Jury selects four finalists to design a new capitol

Contenders to present preliminary design concepts on Feb. 16

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2005

It's just four now.

After two rounds of reviews and interviews, a nine-member jury selected four architectural teams Wednesday to design a new capitol for Alaska.

It remains uncertain whether the Alaska Legislature will approve the project.

The four teams are Moshe Safdie and Associates, Morphosis Architects, NBBJ and Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design. They have a month to prepare a preliminary design concept and present to the jury Feb. 16.

Juror Mead Treadwell said the jury was impressed by all eight candidates. The jury interviewed the semifinalists Monday and Tuesday. They survived the first cut from a pool of 43 international applicants.

"Every candidate had done a lot of homework but sometimes in very different directions," said Treadwell, a former deputy commissioner of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "It was hard to say no to any of them but there was no chance of a hung jury. We believe the teams we chose will produce very strong and competitive ideas."

Attempting to anchor the capital in Juneau, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho initiated the capitol design competition last January. He hopes to dedicate the building by Jan. 3, 2009, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of statehood.

The four architects, who will work with Alaska architects, said this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

"This is a rare opportunity to design a capitol," said Safdie, who designed the National Gallery of Canada and the Salt Lake City Public Library. "Juneau provides a beautiful setting for the building. We want to create a building that can communicate Alaska's extraordinary natural settings, diverse cultures and the spirits of the last frontier."

Richard Dallam of NBBJ said his team started talking about its working plan right after the interview Tuesday. "If we don't get it, there is no harm. But if we do get it, starting early will have benefits," said Dallam, whose firm designed the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Dallam said a month is tight but not impossible. His team designed the Reebok World Headquarters in Canton, Mass., in eight days.

Mehrdad Yazdani, whose proudest work is the Lloyd D. George Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas, said his team has studied the history of the U.S. Capitol and other parliament buildings throughout the world.

"We want to see what was built, when and why," Yazdani said. "By studying other buildings, we want to find out what needs to happen here in Juneau."

Thom Mayne, lead architect of Morphosis, said he understands the possibility that the Legislature may not support construction of a new capitol. That wouldn't dampen his enthusiasm.

"As architects, we are being asked to produce a solution that develops desire and promotes an idea," said Mayne, who designed the Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon. "If we do our job well and circumstances work, it will happen."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.

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