AIA Chicago Celebrates Small Projects At Fourth Annual Gathering

Scott Rappe Presenting Awards

For the fourth year, AIA Chicago recognized and celebrated the work of local architects whose work might otherwise be overlooked because of their size. Or perhaps, lack of size. The AIA Chicago Small Practitioners Group created the Small Projects award program to raise awareness of small practitioners and their work.

The awards presentation and recognition event was held May 9th at Architectural Artifacts, 4325 North Ravenswood in the South East Ravenswood neighborhood.

Brian McCormick and Peter Exley

Brian McCormick and Peter Exley

Entrants in the competition must have fewer than nine licensed architects and interns on staff. The work recognized in the awards program may be small in stature but it didn’t lack in creativity. The full list of 96 entrants and 13 award winners can be found on the Small Projects web site with the clever header “Not everyone needs a skyscraper.”

This year’s award program was changed slightly, and categories were based on size rather than cost. They ranged from 5,000 square feet (maximum size) to 501 square feet. There was a category for objects and even one for “unbuilt” designs. The common factor in all of the entrants and winners was excellence in design, according to Scott Rappe, AIA Chicago president.

“When we talk about architecture, we often think about monumental buildings, skyscrapers, cathedrals,” Rappe said. “These are important, but the buildings that touch us most personally are small, our homes, small office we go to, the corner store. Tonight, we’re going to celebrate the excellent design work of the firms that do these small projects and the impact they have on our everyday lives.”

The 2014 Small Projects jury consisted of Chris Cooper, AIA, (Cooper Joseph Studio); Carolyn Armenta Davis, Hon. AIA, (architectural historian and writer); Chris Force, editor/publisher of Design Bureau and Green Building + Design; Mark Peters, AIA, (Studio Dwell); and Vladimir Radutny, AIA, (SIDE Architecture).

Juror Carolyn Armenta Davis And AIA Chicago President Scott Rappe

Juror Carolyn Armenta Davis And AIA Chicago President Scott Rappe

I spoke with Carolyn Armenta Davis about her experience as a juror and the focus of the judging.

“For me was interesting and special because of the focus on small project,” Davis said. “So often only the large projects get recognition. It goes back to creativity is creativity, and as Mies van der Rohe said, less is more. And, less of a budget doesn’t mean you can’t do great work and stimulate creativity.”

2014 AIA Chicago Small Projects Winners

  • dSPACE Studio, Chicago for Atrium House
  • Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture in Plano for Barnsworth Exhibition Center
  • Dirk Denison Architects of Chicago for Cell Table
  • Lawton Stanley Architects of Chicago for Grace Restaurant
  • Searl Lamaster Howe Architects of Harbert, Michigan for Harbert Cottage
  • Zurich Esposito and Brad WhiteBureau of Architecture and Design of Chicago for Little You
  • Longo Park Design Worship of Chicago for Onward Reception Wall
  • Johnson & Lee Architects and Planners of Chicago for Ping Tom Park Boathouse
  • Wrap Architecture of Joplin, Missouri for Safe House
  • Vinci | Hamp Architects of Chicago for The Club for Modern Fashions
  • dSPACE Studio of Chicago for The Wave
  • Paul Preissner Architects and Indie Architecture of Denver for Two Barns
  • Kuklinski + Rappe Architects of Bridgman, Michigan for Woodland Dune Home

Author: Bill Motchan

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

Share This Post On