How Architecture Broke Out of the Echo Chamber

A+Awards was designed to bring great architecture to the masses, via the power of the internet.

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

Architizer is excited to announce that the 5th annual A+Awards will open for entries in late September! For more information on the program, CLICK HERE.

Architizer’s A+Awards — a worldwide program designed to recognize the globe’s best architecture and products — was born in 2012 on the back of one key belief: that great architecture is for everyone. For too long, discussions about architecture were stuck in an echo chamber occupied by architects, architectural critics and academics who would exchange thoughts on the built environment while 99 percent of those who inhabit it every day remained on the sidelines.

It was crucial, then, to create an awards program that would engage the public like never before. Using the power of the internet, social media and a wealth of other platforms, the A+Awards was designed to bring architecture to the masses in this modern digital age while getting the best designers on the planet the recognition they truly deserve.

In its inaugural year, the awards program sparked the imagination of design enthusiasts across the globe. Since then, it has become the world’s largest awards program for architecture, with over 100 categories and media impressions of over 300 million for every winning project.

As Architizer looks forward to a huge fifth season for the A+Awards, we take a look back at how far this pioneering program has come and the exciting road it is headed on this year. Hold on to your hats — this is the epic tale of how great design grabbed the spotlight …

2013 A+ winners from left to right: SUPERKILEN by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, Topotek 1 and Superflex; Loft Gardens by Tabanlioglu Architects; Daeyang Gallery and House by Steven Holl Architects

The A+Awards red carpet gala

2012 – 13: The Big Launch

On October 9, 2012, Architizer founder Marc Kushner announced a different kind of competition, declaring: “Enough with that echo chamber where architects tell other architects which architects they like. The industry needs to break out, and the A+Awards are designed to do it.”

Collaborating with the smart people behind the Webby Awards — the ultimate annual internet awards — the A+Awards was launched with over 200 jurors from the world of architecture, design, technology and development. More than 50 categories were chosen for their relevancy to modern design, and a striking contemporary trophy was crafted by experimental studio Snarkitecture.

The A+Award Trophy by Snarkitecture

The diverse jury included top names from the world of architecture — Steven Holl, Bjarke Ingels and Charles Renfro, to name just a few — but it also included cultural leaders and business luminaries who understand the power of great architecture and the positive impact it has on all that they do. These people included John Edelman of Design Within Reach, Jason Millhouse of the Ritz Carlton, Roy Kim of Extell Development, Charles Adler of Kickstarter and Barry Bergdoll of MoMA.

In May 2013, the first red carpet gala was a roaring success, with 87 big winners announced to a host of attendees including hugely significant cultural figures from President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia to fashion designer Thom Browne. The event proved that great design matters to everyone, not only architects, and the projects themselves were granted the spotlight, garnering fantastic press coverage with over 100 million media impressions in total.

Architecture was officially out of the echo chamber, and this was only the beginning!

2014 A+ winners from left to right: Seljord Watchtower by Rintala Eggertsson Architects; Bao’an International Airport, Shenzhen by Studio Fuksas and Knippers Helbig;Two Hulls House by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Bjarke Ingels celebrating at the A+Awards Gala in 2014

2013 – 14: Presenting Products

One of the most significant highlights for 2013 was the introduction of products to the awards program. Given the importance of building products and interior design in the creation of great buildings, it was only right that the creative pioneers within these realms were given recognition in the same way that architects are. Further award categories were added in architecture, too, keeping up with emerging technological innovations and new urban typologies.

Continuing in its mission to expand the celebration of the world’s best architecture beyond the boundaries of the profession, the A+Awards also confirmed a huge new partner: The Wall Street Journal and WSJ Magazine joined the program, its huge sphere of influence promising to thrust innovative architecture even further into the public consciousness.

New jurors for the second annual A+Awards included Harry Macklowe, who is building the world’s tallest residential building, and architectural luminaries such as Denise Scott Brown and Liz Diller. The A+Awards would also take on fresh relevance with the addition of new partners including global design consultants 2×4 and top technology website Gizmodo, reflecting the emerging ways that people now consume art, design, media and architecture.

