Arts Plaza wins American-Architects’ building of year

Rachel Robertson

Following its nomination to American- Architects’Building of the Week feature, Lafayette’s Ahart Family Arts Plaza won American-Architects’Building of the Year last Monday. This honor adds to the building’s list of awards and accolades.

“The project, which received close to 20 percent of the votes, illustrates how a minimal intervention –basically brick piers, mesh boxes and wood beams –can have a transformative effect on a city,” the American-Architects’ website said.

The Arts Plaza initially was Pennsylvania’s representative in American-Architects’50 States in 50 Weeks feature in Sept. 2014.

“It’s a great accolade for the state of Pennsylvania to have a building in its state to be the Building of the Year,”Project Architect Wayne Stitt said.

Voting, which was open for the month of January, decided who would win the competition’s popular vote.

“There are so many great projects and this is the whole United States,”Stitt said. “It pretty much comes down to who is paying attention, who thinks it’s a worthwhile endeavor to go online and click that vote. It’s a great example that the Lehigh Valley does rally around itself in a way. For Lafayette College, this is a great honor.”

Recognized for its “urban unfill”design, the final form of the Arts Plaza reflects the history of the building’s original function.

“Purpose and resourcefulness built these original industrial buildings, and although the buildings had outlived their industrial purpoes, each presented a perfect framework for new adaptation,”Spillman- Farmer said in an interview with American-Architects following the building’s nomination.

“Hopefully, the reason why it was voted for was for the architecture itself,”Stitt said. “Here was a derelict building that had a new life in a different form. It’s not always something that has to be grand and expensive to be good architecture. Simplicity has some merit.”

The Arts Plaza will now be featured on American-Architects website and the upcoming issue of their eMagazine.

“Professionally, we’re all just thrilled that our project was recognized,” Stitt said. “We really have to thank the college for giving us this project.”