There's no better compliment—and no more blistering insult—than one from your peers, especially when it comes to professions that trade in super-specialized knowledge like architecture. So when your peers talk, you listen.
That's definitely the case with the American Institute of Architects's annual honors, which is one of the most telling awards out there; 11 buildings built within the past five years, chosen by a jury of nine prominent American architects. We cover the awards every year because it's fascinating to see what working architects consider as the state of the art of their profession—whether a cathedral to bourbon or a carefully-engineered hall for physics research. Check out a few highlights from the latest crop below, followed by all the winners.
Maybe you think of college regrets when you hear the name Wild Turkey, maybe you think of your great grandpa. But Wild Turkey is in the midst of a self-led comeback, and a new visitor center at its distillery near the Kentucky River is part of that mission.
Louisville shop De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop built the so-called "cathedral to bourbon," which is clad in stained wood—including cedar, ash, fir, and pine—and has moveable sunshades to lessen solar gain.
In New York, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux are without a doubt most famous for designing Central Park. But the pair designed Prospect Park, across the East River, and it's just as—if not more—loved than its older sister. This year, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects opened a 75,000-square-foot skating rink and community center to the 1867 park. It's an ice skating rink in winter and a roller rink in summer—and perhaps as a nod to Olmstead's preferences for artfully reconstructed nature, Tsien and Williams have covered it all in a cobalt "sky" of twinkling lights and silver streams.
When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he sited it at Kronberg Castle Elsinore, Denmark, a castle that was built in the 16th century to protect the crucial gap between Denmark and Sweden. Today, Kronberg is a protected landmark—so when Bjarke Ingels Group accepted a commission to build a huge maritime museum within viewing distance of the castle, they knew they'd need a clever way to conceal it.
As it turns out, the perfect way to sink the museum was a decommissioned dry dock—the final building is embedded below ground, while the former dock is criss-crossed in glass-clad circulation.
The great 19th century Boston architects, Van Brunt & Howe, probably never imagined the whiz-bang engineering that would transform their stately 1888 Romanesque library into a community hub nearly 130 years later. The busy Cambridge library was transformed with a $4.8 million gut renovation and new addition by William Rawn Associates. One of the building's coolest details was also restored: The WPA murals that depict "the ten divisions of knowledge that make up the Dewey Decimal System."
A new physics building at Rice University was another stand-out from the list—here, in addition to classrooms and meeting spaces and offices, you'll find spaces design for super-sensitive physics experiments.
Think of Houston—hot, swampy, stormy—and then think of the incredibly specialized, highly regulated infrastructure required to carry out research at the furthest edges of the profession. That was the challenge for the architects at KieranTimberlake, who had to build spaces that were protected from noise, heat and cold, and even ground vibrations that could affect results. According to the jury, "the most sensitive labs are located below ground and stabilized by a robust concrete structure."
Check out the rest of the winners, below.