The Magazine of AIA Minnesota
March - April 2007
Vol. 33 No. 2
Rolling Out the Red Carpet
The Golden Globes. The Screen Actors Guild Awards. The Oscars. They call it the awards season, and rightly so. Christopher Hudson
Academy voters and Honor Awards jurors both wrestle with the question of whether to award large, complex projects with sizable budgets or the little gems that fewer people know about.
If you turned on your TV any night in January or February, you had a pretty good chance of catching Forest Whitaker accept a Best Actor award for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, or Jennifer Hudson say what a dream it is to win Best Supporting Actress for her work in Dreamgirls. That Architecture Minnesota showcases the AIA Minnesota Honor and Divine Detail Awards—the Academy Awards for buildings and structures designed by Minnesota architects—in the wake of the Oscars makes for some interesting comparisons between the two red-carpet affairs.
The contrasts, of course, are stark. One awards program commands the international media spotlight and draws millions of viewers with its glitz and glamour, while the other is highlighted in local newspapers and splashed across the pages of this magazine. And you’ll never see architects Ed Kodet, FAIA, or Julie Snow, FAIA, cry out, “You love me! You really love me!” at an AIA Minnesota Awards Ceremony. (Well, they might, but only for a laugh.) Our local architects are by and large modest to the core, and I would argue this quality often translates to the virtuous restraint shown in their best work.
Another major difference is the make-up and quantity of the voter pool. The nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—actors, directors, producers, and the like—vote on the final list of Oscar nominees in most categories. Honor Award winners, in turn, are selected by three celebrated architects from other parts of the continent. This year’s jury, profiled on page 28, included the keenly articulate Ann Beha, FAIA, of Boston, who quickly assumed the role of spokesperson; Cincinnati’s Michael McInturf, the most studious juror; and Pierre Thibault, RAIC, of Quebec, who brought a poetic sensibility to the deliberations.
Which movies and buildings to award? Ah, here’s where similarities can be found. Academy voters and Honor Awards jurors both wrestle with the question of whether to award large, complex projects with sizable budgets or the little gems that fewer people know about. Little Miss Sunshine ousted Dreamgirls from the Best Picture list, and the Honor Awards jury clearly took a shine to projects in which great design was accomplished on a limited budget. Perhaps the jurors wanted to help dispel the notion that all good architecture costs a lot of money, or maybe they wished to draw attention to the small treasures that get lost in all the hoopla over high-profile buildings like the Walker Art Center expansion and the new Guthrie. But I suspect the jury simply picked the projects that delighted them the most, regardless of size.
How about award categories? Honor Awards submissions break down into five architectural areas, but several of the winners could easily cross over to an Oscar category. The photogenic University of Alaska Museum of the North (cover and page 42), for example, would make an excellent Best Cinematography nominee for the way it rises to meet the northern sky, and the exterior of the Benedicta Arts Center expansion (page 30) at the College of Saint Benedict has a strong graphic quality that makes it a natural fit for Best Art Direction. Visual Effects? Eye-Pod (page 46), an ingenious camera obscura. Costume Design? The translucent white fabric lining the tepee-like TEMPO (page 34) is lit from within at night by hundreds of colorful LED lights at the monument’s base. Get an eyeful of these projects and I think you’ll agree: They’re Oscar-worthy.