2016 Commercial Design Awards

Architectural design goes on the offensive

From the pages of In Business magazine.

For a trio of judges, our ninth annual Commercial Design Awards program marks the second year of evaluating Wisconsin projects, and what a difference a year makes. Every year brings its share of quality residential and commercial projects, but it would be quite a chore to match the quality and depth of this year’s entries, according to our judges.

Due to our cold winters and building code requirements, one judge opines that Wisconsin architecture often has been on the defensive. However, it’s clear the designers of this group of projects took a more proactive approach. “We’re seeing designers going on the offensive where it’s exciting, bold, and expressive,” notes the judge, “and I think that’s a different attitude.”

These new structures are rich in form and texture — not necessarily to be flashy but to show some design character. “I think Wisconsin has finally fallen in love with color,” notes one judge. “I think there’s a real sense that some of the best work and submissions celebrated the vitality and vibrancy that color can bring to design.”

For another judge, the growth of flexible, collaborative workspaces reflects the ever-changing use of space. “Designers are responding to these changes in a very positive way.”

With a bolder design spirit underway, we present the best projects in 10 categories in the 2016 Commercial Design Awards, including Project of the Year and Best Green-Built Project. In keeping with our practice of the past few years, statewide projects were considered along with those in Greater Madison.

UW–Milwaukee Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex

Project of the Year, Best Green-Built Project, and Best New Development or Renovation – Education

Perhaps this is not a coincidence but for the second consecutive year the CDA Project of the Year is also the Best Green-Built Project. The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex also has the distinction of being the Best New Development or Renovation in Education, and our judges praised everything from its interior textures to the louvers on its façade.

They especially liked the fact it’s a departure from traditional campus architecture. “We see the same types of buildings at many university campuses,” notes one judge. “This building is different in that it shows a lot of modern design and that Wisconsin is rethinking the look of educational buildings.”

Another judge opines that the 143,500-square-foot complex would stack up well in international design competitions. “I wish we could see more of these kinds of buildings on college campuses. This facility has a real iconic presence which celebrates the excitement that research and academic innovation can bring to a university.”

The STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math define research universities. As the first science facility to be completed as part of a long-range vision for the STEM Quad on the UWM campus, the “KIRC” has two primary functions. One is to serve as a research facility for scientific disciplines ranging from biology to physics, including the support of cross-disciplinary research with flexible laboratory designs. The second function is educational instruction, which is served by elements such as traditional classrooms, an instructional biology laboratory, and an active learning classroom that supports students who work in small teams.

For a variety of sustainable reasons, the complex is on track for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. A reduction in the building’s footprint was undertaken to maximize access to the site’s open space and marked the first stage in the development of a vegetated, pedestrian-oriented “hardscape.” The building is situated along a major pedestrian route and to accommodate pedestrian traffic the site features an outdoor loggia that provides a covered walking path. The building’s lobby mirrors the outdoor path so that pedestrians have the option of walking inside in cold weather.

In their fidelity to green-building standards, designers covered all the bases. CDA judges praised them for paying special attention to the building’s relationship with the surrounding environment. They specifically mentioned the open feel of the site, which “gives the impression that academics is something that can be shared, not cloistered,” opines one judge.

Citing naturally lighted communal spaces such as the commons and the atrium, our judges lauded the way designers made the most of a small building footprint. “With the daylight and the openness, it still feels more spacious,” notes one judge.

While the facility has many green-building features, judges placed special emphasis on the designers’ approach to storm-water management. Sound storm-water management is a critical issue in Milwaukee because the city’s combined sewer system overflows during major storm events, sending untreated wastewater into Lake Michigan. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has reduced the incidence of these overflows with a deep-tunnel system that captures and stores the overflow until it can be treated. With its new research facility, UWM’s contribution to local water quality comes in the form of underground bio-retention cells with the capacity to hold more than 185,000 gallons of rainwater, plus bio swales and rain gardens. In combination, they reduce post-development storm-water runoff by more than 25% from the pre-developed site.

