Architects impress capitol jury

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Eight design teams spent Monday and Tuesday wooing the nine-member jury that will decide who should design a new capitol for Alaska.

By week's end, only four will remain in the competition.

The jury has interviewed the eight architectural teams that survived the first cut in designing a legislative hall for Juneau's Telephone Hill. Members will announce the finalists on Friday.

All eight teams combine international design firms with state architects and designers. Maria Gladziszewski, the city's special projects manager, said the jury was impressed.

"These are world-class architects who are interested in designing a capitol for the 21st century," she said. "It was interesting to hear similar themes from the architects but each of them gave a different spin."

The finalists will begin Stage III of the design competition Jan. 19, with a predesign concept briefing. Design concepts are due Feb. 16.

The capitol project was initiated by Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho but has not gained approval from state lawmakers.

Gilles Saucier, lead architect of Saucier + Perrotte Architects, said the interview was intense. His firm's design of the Gerald-Godin College on the West Island of Montreal, Quebec, won a grand prize for architectural excellence in 2000.

"The interview was done very seriously. They asked some really good questions," said Saucier of Montreal, Quebec. "You know that when they choose you, they choose you for the right reason."

The Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design was the first team to be interviewed on Monday. The Los Angeles studio won an award in 1993 for the Lloyd D. George Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas.

"This is the first, and potentially the last, capitol to be built in the 21st century, and what better place in Alaska, as the Last Frontier," said lead designer Mehradad Yazdani. "As architects we're just thrilled to have made it this far. This is a fantastic opportunity for us as designers and for the state of Alaska."

Perkins + Will has finished projects in 49 states and 43 countries.

"It's the first state capitol in the 21st century, and I think there are all sorts of unique opportunities to think about what that means," said lead designer Ralph Johnson, of Chicago. "We have to create a building that will symbolize all of Alaska, and use the current technology to bring the democratic process to people in a contemporary 21st-century way."

The current projects of Morphosis Architects include the new San Francisco Federal Building and the California Department of Transportation District 7 headquarters.

"As an architect in the late 20th and early 21st century, so much of what we do is designed to fall down in 20 to 25 years," said Anchorage architect Mike Mense, part of the team. "Here's a building that must be built for the long term. As an architect, it's an immortality thing. It's a building that will be around when my great-grandchildren are growing up."

Fentress Bradburn Architects Ltd. of Denver has worked on state and municipality projects across the country.

"This seems like a great opportunity for an icon, a building that can be a new image for the state of Alaska and a new picture-postcard image that will say the state of Alaska has a bright, open accessible government that's here to serve the people," said Curt Worth Fentres, lead designer.

Steve McConnell, whose firm NBBJ, designed the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, said the current Capitol is not adequate. His partner, Richard Dallam, said he was struck by the accessibility of the state government when he visited Juneau last December.

"We saw a group of kids in their raincoats walk on the sidewalk. We asked them where they were going. They said they were going to see the governor," Dallam said. "We want to maintain that sense of intimacy in the new capitol."

Moshe Safdie has designed buildings in Jerusalem, Canada and Singapore. He is interested in incorporating the cultural and natural essence of the state in a new capitol. He said his transparent design of the National Gallery of Canada allowed people to see the prime minister entertain guests.

"It makes people feel they are part of that," Safdie said. "In Juneau, where there are long hours of darkness, you should have a building that glows so people know the House is in session."

StudioAlaska +1 is a consortium of two Alaska architectural firms and five individual Alaska architects. The "1" is Stein Halvorsen from Norway. Chris Mertl, a Juneau landscape architect on the team, said the capitol project is dear to their hearts.

"Many of us have lived here for a long time," Mertl said. "We want to design our building for our people. Stein provides a European fresh eye."

• More information about the competition is available at www.alaskacapitol.org or the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.good questions," said Saucier of Montreal, Quebec. "You know that when they choose you, they choose you for the right reason."

The Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design was the first team to be interviewed on Monday. The Los Angeles studio won an award in 1993 for the Lloyd D. George Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas.

"This is the first, and potentially the last, capitol to be built in the 21st century, and what better place in Alaska, as the Last Frontier," said lead designer Mehradad Yazdani. "As architects we're just thrilled to have made it this far. This is a fantastic opportunity for us as designers and for the state of Alaska."

Perkins + Will has finished projects in 49 states and 43 countries.

"It's the first state capitol in the 21st century, and I think there are all sorts of unique opportunities to think about what that means," said lead designer Ralph Johnson, of Chicago. "We have to create a building that will symbolize all of Alaska, and use the current technology to bring the democratic process to people in a contemporary 21st-century way."

The current projects of Morphosis Architects include the new San Francisco Federal Building and the California Department of Transportation District 7 headquarters.

"As an architect in the late 20th and early 21st century, so much of what we do is designed to fall down in 20 to 25 years," said Anchorage architect Mike Mense, part of the team. "Here's a building that must be built for the long term. As an architect, it's an immortality thing. It's a building that will be around when my great-grandchildren are growing up."

Fentress Bradburn Architects Ltd. of Denver has worked on state and municipality projects across the country.

"This seems like a great opportunity for an icon, a building that can be a new image for the state of Alaska and a new picture-postcard image that will say the state of Alaska has a bright, open accessible government that's here to serve the people," said Curt Worth Fentres, lead designer.

Steve McConnell, whose firm NBBJ, designed the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, said the current Capitol is not adequate. His partner, Richard Dallam, said he was struck by the accessibility of the state government when he visited Juneau last December.

"We saw a group of kids in their raincoats walk on the sidewalk. We asked them where they were going. They said they were going to see the governor," Dallam said. "We want to maintain that sense of intimacy in the new capitol."

Moshe Safdie has designed buildings in Jerusalem, Canada and Singapore. He is interested in incorporating the cultural and natural essence of the state in a new capitol. He said his transparent design of the National Gallery of Canada allowed people to see the prime minister entertain guests.

"It makes people feel they are part of that," Safdie said. "In Juneau, where there are long hours of darkness, you should have a building that glows so people know the House is in session."

StudioAlaska +1 is a consortium of two Alaska architectural firms and five individual Alaska architects. The "1" is Stein Halvorsen from Norway. Chris Mertl, a Juneau landscape architect on the team, said the capitol project is dear to their hearts.

"Many of us have lived here for a long time," Mertl said. "We want to design our building for our people. Stein provides a European fresh eye."

• More information about the competition is available at http://www.alaskacapitol.org or the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.



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