Shapiro Associates for the design of Music Box Films West Loop loft offices.
  • SIDE architecture for Planted Environment, a home renovation project.
  • architectureisfun inc. for Treehouse Chapel in St. Chrysostom’s Day School.
  • Davic Genc for Art Studio in the Woods, which takes its visual cues from trees and corn cribs.
  • Tigerman McCurry Architects for Lakeside Studio, a Michigan art studio.

Profiles of all Honor Award and Citation of Merit winners can be found at the AIA Chicago’s web site.

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at

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