One CDA judge marvels that the KIRC “is a complex project and in complex projects a lot of things can go wrong. As indicated here, a lot of things went well.”

Project Credits

Location: 3135 N. Maryland Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211
Owner/Developer: Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Facilities Development; Jon Jenson, project manager
General Contractor: CG Schmidt; Dave Albrecht, project manager
Architect/Interior Design: David Black, Flad Architects/Sara Olm, Flad Architects
Consultants: American Design Inc., local sub-consultant architect; Affiliated Engineers Inc., mechanical and electrical engineering; Thunderbird Engineering, plumbing and fire protection engineering; Bloom Companies LLC, civil engineering; Ken Saiki Design, site planning/landscape; Vibro-Acoustic Consultants; The Concord Group, cost estimator; Intelligent Network Solutions, communication designer; Professional Audio Designs, audio-visual designer
Photography: Hedrich Blessing Photography, Lendrum Photography LLC
Completion Date: April 2015

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The Parmenter Center

Best New Development – Office

A unique use of materials, a warm and inviting palette of colors and textures, and a vibrant overall feel had CDA judges raving about the handsome Parmenter Center in Middleton. The 40,229-square-foot facility is the latest addition to the Parmenter Street redevelopment where the city’s master plan calls for the development of an active, sustainable neighborhood with mix of “live, work, and shop” land uses.

Designers strove to create a high-quality architectural precedent for future redevelopment, and CDA judges believe they hit the mark when it comes to sustainable design improvements. Various features connect the center with a surrounding landscape that includes the Pheasant Branch Creek conservancy. The building offers views to the outdoors, especially in two stair towers to promote a healthy, active lifestyle for building occupants. Bike racks and showers also have been provided to encourage use of the nature trail and bicycle commuting to work. “It’s a real expression of green design awareness,” states one judge.

On the exterior skin, materials flow nicely with existing neighborhood aesthetics. This center’s unique material palette, including Nichiha fiber cement as the primary exterior cladding system, is a departure from the typical brick, precast, and metal panel materials used on other local commercial developments. Yet it was colored as a nod to the adjacent building’s historic brick palette and balanced with corrugated metal and natural cedar accents. “Rather than using one singular exterior skin, it looks like they had a lot of fun with the design,” remarks one judge.

Inside, architects and contractors worked with a three-dimensional block company to use its “hive block” material as a semi-transparent wall plane that separates open office and collaborative space with openings and voids to allow for circulation and natural light. The wall and material also act as a unique art piece. “There’s a sense that the exterior has not completely disconnected from the exterior,” notes one judge. “This is a wonderful flow between the inside and outside.”

Project Credits

Location: 2501 Parmenter St., Middleton, WI 53562
Owners/Developers: MIG Commercial Real Estate and Food Concepts Inc.
General Contractor: Ideal Builders Inc.
Architect/Interior Design: Cuningham Group Architecture Inc.
Engineer/Consultants: Graef (structural engineer); Vierbicher (civil engineer)
Photography: C&N Photography Inc.
Completion Date: June 2015

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WTS Paradigm Corporate Headquarters

Best Renovation – Office

With a design that celebrates the creative process, WTS Paradigm might not be setting a new paradigm with a creative office renovation, but it’s reinforcing one that’s centered on employee retention, recruitment, collaboration, and fulfillment.

A tenant in Middleton’s Esser Place, the company’s project vision was to stimulate a high-performing business culture that encourages individuality and promotes collaboration. WTS Paradigm was originally drawn to the building’s high ceilings but management also wanted to create a place where staffers are more accessible to one another and had the freedom to “find comfort” in a flexible, highly personalized space.

One judge praised the design as consistent with a revolution underway in the office culture — away from cubicles. “They actually do have the standard cubicle but they have swept that aside and they are looking at places where people can work in flexible ways. Although there might be cubicles here and there, you’re not imprisoned by that.”

