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The two fundamental aspects of architecture are present in the name of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) annual awards. Tuesday evening at the McNay Art Museum’s Leeper Auditorium, two architects, seven architecture and design firms, two buildings, two students, and one community member were honored with People + Place awards during AIA’s annual celebration.
Two prominent San Antonio firms dominated the Place Awards. Lake/Flato Architects received a Citation Award for its Vibrant Restaurant in Houston, “a smart, even surgical” renovation of a 1960s-era dry cleaners building, and all three Merit Awards: for the Big Bend Fossil Discovery Center in Big Bend National Park in West Texas, a private ranch in Washington County, and the tasting room of Epoch Estate Wines in Templeton, California.
Overland Partners received two awards for the same project. Its Pout House in West Texas was given a Citation Award, and the Committee on the Environment (COTE) Award, which recognizes environmental sustainability. The three jurors, nationally recognized architects from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, noted that “efficiency and comfort are maximized by how this house sits on the land and leverages natural resources.”
Recipients of 2019 People Awards reflected AIA’s belief that architecture encompasses issues far beyond buildings, said Torrey Stanley Carleton, executive director of AIA’s San Antonio chapter.
Stephen R. Souter received the Legacy Award, which AIA considers its highest honor. Souter was recognized for a 48-year career with Marmon Mok Architecture, and his work as a staunch advocate for community health care.
Though recognized for major San Antonio projects including the Alamodome and Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, an early project for the Mission Road Foundation led Souter to direct his architectural energies toward the underserved community of children with developmental disabilities. Souter said a 5-year-old girl approached him in leg braces and took his hand, changing his life forever.
“That’s what did it,” he said of the experience. “I just thought, gosh, you know, these kids need so much help. There’s so many things that need to be done for them, for their lives … how can we help them be more a part of society … so they can have a good life.”
Other early projects included San Antonio Children’s Center (now called the Clarity Child Guidance Center), a former orphanage that became a children’s mental health facility. Souter helped design care plans and behavioral health plans, along with designing the space to best fit the needs of the children. The project led to work with other charitable organizations including United Way and the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville.
Souter continues his lifelong pursuits, currently working on a neonatal intensive care unit at University Hospital, he said.
Robert Rivard, editor and publisher of the Rivard Report, summed up Souter’s legacy: “For 48 years, Steve Souter has been a wise and humble architect of uncompromising integrity. He is a respected community leader whose projects have touched the lives of tens of thousands, and, in the process has forever transformed San Antonio.”
Another architect just at the beginning of his career was also recognized. The Rising Star award went to Adam Word Gates, a 2010 University of Texas at Austin graduate who runs his own San Antonio firm.
Gates, who calls himself a “humanist architect,” and a “thinkitect,” also founded Thinking Booth, described as “an instrument for studying, developing, applying and promoting awareness of thinking typologies and creative problem solving methods.”
Lourdes Castro Ramírez was given the Community Partner Award. Prior to her current position of president of the University Health System Foundation, Ramírez served as President Obama’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, leading the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Public and Indian Housing.
During her 2009-2015 tenure as president and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA), the organization was recognized for its innovative initiatives and expansion of affordable housing.
Each year, San Antonio’s leader recognizes a building with the Mayor’s Choice Award, recognizing publicly-funded architectural projects. For 2019, Mayor Ron Nirenberg selected the East Central Performing Arts Center designed by LPA design studios. Nirenberg noted that the center is “the new heart of a burgeoning arts program in a rural school district east of San Antonio.”
The Twenty-Five Year Distinguished Building Award recognized Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University, designed by Ford, Powell and Carson and Bartlett Cocke Architects in 1969 and completed two years later by G.W. Mitchell Construction.
The Community Impact Award recognized Beaty and Palmer Architects for the new Greenline Park, set to connect Brooks to the San Antonio River.
The Student Design Award went to André Simon and Ivan Gonzalez, students of the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Architecture, Construction and Planning. Simon and Gonzalez won for their “Transform the Storm” project, which addressed challenges of coastal habitation in the era of climate change.
Attendees toasted the 100th anniversary of Garza Bomberger & Associates (GBA), which was founded during World War I. The firm was recognized in particular for the fact that 75 percent of GBA-designed SAISD schools are still in use, according to AIA, helping to educate an estimated 2 million San Antonio students.
In all, Carleton said, the awards are meant to “embrace people within and without the profession who are making a difference in the built world.”
For Souter, the awards ceremony was a chance to see a lot of old friends, and celebrate the city. “San Antonio’s got great firms. The firms here do work that’s equivalent to any place in the country.”