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Architecture in 2015, A Year in Review: The Good, The Bad, and the Potato Chips

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Architecture keep on architect-ing in 2015, and like all things post-recession, it expanded into side hustles. For the sixth year-in-review in a row, Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster (@marklamster) and Curbed's own Alexandra Lange (@LangeAlexandra) examine the best and worst design events, buildings, controversies, architectural stunts, and personalities of 2015. This year, they're handing out prizes with no shortage of material (some of it food-related), focusing on works demanding praise and damnation—sometimes both.

You Name It Award: Cheesegrater? Waffle iron? Tripas? Diller Scofidio + Renfro's new Broad Museum inspired more metaphors than the verbal section of the SAT.

We Let the Intern Do It Award: The deranged zebra facade of the Petersen Automotive Museum, the real architectural newsmaker of Wilshire Boulevard.

Who Needs Venice Award? Chicago had a biennial without starchitects, and the world continued to spin on its axis.

A photo posted by @fioredelfango on

James Beard Award: For Sou Fujimoto's potato-chip Bilbao, said biennial's tastiest Instagram treat.

Who Needs Architecture Award? To British design collective Assemble, winners of the Turner Prize—for art—for their ongoing rehabilitation of derelict houses in Liverpool. See: Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects.

Marvin-Triola Separation of the Year: SHOP Architects and Vishaan Chakrabarti parted ways. Lawyers were involved.

Mitt Romney Sensitivity Award: Rem Koolhaas's Fondazione Prada in Milan is literally plated in gold.

Ombudsman of the Year: Michael Sorkin took fellow critics to task for saying the new Whitney looks weird. (We think?)

Thanks for Nothing Award: Pedro "Curators Are the New Critics" Gadanho departed MoMA claiming the press misunderstood his (scattershot, overly academic) shows.

Fiorina Award for Disastrous Stewardship: Developer Aby Rosen, for ripping the guts out of both the Four Seasons and the Brasserie.

Good for Women in Architecture Award: A Living Female Architect wins the AIA Gold Medal (and it's about time for Bob Venturi too).

Bad for Women in Architecture Award: A panel on "the agenda for 21st century architecture" without a single lady.

#blackdesignmatters Award: To the student-organized Black in Design Conference, widening the necessary conversation about the demographics of who designs our houses, our streets, and our curricula.

Louis Kahn Would Be Proud Award: To brick (it's back!) as seen in recent work by Mecanoo, Caruso St. John, Kennedy & Violich, and Frank Gehry.

Eff You Award: Among its misdeeds, ISIS demolished majestic Palmyra and profits off the sale of looted antiquities.

Energizer Bunny Still Going Award: To Michael Maltzan, for his (pretty great) One Santa Fe project, which stretches over a quarter of a mile in Los Angeles.

Tantrum Cup: Frank Gehry handed it off to Jean Nouvel, for boycotting the opening of his Philharmonic Death Star in Paris.

Back to Basics Award: To the string of retro graphics standards manuals finding favor on Kickstarter, from the MTA Standards Manual to British Rail to NASA.

Smackdown Prize: To Mark Hogan (@markasaurus), for giving us the link we need the next time someone else proposes solving the housing problem with shipping containers.

Chip Off the Old Block Award: David Chipperfield signs on to give the Met a haircut, and a modern addition.

Unicorn Award: To Rotterdam's Luchtsingel, the elevated, egg-yolk yellow walkway in Rotterdam that is the "world's first [partly] crowdfunded public infrastructure project."

Far Out Prize: To the Walker Art Center's Hippie Modernism exhibit, for reminding us that not all postwar architecture was on the grid.

The Dwell Award for Bourgeois Solutions to the Housing Crisis: First it was prefab; now it's itty-bitty houses. Tupperware, anyone?

Frank Lloyd Wright Perseverance Award: A vision of the future where everything is Cherokee red, your house leaks like a mother, and there are no cities? Taliesin West? No—it's The Martian with Matt Damon!

You're Gonna Make It After All Award: To the Architectural League's Emerging Voices program, which celebrated thirty years as arbiter of the avant-garde.

Lone Star Award: Frank Welch, beloved gray eminence of Texas modernism, published a memoir and a monograph, each exhibiting his charm and intelligence.

Jackie O. Award for Preservation: To Saving Place, Museum of the City New York's excellent (and beautifully mounted) history of the New York preservation movement. Honorable mention: Judith Gura and Kate Wood's sumptuous Interior Landmarks: Treasures of New York, which takes you behind the facades.

Book Title of the Year: Affordable Housing In New York—got your attention, didn't it? Pretty good book, too.

Annual Concrete Tears Award: To Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center. Let's not have a cry over Alison and Peter Smithson's Robin Hood Gardens next year, m'kay?

Greenest City in America: Houston. With ten urban landscape projects underway, this is not a joke about the jungle-y weather.

If It Looks Like A Duck Award: Even Elena Ferrante couldn't escape the woman-looking-out-over-water book cover cliché … though her publisher claims it's ironic.

M.C. Escher Memorial Prize: To the isometric dream structures of UsTwo's Monument Valley and William Chyr's (forthcoming) Manifold Garden.

Utopia Prize: To the Great British Bake Off's tastefully kitted out tent, where skilled practitioners compete, without badmouthing each other, for glory alone.

Indecision 2016 Award: To Barry O. We know you're busy and all, but pick an architect for your presidential library, or let g-d Luther do it for you.


The Pritzker Prize for Bad Timing: Frei Otto awarded the (long-deserved, well-deserved) Pritzker Prize—a day after his death.

I Bet He Designed His Own Symmetrical Gravestone Award: To Michael Graves, master of composition and color, who changed our kitchens forever.

The Reyner Banham Medal: To Phil Patton, as expert at critiquing a Volkswagen as a coffee lid, who taught by example that everything is design.

· All Critical Eye posts [Curbed]
· Mark Lamster columns [Dallas Morning News]
· Lunch with the Critics: 5th Annual [Design Observer]
· Lunch with the Critics: 4th Annual [Design Observer]
· Lunch with the Critics: 3rd Annual [Design Observer]
· Lunch with the Critics: 2nd Annual [Design Observer]
· Lunch with the Critics: 1st Annual [Design Observer]