The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)

The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)

University Park, PA


Architecture professor James Wines to receive lifetime achievement award

By Archinect
May 20, '13 5:30 PM EST

Penn State professor of architecture James Wines, founder and president of SITE, will be honored this fall with the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. He is being recognized for his work in design of site-specific structures that engage information about the environment, including buildings, public spaces, environmental art, landscapes, master plans, interiors, video productions, graphics and product designs. His work has attracted international attention since 1970, influencing the design of environmentally oriented buildings, interiors, gardens and public spaces throughout the world.

Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Awards honor lasting achievement in American design and are bestowed in recognition of excellence, innovation and enhancement of the quality of life. First launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, the annual awards program celebrates design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world, and seeks to increase national awareness of the impact of design through education initiatives, including National Design Week.

The National Design Award candidates are nominated by their peers, and the finalists are required to submit 10 works for juror review. Wines has been the recipient of more than 25 prestigious awards during his career, including the Premio di Architettura ANCE, an annual honor presented to an international architect by Associazione Nazionale Construttori Edili (National Association of Builders), Catania, Sicily; First Award New World Plaza International Public Space Competition presented by New World Land Ltd., Beijing; and the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design presented by the Chrysler Corp., New York. With this newest award, he joins past Lifetime Achievement Award honorees such as Frank Gehry, Robert Wilson, Milton Glaser, Paolo Saleri, I.M. Pei and Massimo Vignelli, several of whom are his close friends.

Wines’ work became emblazoned on the design psyche in the early 1970s, when SITE designed nine buildings for the Best Products Co., a catalog showroom chain. Since ‘big box’ retail structures are ubiquitous in the public domain, people’s reflex acceptance of their archetypal presence has been used to invert and change their traditional visual intent. Instead of treating the Best stores as conventionally "designed" architecture, their rectangular profiles were used as a "subject matter for art" and a source of visual commentary on the American commercial strip. 

“Within the first two years, this Best work became hot global press. It was an original point of view and iconic. The iconic tends to stick around and trigger memory, which is what the press wants — popular media. We fit that, at the time,” said Wines.

Wines, who has taught at Penn State since 1999, will continue to teach his fall Idea Seminar and his spring Drawing and Thinking seminar, The Line Around an Idea. He says the classes are really about “environmental thinking.” “In architecture there are many important messages, and dealing with the environment is the most important — not intruding on the environment so much,” he noted. “The last 10 to 15 years were destructive and intrusive, including the materials and use of oil and energy.

According to Wines, “interesting” architecture is also important. He cites architecture in Rome — where all Penn State architecture students spend a semester — as an example. “We have a semester abroad in Rome, with beauty and architecture saturation. ... We need to make buildings here just as interesting. In Italy, you drive 100 feet and you have to get off the highway and stop and look. At Penn State, our job is to make the buildings as interesting as the vegetation. You need to invest in imagination. I make a strong case for the environment and what nature is asking for.”

A project in Seville, Spain, for example, uses recycled water that reflects the nearby Guadalquivir River. Water over a glass surface produces static electricity that powers sprinklers for the roof garden. “Imagination is key for our students,” reflected Wines.

The eighth annual National Design Week, held in conjunction with the National Design Awards program, will take place Oct. 12 to 20 and aims to draw national attention to the ways in which design enriches everyday life. During National Design Week, Cooper-Hewitt’s award-winning Education Department hosts a series of free public programs based on the vision and work of the National Design Award honorees. The National Design Awards’ Gala Ceremony will be held at Pier Sixty in New York City on Oct. 17.