Jennifer Bonner receives the Progressive Architecture Award by reimagining the perception of mid-rise office design
By Katherine Guimapang|
Wednesday, Feb 27, 2019
Every year the Progressive Architecture Award is presented to firms whose projects exhibit thoughtful and progressive design risks within various environments. This year 10 winners were selected by a jury of notable architects within the profession. Out of 200 unbuilt project submissions, the selection process was quite rigorous. However, after carefully reviewing each submission, winners were selected for their design innovation. All varying in scale and typology, each winning design showcased exciting new designs. One notable project submission was Jennifer Bonner's Office Stack.
A growing household name within the profession and in academia, Jennifer Bonner's whimsical and highly technical design approach has enabled her to create and re-work traditional design methods. Her creative practice, MALL, is a compilation of playful approaches to "ordinary architecture." The name itself is an acronym with its own flexible meaning, similar to Bonner's design process. By focusing on everyday materials and familiar architecture motifs the Alabama native architect seeks to perceive and portray architecture through whimsical discourse.
Bonner used her original project study, Best Sandwiches to help create her award-winning project Office Stack. The architectural stack may seem like a conventional building process. However, Bonner allows for each layer of the structure to act as its own entity, much like the elemental pieces of a sandwich. By creating distinct layers, this allows for the mid-rise tower to challenge the conventional relationship between building and ground. "In architectural stacks, there is no longer a single ground upon which a unified figure sits. Instead, these stratified buildings propose a multiplicity of grounds (or rooftops), a multiplicity of figures slicing elevations into a series of horizontal figures, versus the straightforward north, east, south, west orientations of the past."
Through abstraction, mid-rise building typology is re-imagined as a series of interchangeable layers. Within a BLT sandwich, for example, the layers of bacon, lettuce, and tomato, each present individual characteristics that add to the sandwich's overall typology. With this concept, it changes the perspective within the structural design of a building like Office Stack, which allows for the rejection of common monolithic tower design. The five leveled tower located in Huntsville, Alabama is designed to allow multiple tenants inhabit the space while emphasizing each layer to perform as five separate entities. In addition to the distinct structural stacking method, the building's color and attractive facade creates an intriguing sense of cohesion.
According to fellow architect Paul Andersen, AIA the project "optimistically makes a very American office tower. It is a promiscuous collection of parts irreverently arranged, and the mismatch of different pieces seems deliberately organized so that each can have its own identity. Within a non-hierarchical composition, the chunks are all exceptional." The project's design thesis may seem almost too literal. However, to Bonner's credit, the design allows for a new discourse within the possibilities of mid-rise typology.
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