A carwash won a medal, and so did a university parking garage. Another medal went to a furniture showroom storefront that had been redone on a budget.
When the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects handed out its annual awards for excellence in design in late November, the three projects were honored, along with grander undertakings, for endowing the purely utilitarian with grace.
Each year at its Design Day event, the group recognizes architectural projects that are either designed by New Jersey architects or built in the state.
The members of the jury, made up of out-of-state architects, are kept blind to the identities of the competing firms. The members for last year were Lynne Breslin, a New York City architect; Merrill Elam of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects of Atlanta; Adam Yarinsky of New York City's Architecture Research; and Tom Fisher, the dean of the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture and Landscape. They handed out 10 awards -- ranked gold, silver and bronze -- to seven firms among more than 100 entrants.
Michael Graves & Associates of Princeton won two silver medals and one gold. The silver medals were for an expansion to an office building, the headquarters of Miele America on Route 1 near Princeton, and for a new golf resort in El Gouna, Egypt, at the edge of the Red Sea.
The gold medal was for the Philadelphia Eagles/NovaCare complex in downtown Philadelphia. The NFL football team has its training facility in the building, alongside NovaCare's physical therapy center. The jury commented that the team's space offered "evocative space that celebrates all aspects of training."
"Even the locker rooms and exercise halls have presence," it said.
Hillier, also of Princeton, was awarded a bronze medal for its design of a 50-story office headquarters to be built in Philadelphia for a client identified only as an international pharmaceutical company. The jury called the design "elegant and inventive and the elevated sky lobbies lovely."
The building's lobby, which will have striking views of the city, is conceived as a public "street," the architects said.
For achievement in a more prosaic realm, Cybul & Cybul Architects of Edgewater were awarded a silver medal for their design of the 15th Street Carwash in New York City. The facility, the jury said, is "completely unique" and "sparkling clean." Even the corridor where the washing goes on is glass-walled and light-filled.
Fox & Fowle Architects of New York City was awarded a bronze medal for its "light and airy" design of the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden. "The architects," the jury said, "have designed a good place to be -- in a bleak and urban blighted area."
A new parking garage at Princeton University won a gold award for TEN Arquitectos, the Mexican firm founded by Enrique Norten, the architect who is designing the new Visual and Performing Arts Library in Brooklyn, New York. The jury called the concrete garage "elegant, with surprisingly delicate detail for this building type."