One of the most sustainable things you can do is reuse existing buildings and materials, and since WTS serves clients in the building materials industry, the project used raw materials like wood trusses, exposed steel studs, corrugated plastics, and even a garage door. CEO Nathan Herbst challenged the design team to use simple, everyday materials to create stimulating visual effects.

“This became a showroom of their own materials, and they were very creative,” notes one judge. “It’s in raw form but there is a lot of finesse to the design.”

Overhead lighting is minimized, task lighting is emphasized, and perimeter accent lighting and filament lamps create visual interest by highlighting textures and colors. The varied lighting produces a more charming, theatrical feel. “It was kind of a rough warehouse aesthetic if you look at the before pictures, and what an incredible change!” exclaims a second judge.

Project Credits

Location: 1850 Deming Way, Suite 120, Middleton, WI 53562
Owner/Developer: WTS Paradigm
General Contractor: Ideal Builders
Architect/Interior Design: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Consultant: Creative Lighting Design + Engineering LLC
Photography: C&N Photography
Completion Date: January 2015

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Summit Credit Union – Waukesha

Best New Development or Renovation–Retail

One hundred years ago, the most important buildings in local communities were banks, but the architecture never evolved to reflect that. Judging by our CDA judges’ reaction to Summit Credit Union’s Waukesha branch, financial institutions have come a long way.

One judge who laments the gradual decline of such architecture over the past century says it’s rare to even see a national bank whose design is of any passing interest. Even though the quality of such buildings is high, the design imagination is generally low.

“This credit union building stands as a stunning counter example to the staid nature of such architecture,” the judge states, clearly impressed by Summit’s boldness.

This is the Madison-based Summit Credit Union’s newest branch and its striking design is meant to help establish a strategic presence in Greater Milwaukee. Why is it not your father’s credit union? It begins with openness and transparency provided by floor-to-ceiling windows, and it’s augmented with comfortable, informal seating areas and displays that animate the space. Instead of a traditional teller line, inviting “teller pods” facilitate casual interactions between Summit members and staff.

Taking a cue from the hospitality industry, where cozy dining booths are preferred, the credit union features three intimate, cube-shaped meeting booths with glass sliding doors, patterned glazing, and colorful furniture.

Sustainability comes in the form of large vertical sail-shaped fabric sunshades that reduce solar heat gain and glare, while allowing cool, diffused daylighting to the interior.

A second judge likes the synergy between the credit union’s stated purpose — to help companies get off the ground — and it’s aerodynamic look. “It really rebranded banking,” the judge says. “It looks like a place you want to be.”

Another judge describes it as a signature building that could raise the bar for local redevelopment. “Totally unexpected,” the judge says. “When I saw the pictures I thought, ‘This is a statement.’”

Project Credits

Location: 1103 Spring City Lane, Waukesha, WI 53186
Owner/Developer: Summit Credit Union
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
Architect/Interior Design: Strang Inc.
Engineers: Strang Inc. (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, technology); Arnold & O’Sheridan Inc. (structural); JSD Professional Services (site and civil)
Photography: Strang Inc.
Completion Date: June 2015

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Hub at Madison

Best New Development or Renovation – Residential (Multiunit)

You’ll have to forgive our CDA judges for having a slight case of jealousy over the vastly superior modern designs of campus housing, especially compared to the cinder block construction they encountered 30 years ago. They all concede, however, that a change was necessary because today’s universities face the same challenge with recruitment and retention that private businesses do.

That’s why attractive new structures like Hub at Madison are becoming the norm rather than the exception. “It’s an incredible revolution and this is a very sophisticated project,” notes one judge. “From the exterior, it didn’t differentiate itself as anything less than market-rate housing.”

