Consisting of projects, completed and proposed, by Philadelphia architecture firms in the region and elsewhere, it is inevitably a mixed bag of designs for things big and little, pretentious and modest, good and bad. The 150 buildings in the exhibition were all submitted for the chapter's honor awards, of which 11 were selected by a jury of out-of-town architects on Sept. 27.
If the bag seems particularly mixed this year, that may be a reflection of a real estate market that offers a lot less of the usual. It's a market that has forced architects to seek out projects that might once have seemed too small or too mundane to be worthwhile.
And while that may not have done much for architects' bank accounts, it does seem to have unleashed a good deal of creativity and made this year's exhibition a particularly interesting one.
The list of award winners gives a sense of the range of the entries. Andropogon Associates' landscaping of the 26th Street corridor, the route past the tank farms and the car crusher between Philadelphia International Airport and Center City, didn't involve building anything but a few fences. Its principal design element is the use of native plant life to suggest a less- spoiled landscape.
The group of new farm buildings by John Milner Associates, using old barn siding and a roof of thatched reeds, won an award for its hand-crafted quality, and the appearance of always having been there. One of the jurors, Chicago architect Dirk Lohan, a longtime associate of the modern master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, got a big laugh at the awards ceremony when he said, "It's the kind of building that, despite your education, you fall in love with."
The jury balanced this lovable project with one that is inherently unlovable, the University of Pennsylvania Mod 6 Building at 38th and Walnut Streets, by Bower Lewis Thrower Architects. It's a combination air- conditioning plant and parking garage.
The proposed rehabilitation of the awnings and canopies in the Italian Market area on Ninth Street, by Cope Linder Associates, won an award for essentially making what's there already less ramshackle. The jurors also said they gave that award in part to recognize some of the city's other street- improvement programs, of which this is the most modest.
Two houses won awards this year. One, a house on the beach at Harvey Cedars, N.J., designed by Susan Maxman Architects, was cited for the jury for its use of color, both inside and out, that relates the house to the dune landscape.
The other - a renovation of a former bank branch in a Beaux Arts style in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, by Brawer & Hauptman Architects - uses steel stairways and floors to contrast with the old stone decoration and new cherry finishes in the interior.
Some of the designs were designated as "Vision 2000" entrants, which means only that they haven't yet been built. The millennium is right around the corner, after all. With only a few exceptions, none of these visions represents a radical break with current practice.
The award winner among those projects is Unionville Village, by John R. Caulk, Architect. This planned real-estate development, adjacent to the Chester County village of Unionville, clusters new housing and conserves open space, while preserving old farm buildings and creating a village green for the enlarged community. "It would take a village that is beginning to be amorphous and make a place out of it," juror Thomas Ventulett of Atlanta said.
It is one of three sprawl-reducing plans for Chester County shown in the exhibition.
Perhaps the most ambitious project to win an award was Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade in San Francisco, by Center City architects MGA Partners. It is a public park that incorporates several major pieces of art, built atop an extension of the city's Moscone Convention Center. It is surrounded by a group of new and planned museums, theaters and other cultural facilities.
Another important public project outside the region, the Evanston (Ill.) Public Library, won an award for Joseph Powell & Associates. Powell's original design won a national competition. Juror Jan Keane of New York, who said she grew up near the building, praised it as evocative of the architecture of the region and well-suited for its site.
The other two winners were museums. For an addition to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Cecil Baker & Associates designed a building that evokes a barn on the outside and an old-fashioned train shed on the inside.
And for the Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., Dagit-Saylor Architects renovated a Victorian library building in a way that permits a large study collection of artifacts to be on view.
Ballots listing all 150 projects submitted are available at the exhibition, and visitors are encouraged to check off their five favorites. The results will be tabulated and announced next month.