By EJF, Chicag-o-phile
L: corner detail showing slender, stainless steel columns, Greatbatch Pavilion
The accolades for the Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion just keep coming, and not just for the building's overall merits. Earlier this year, the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) gave the Pavilion its "Best Medium Structure" award via Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLP (SOM), the structural engineers who worked with Toshiko Mori Architects on the "garden pavilion" at the Martin House Complex.
This award should be of interest to more than just the "slide rule set;" it underscores SOM's role in making Mori's bold design vision for the Pavilion a reality. SOM looms large in the history of modern architecture - from the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) to the 1962 Bunshaft addition to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, to the incredible Burj Dubai. Moreover, this award from the Chicago-based SEAI provides a sense of historical symmetry to the Martin House / Greatbatch Pavilion project: Chicago has long been the seat of innovation in modern architecture, from the birth of the skyscraper to the launch of the young Frank Lloyd Wright's career from the tower of Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium building.
R: The Nichols Bridgeway
But this award takes on even more gravitas if you consider the competition. The runners-up in the medium projects category (recipients of "Awards of Merit") included the Nichols Bridgeway (Arup / Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.), a graceful pedestrian bridge linking Millennium Park and Renzo Piano's new Modern wing for the Art Institute of Chicago. Also in the running were structurally distinctive new buildings for Loyola University (Halvorson and Partners) and Northern Arizona University (OWP / P). The breathtaking structural achievement of each of these projects attests to the cutting-edge company that Mori / SOM's Buffalo Pavilion keeps.