One judge characterized the 12-story Hub at Madison as “a great expression of good design.” To increase living capacity, the 495,000-square-foot campus property houses a creative mix of micro-unit studio and one-to-five-bedroom apartments. It also contains retail businesses such as Colectivo (coffee) and Naf Naf (apparel), an array of indoor and outdoor amenities such as a 3,500-square-foot fitness center, a rooftop sundeck with infinity pool, hot tubs and cabanas, an outdoor sand volleyball court, and a seasonal ice rink.

That’s hardly a complete list of amenities in what is already an award-winning project. Designed to accommodate every aspect of college life — academics, wellness, and community — Hub at Madison is a combination of form and function. Every apartment is fully furnished with efficient, custom-designed furniture and 50-inch Smart Screen TVs. Individually keyed bedrooms feature solid wood doors, designer carpet, walk-in closets, and private balconies with great campus views. Some of the units have private hot tubs.

One judge praised the integration of wood with other materials and the overall attention to detail, while another came away impressed with the kind of lifestyle the building accommodates. “From a design point of view, it’s really quite stunning,” states one judge. “They are paying attention to the role that community and social interaction must have in universities. Using a wide variety of materials to enhance the experience of living gives this building a deep richness.”

Project Credits

Location: 437 N. Frances St., Madison, WI 53703
Owner/Developer: Core Campus LLC
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
Architect/Interior Design: Antunovich Associates/Studio K Creative
Engineer: Pierce Engineers
Photography: Loren Zemlicka Photography
Completion Date: August 2015

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UW Health at the American Center

Best Development or Renovation – Health Care

The concept of combining clinical health care with personal wellness is an inspired aspect of UW Health’s new health care campus at the American Center, and our CDA judges rewarded the project for taking a fresh approach to patient- and family-centered care.

UW Health at the American Center is more than a 496,000-square-foot healing environment; it’s a comprehensive health and wellness center. Yes it has hospital rooms and other features one would expect in a traditional facility, but judges came away impressed by features such as the learning kitchen, hosted by a gourmet chef and registered dietician to educate people on healthy eating and cooking; a comprehensive fitness studio and sports performance program; and a surrounding prairie environment.

“To be able to tie those two — care and wellness –— together really made it a true health care facility compared to a lot of facilities that are really sick care,” states one judge. “It was awesome to see all the landscaping and the gardens.”

One judge praised designers for paying particular attention to health-related building features such as indoor air quality. With green features such as a 40,000-square-foot rooftop garden, designed to provide a unique space for patients to relax, collect rainwater, and help maximize the site’s open space, the facility is currently under review to earn a LEED health care gold certification.

Another judge marveled at what he called a striking combination of features that breathe life into what could have been the same old institutional structure. “I would say this is an example of a leading-edge project, and we can look at it as a potential future example of architectural design in the United States at the institutional level.”

Project Credits

Location: 4602 Eastpark Blvd., Madison, WI 53718
Owner/Developer: UW Hospitals & Clinics Authority
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
Architect/Interior Design Architect: Flad Architects
Engineers: Affiliated Engineers Inc. (MEP engineering); Ruekert-Milke (civil)
Consultants: TURIS Systems; Stantec Architecture Inc.; Ken Saiki Design (landscaping); Corbin Design (signage, wayfinding); Acentech Inc. (acoustics); KJWW Engineering Consultants and Mitchell Planning Associates (medical equipment planning); Lerch Bates (vertical transport/material management)
Photography: Loren Zemlicka Photography, Hedrich Blessing Photography, Philip Prowse Photography
Completion Date: May 2015

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Graduate Madison 

Best New Development or Renovation – Hospitality

A major upgrade with some well-considered touches propelled the Graduate Madison hotel to the top of the hospitality category. The renovation transformed a building, formerly known as the Campus Inn, which had become outdated, and brings new vibrancy to a property that one judge opines “was overlooked.”

The 50,109-square-foot hotel, which is located one block off State Street in downtown Madison, just a few blocks away from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Memorial Union, was renovated to give visitors an upscale, Wisconsin-themed option while staying in town.

