One of our favorite tasks at Vegas Seven is to present the city not only with reflections of what it is, but also portraits of what it can be. To this end, we’ve made it an annual tradition to showcase the winners of the Nevada chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ Unbuilt Awards. The awards are given to outstanding works that have been commissioned but not built—and which in some cases, sadly, may never be built. We are also highlighting the winners of AIA honors for best theoretical project (“a work done as an exercise in design or for the sheer pleasure of creating”) and best academic project (“works done as part of a studio or for academic credit”). Not all of the winning projects—which were announced April 23 at the Historic Fifth Street School—are designed for the Silver State, but they are all the product of Nevada architects and Nevada vision.
Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation Learning Center
Faced with the challenge of creating a building for Las Vegas’ Cultural Corridor that users would navigate with hearing and touch rather than sight, Rick Sellers integrated textured walkway patterns, acoustics that create different echoes in different rooms and a musical fence whose steel bars—each a different height and width—play a “melody” when tapped with a cane.
Rhett Noseck’s structure, which would be built upon the bluffs above Dockweiler State Beach in Playa Del Rey, California, looks like it’s about to soar into the air. And no wonder: This project—winner of AIA’s theoretical award—is designed to be a headquarters and viewing platform for SoCal’s hang-gliding enthusiasts.
Safe Nest Center
As the potential new home for the stalwart Southern Nevada nonprofit that helps both the victims of domestic violence and the offenders, this design had the tricky task of being at once soothing and secure. For Sellers, who is president of Las Vegas’ Carpenter Sellers Del Gatto Architects, the design solution was to create separate “victims” and “offenders” zones, parking lots for the 41,000-square-foot structure, and different entrances and control points at spots where the groups could intersect. Meanwhile, a high, bright atrium and accents that play off the Safe Nest name would provide a sense of calming uplift.
How do you produce a 2,850-square-foot house with a working orchard in the heart of a suburban development? If you’re David Baird (the director of UNLV’s School of Architecture) and his collaborator Ibrahim Kako (a UNLV instructor and designer at YWS architecture), you create the Kumquat House. The residence, designed for a development in Southern Louisiana, is at the center of a stand of 10- to 15-foot-tall kumquat trees. On approach, the orchard conceals the lower floor, creating the sense that the upper floor “floats above the evergreen canopy.”
Administrative Office and Visitor Contact Station
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, Nevada
The watchwords for Sellers on this project were “net zero” and “tread lightly.” His design would pull off the “net zero” part with a photovoltaic system, roll-up glass doors to allow maximum ventilation, windows positioned to allow optimal daylight and a geothermal heat-pump system, among other features. The “tread lightly” part would be achieved by putting the building on an elevated platform that leaves the terrain below intact. As for beauty, that’s achieved with a roof shaped like a native willow leaf, a swooping gesture to the refuge’s natural oasis. Of course, that roof also would collect rainwater: Sometimes you protect the land best when you leave no stone unturned.
Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead Pavilion
Logan Ziegler drew inspiration for this design—the winner of AIA’s academic award—from the scales of desert reptiles. It shows in the steel skin that wraps the pavilion and shelters it from the sun. The skin has slight openings, allowing for “the unique experience of indirect light.” The pavilion would offer a welcome refuge to Red Rock hikers.