Alexandra Lange, and Mark Lamster | Essays

Lunch With The Critics: Third-Annual Year-End Awards

As they do every year, our fearless critics, Alexandra Lange and Mark Lamster, gathered over lunch to bestow their annual design awards. Biased? Definitely. Parochial? Perhaps. Entertaining? Naturally. Despite a busy twelve months in which they communicated with the dead and published books (in paper and pixels!), they have nonetheless found time to put together the biggest, bestest, and most, well, brutal list in LWTC history. This year’s winners—and losers—follow.


Elevation Award: to Superstorm Sandy, for making climate change a part of every future discussion about building in coastal cities.

Blue Ribbon for Public Advocacy: Journalists Scott Sherman, Charles Petersen, and Caleb Crain, for leading the charge to hold the New York Public Library accountable for its renovation plans.

The Golden Blowtorch for Poor Community Relations: Museum Tower, Dallas.

Good Criticism Doesn’t Age Award: Esther McCoy, rediscovered and collected in Piecing Together Los Angeles.

Exhibition of the Year: Imperfect Health at the CCA, a smart survey of a subject that, unfortunately, we can all take personally.

Tone Deaf Award for Adaptive Reuse: to Joe Fresh, for their criminal renovation of SOM’s landmark 1956 Manufacturers Hanover Trust.

Flat Earth Award: To the wing-nuts and cynics who have used the UN's harmless and anodyne Agenda 21 as a bogeyman to block sensible planning initiatives.

The Mugatu/Derelicte Award for Non-Ironic Appropriation: To Gran Horizonte, the Venice Biennale installation that transformed a Caracas squatter tower into an arepa bar for jet-setting architourists.

Who’s Afraid of Rosettes? Award: to Gae Aulenti, RIP, for her radical postmodern conversion of the the Musee D’Orsay.

Fighting the Good Fight Award: To Charles Birnbaum and The Cultural Landscape Foundation, for their efforts to save M. Paul Friedberg's Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis (and other forgotten treasures).

Don Draper Is Not Impressed Award: to Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas (and their lesser-known partners) for failing at what every bright young American architect (and Bjarke Ingels) aces, the elevator pitch.

The Neiman Marcus Big Spender Award: to Kelcy Warren, who paid millions to name Dallas's new deck park after his ten-year-old son. Really.

Where Starchitects Go to Die Award: DC, where even Frank Gehry can’t get a non neo-classical memorial built in the 21st century.

Book of the Year: Tubes, by Andrew Blum. A welcome tour of the physical places that allow us to live in the cloud.

Museum Without Walls Award: to Seb Chan and the Cooper-Hewitt, for putting the museum's collections online in a searchable, casual and surprising manner.

Better than the Onion Award: to the anonymous Cooper students who erected a false-front home page to protest the school's loss of mission. [Somewhere, Leb is smiling.] 

Everything Doesn't Always Stay in Vegas Award: To the idiot GSA bureaucrats who tarnished the fine Design Excellence program with their tax-payer funded debauch.

You've Never Looked Better Award: Fenway Park on its centenary. The Red Sox? Not so much.

Photograph by Daniel Krieger for Eater.

Design Consultant of the Year:
Knick legend Walt "Clyde" Frazier, for demanding a basketball court in his Thom Mayne-designed midtown eatery.

OMG Do We Really Have to Like It Award (Museum)? The Barnes Foundation.

OMG Do We Really Have to Like It Award (Arena)? The Barclays Center.

Little Island that Could Award: Roosevelt Island finally got its Kahn memorial, and a Thom Mayne tech center is on the way.

Celebrity "Designer" Hall of Shame Inductees, 2012: Kathy Ireland, Stephanie Seymour. [You're skating on thin ice, Brad & Justin.]

Best Way to Increase Your Market Share Award: to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, for his plans to create a walkable downtown Las Vegas.

Most Popular Architectural Movement on Twitter: Brutalism. (Alas, not so much IRL).

Alissa Walker Award: Alissa Walker, our favorite and most tireless advocate of pedestrianism, even in Los Angeles.

A City Is Not An iPad Dock Award: to Kickstarter, which turned its crowd-funding prowess from accessories to (questionable) urbanism.

Rocket Man Award: To Paul Sahre, for taking us all on a trip back in time.

Free the Coffee Table Award: to Pinterest. Now that we can pin instead of clip, whither the shelter magazine?

I'll Take the Bus, Thanks Award: New York's taxi of tomorrow unveiled as [drumroll] a superlame modified SUV.

Nice Save Award: to the new owner of the Mies-designed Lafayette Towers, formerly property of the City of Detroit and the subject of a new book, Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies.

But Where Will Design Types Register? Award: the recession and e-commerce claim Soho design pioneer Moss.

Midlife Crisis Averted Award:
To Pentagram, for the epic bacchanal that was its 40th anniversary party.

Cornering the Election Award: to Hoefler & Frere-Jones, as designers of both Obama's custom-made slab-serif version of Gotham, and Romney’s clearly less presidential Mercury.

Neglected Heroes Memorial Award: We lost John Johansen and Gerhard Kallmann this year, but their built legacy remains, for the moment. Let's keep it that way.

Last Modernist Award: to Oscar Niemeyer, dead at 104, who outlasted the century whose architecture he defined.

No, We Thank You Award: Lebbeus Woods signs off. A terrible, terrible loss.


Wishing you our best for the New Year,

Posted in: Architecture, Arts + Culture, Business, Technology

Comments [1]

So designers are celebrated for their marketing skills rather than talent. Welcome to the design media in 2012.


Jobs | July 22