2015 A+ winners from left to right: The Aria by MHN Design Union; Tiantai No.2 Primary School by LYCS Architecture; Wild Turkey Bourbon Visitor Center by De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

The Phaidon A+ Book …

2014 – 15: Books and Billboards

The opportunities for architects’ seminal works to be recognized around the globe took a huge leap in 2014. Architizer partnered with Phaidon — the premier publisher for the creative arts, with over 1,500 titles in print — to craft a stunning, full-color, hardbound book containing A+Award-winning projects by architects from over 100 countries around the world. This beautiful hardbound edition continues to be sold today, online and in design bookstores worldwide.

Then, in May 2015, architecture was given its most exciting platform yet: Thanks to a partnership with PVBLIC, winning projects were displayed on one of Times Square’s iconic billboards, giving architects’ best works exposure on a huge, eight-story display for the whole world to see. The A+Awards had arrived at “The Crossroads of the World,” providing the general public with a gargantuan free exhibition of wonderful projects together with some incredible publicity for the architects behind them!

… and the A+ Times Square Billboard

Another groundbreaking initiative was born from collaboration with creative analysts PSFK, who worked with Architizer to compile a definitive guide to global trends in architecture — using the A+Award winners as the benchmark. The report, entitled “Building Tomorrow: Trends Driving the Future of Design,” acts as a guide to the best buildings in the world today and promises to form an invaluable resource for architects and developers looking to learn what really makes the public tick when it comes to the built environment.

Yet more eminent figures from many disciplines joined the jury panel, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Beatrice Galilee, Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia, architect Sou Fujimoto and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut. Meanwhile, total media impressions for winning projects topped 300 million fueled by special features on the Architizer homepage and an audience of millions on social media. This number continues to grow at an amazing rate, and the potential for further expansion in the digital era is incredibly exciting for architects, their clients and everyone with a passion for great design.

2015 – 16: LEGO and Legends

As Mies van der Rohe once said, “Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.” Mies may well have been talking about masonry made from clay, but for many, the origins of their love affair with architecture can be traced back to the satisfying sound of two LEGO bricks clicking together. You’d be hard-pressed to find an architect whose fascination for design wasn’t sparked by the iconic plastic building toy.

For this reason, LEGO’s sponsorship of the 2016 Architizer A+Awards gala constituted the perfect partnership between two companies with a multitude of common attributes — a love of creativity, a passion for great buildings and a generous helping of good, old-fashioned fun!

The future Uber Headquarters by SHoP was exhibited at the 2016 A+ gala; top photo © Jenna Bascom; bottom rendering © SHoP Architects.

Of course, 2016 will be remembered by the architectural profession for another reason of unparalleled significance: It recently suffered the loss of one of its brightest stars, Dame Zaha Hadid, and the A+Awards gala presented an opportunity to recognize her unique talent.

Architizer partnered with Dezeen to present an emotional tribute film at the event by some of architecture’s leading lights and a host of creative influencers, who talked about her extraordinary life and how she inspired them personally. It was an extraordinary moment of visceral power that encapsulates what the A+Awards program is all about: bringing people together in celebration of amazing architecture and the talented professionals behind it.

Left: Chris Precht of Penda, Emerging Firm of the Year 2016; right: Architizer founder Marc Kushner with Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang, Firm of the Year 2016; photos courtesy of Sam Deitch / BFA

Left: Paul Goldberger, Advocate of the Year 2016; right: Daniel Feldman and Ivan Quinoñes of Feldman and Quinoñes, winners of the Impact Award; photos courtesy of Sam Deitch / BFA

2016 – 17: ???

This is where YOU come in. The 2016 – 17 edition of the Awards will receive more publicity than ever before, offering an unparalleled opportunity to present your finest work on an international stage. The world’s best architecture will be voted for by over 300 jurors from a broad spectrum of creative fields and, of course, those that matter most: the general public.

With a series of new categories designed to reflect the changing face of architecture, the potential for success will be even higher. And, with a newly designed online voting system, the competition promises once again to be the most democratic architecture awards program around.

The 2016 A+ gala; photo courtesy of Jenna Bascom

With both jury and popular awards on offer in every category, truly great design will rise to the top and the firms behind the most inspiring projects will be rewarded with global acclaim. The winners will also be present at the 2017 A+Awards gala, a black-tie event that forms the definitive celebration of great architecture, stunning landscapes and groundbreaking products.

To be there — and also benefit from the wonderful publicity provided by a plethora of media platforms and print publications — make sure to enter your proudest work for consideration.

The 5th Annual A+Awards is officially open for entries in late September. For more information on the program, click here.