The renovated hotel now has frequent visitors throughout the week and busy weekends due to Wisconsin football games, other sports events, and parents with students who could potentially attend the university.

When people walk into the lobby, they notice canoes hanging from the ceiling that double as unique light fixtures. If that’s not enough to grab your attention, its more modern lobby features bright red leather sofas with stacks of books about Wisconsin set out on uniquely shaped tables. To the right of the lobby is a café accompanied by a 20-foot wooden communal table with outlets for charging phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices.

The table is geared to welcome college students and so are the newly remodeled rooms. Pillows labeled “BRAT” and “CURD” add a taste of Wisconsin to the rooms, and an express elevator was added to access all floors. That includes the seventh floor, which was converted from presidential rooms to an indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar that overlooks Lake Mendota and the Capitol.

CDA judges thought the restaurants were nicely done and designers made good use of outdoor space with roof terraces for dining. “The restaurants look like a nice respite,” notes one judge. “They’ve got a nice location looking out over the lakes so they’re taking advantage of that with the windows and a more serene palette of natural materials.” Another judge praises the blend of old and new. “In this renovation, they captured the historic qualities of the original building.”

Project Credits

Location: 601 Langdon St., Madison, WI 53703
Owner/Developer: AJ Capital Partners
General Contractor: KSW Construction Corp.
Architect: Dimension IV Madison
Engineer: Oneida Total Intergraded Enterprise
Photography: Tara Endres, KSW Construction
Completion Date: August 2015

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Robinia Courtyard 

Best New Development or Renovation – Restaurant

What’s the big deal about another food destination in Madison? Robinia Courtyard is really three restaurants in one, each enticing potential customers with a unique dining experience while sharing a single state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, saving on costs and space requirements.

The three restaurants — Julep (southern cooking), A-OK (coffee house), and Barolo (wine bar) — are three unique businesses with three separate owners that not only share the same kitchen, they share the 3,000-square-foot courtyard space. They also share a blend of old (previous site) and new materials.

CDA judges lauded the different moods within each restaurant, ranging from elegant to more of a fun, diner experience. “This is a really good idea for reuse,” notes one judge. “Preserving elements has always been really a great thing to do in a reuse project, and each restaurant has its own identity.”

The Robinia Courtyard project has been an essential step in the ongoing revitalization of the East Washington corridor, also known as the CapEast District. The former Lussier Teen Center closed in 2009, leaving the building vacant and joining other vacancies in the 500 to 1200 blocks of East Washington.

With a steadier economy, the vacant storefront presented an opportunity to create a dining destination in a key redevelopment district. Just across the street from Robinia, the Constellation and Galaxie apartment complexes now offer modern living downtown.

In keeping with the quality of nearby commercial development, judges praised Robinia Courtyard’s intimate character, which is produced with a variety of rich brick, stone, and wood. The word robinia refers to wood from black locust trees featured in the project. “What this project does is provide everything the chain restaurants don’t,” says one judge. “It provides character, it provides surprise and interest, and you can go there week after week and you would have a different dining experience each time.”

Meanwhile, the courtyard showcases stone masonry and was constructed using reused concrete from initial demolition work. “My favorite aspect of this space is the courtyard,” one judge notes. “It seems like a perfect place to spend an evening.”

Project Credits

Location: 829 E. Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53703
Owner/Developer: Fourcap Real Estate
General Contractor: Bachmann Construction
Architect/Interior Design: Tills Architecture
Photography: Kronser Photography
Completion Date: October 2015

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Ovation 309

Best New Development or Renovation – Mixed Use

Increasing numbers of young professionals and retirees are flocking to downtown Madison, and one of the vibrant places they are flocking to is Ovation 309, which received an ovation of sorts from our CDA judges.

The massive 480,000-square-foot, mixed-use structure, all 14 stories of it, is not only home to 248 residential units and the Madison Fire Department’s administrative operations, but to a seventh floor dog walk area and two rooftop terraces with outdoor fireplaces and Capitol and lake views. The top floor can be turned into club space for events, private parties, and the entertainment of residents.

