The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Board of Directors (BOD) voted today for VJAA to receive the 2012 AIA Architecture Firm Award. The AIA Architecture Firm Award, given annually, is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm and recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years. The Minneapolis based firm, noted for its consistently rigorous approach to research-driven form-making, will be honored at the 2012 AIA National Convention in Washington, D.C.
"We are honored to be recognized by the AIA with this important award," said Vincent James, FAIA, principal at VJAA. "This recognition is due to talented and committed employees, ambitious clients and the strong support we receive from our local design community. With this encouragement, we will continue to build a practice that strives to innovate while creating a responsive architecture that is sensitive to its users and its place."
Founded in 1995, VJAA has already won acclaim for the way it uses architectural research to create buildings uniquely and empirically attuned to their geography, climate, history, and culture. The firm's three principals (Vincent James, FAIA, Jennifer Yoos, AIA, and, Nathan Knutson, AIA) have lead VJAA on a wide-ranging search for what they call the "embedded intelligence" of projects: the essential markers of place, function, materiality, and craft which lie beneath each work and serve as an armature for its development.
For a moderately sized firm in a struggling economy, spending time and money on these kinds of open-ended explorations could be a risky gambit, but VJAA has made it an explicit part of their practice. One area this research has focused on are material innovations, including technologies that combine structural and skin elements, surfaces that filter specified amounts of sound and light, and systems that temper the ambient climate. Another area of intensive research for VJAA is its use of digital practice tools, particularly emphasizing integrated design and sustainable features. With these tools, the firm's latest projects have started their design path with a clear understanding of how they will perform in a real-world environment, and these buildings are frequently cited for their pioneering sustainability. One recent project, The Charles Hostler Student Center at American University in Beirut, Lebanon, received a 2009 COTE Top 10 award, but this isn't the only honor VJAA has been celebrated with recently: ARCHITECT Magazine named VJAA the top award-winning firm in 2010.