Architects’ unique concepts to shine for design awards

Aspiring and professional architects will get a chance to view and submit unique design concepts during the annual Unbuilt Design Awards in April.

Though the awards ceremony, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 18 at the Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St., is more than a month away, members of the American Institute of Architects’ Las Vegas chapter are seeking submissions through March 15.

The Unbuilt Design Awards are among several events slated for celebrations surrounding National Architecture Week, which is planned for April 15-21.

Debi Raffi, communications manager of American Institute of Architects’ Las Vegas chapter, said the awards feature creativity from designers from various backgrounds.

“The awards are unique because it allows you to be so boundless by your own imagination,” Raffi said. “In the past, we’ve had anywhere from 50 to 60 entrants, and there is a lot of involvement with UNLV students.”

Entry fees range from $25 for students enrolled in an accredited architecture program to $100 for American Institute of Architects members and $150 for non members. Those submitting designs will be judged and placed among three categories : theoretical, academic and unbuilt.

Randy Lavigne, American Institute of Architects Las Vegas executive director, said the awards are a way to showcase designs that are not only just concepts but may never reach the final building stage. She hopes the event makes a statement among residents throughout not only the valley but the world.

“We really are trying to create an awareness of design in our built environment,” Lavigne said. “People affiliated with the design community often have work like this that goes unnoticed.”

Though most American Institute of Architects members in Nevada are affiliated with the Las Vegas chapter, about 80 to 100 members are part of the Northern Nevada chapters and are invited to submit designs for the competition, according to Lavigne.

The awards committee is composed of architects from Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, who will judge designs in the three categories.

In addition to presenting concepts that may not see the light of day in terms of building, Lavigne said the awards provide perspective in terms of how architects attempt to solve problems in designing.

“(The awards) are a recognition of architects’ creativity, ingenuity and imagination for solving design problems,” Lavigne said. “The same work goes into the concept as if it’s intended to be built. I think it shows a lot of work in the community that doesn’t necessarily get recognized.”

Though all three categories fall under the unbuilt design umbrella, Lavigne said each recognizes a different kind of concept. Those entering projects in the theoretical category include designs done simply for the pleasure of creating or as an exercise. Academic projects are typically submitted by architecture students or professors in the field, and the unbuilt category is meant for commissioned submissions that have not yet reached — or may never reach — the building stage.

The evening of the awards, Lavigne said, is special because each entry is set to be on display to the public during the reception. Lavigne said a notable part of the evening, however, is the High School Design Awards, which has been a part of Las Vegas’ Architecture Week for more than 25 years.

This year’s theme in based on universal design, in which students from Clark County high schools are posed with the challenge to create a master plan of a residential community with a focus on people with physical disabilities.

Lavigne said the program exists to encourage involvement in architecture at a young age. Many participants, she said, often extend their interests in architecture beyond the awards event.

“A lot of students are recognized during this program,” Lavigne said. “Many of them graduate and become involved with UNLV architecture and have gone on to become principal architects in the community. It has a long tradition of feeding kids into architecture careers.”

For more information on the Unbuilt Design and High School awards, call 895-0936 or visit

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at or 383-4686.

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