“It is very sophisticated and it has a real hospitality theme, kind of like an upper-end hotel,” says one judge.

The judge noted how touches like awnings help break down “that huge mask,” making it appear a bit more intimate, and liked how different-sized towers provide better views for residents. “It’s a large program and developers had to deal with a lot of different elements. It was really multifunction and that was reflected in the masking of the building.”

Judges also praised green space like the dog-walk area and the way landscaping was integrated in a dense urban building. “It’s a huge development but it doesn’t seem that way,” notes one judge. “From the street, it looks like separate buildings, and they activate the street really well with retail.”

Another judge liked the way building colors and lighting seems to transition from day into night, a contrast that provides “a little something extra.”

A third judge approved of the roof deck, the public spaces, and the way designers incorporated Madison Fire Department offices on the second floor. “Twenty-five years ago, if the Madison Fire Department would’ve put a new administrative building in downtown Madison, you probably would not have engaged the streetscape. They’re doing that here, as they’re actually able to put in a tap house [Mr. Brews] at ground level.”

Project Credits

Location: 309 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI 53703
Owner/Developer: Hovde Properties
General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
Architect/Interior Design: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Engineers: Pierce Engineering (structural), JDR Engineering (MEP engineers)
Photography: Loren Zemlicka Photography (exterior photos), ADX Creative (interior photos), C&N Photography
Completion Date: June 2015

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Meet the Judges

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA/LA, founder/principal, Taylor & Co., Los Angeles, Calif.

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA/LA, founded Taylor & Company in 1994 to provide public relations and marketing services to professionals and organizations involved in architecture, design, and furnishings. Taylor currently serves as public director of the American Institute of Architects national board of directors and received the AIA/California Council’s Professional Achievement Award for 2012. A graduate of Northwestern University, she is the past chair of the AIA/LA Design Awards Committee.

Victor Sidy, managing principal, Victor Sidy Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.

Architect Victor Sidy received his architectural training from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Sidy has been managing principal of his own architectural firm since 2000, and he served as Head of School and Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Spring Green, Wis., between 2005 and 2015. He also served on a variety of national and international design juries and hosted a television series on architecture for EMG Satellite Television that aired for two years.

Jezamil Vega-Skeels, director of projects, INDESOVI de PR Inc., Puerto Rico

Jezamil Vega-Skeels has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and co-led a community development corporation that focuses on affordable housing development across the island of Puerto Rico. Her work involves streetscape improvements, property renovation, public space development, and real estate development. In 2013, she was appointed to Milwaukee’s Planning Commission, where she served until a recent professional move to Puerto Rico.

Plan now to enter the 2017 CDAs

The annual Commercial Design Awards celebrate the best commercial building projects and designs of Greater Madison architects, engineers, and builders. The April 2017 CDA presentation, for projects completed in 2016, is already underway.

Next year’s program will mark the CDAs’ 10th year, and once again we will recognize a Project of the Year and a first-place winner in several categories, which will be listed online by the end of April. Worthy projects can be submitted for more than one category if applicable.

As part of the nomination process, we will ask for blueprints, floor plans or renderings, and photographs of both the interior and exterior for consideration by our panel of judges.

For renovation entries, we ask that photographs be taken at the beginning and at the conclusion of the construction project. This helps our distinguished panel of CDA judges assess the quality of refurbished buildings.

Winners in each award category will be unveiled at an awards reception in April 2017 (date and location to be determined) and will be featured in the April 2017 edition of In Business magazine. The Project of the Year will adorn the cover of the April issue.

IB encourages companies — architects, general contractors, and engineers — with projects due for completion in 2016 to contact Events Manager Jessica Hamm (jessica@ibmadison.com) to keep their soon-to-be completed projects on our radar screen. IB will provide entry forms, nomination materials, and other information to these firms as soon as they are available.

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