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Clinton library wins National Design Award

Arkansas building recognized for excellence in architecture.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The architects who designed Bill Clinton’s presidential library, a gleaming glass and steel building over the Arkansas River that invokes his administration’s theme of “building a bridge to the 21st century,” have won a National Design Award for excellence in architecture.

Polshek Partnership Architects of New York, whose projects include Carnegie’s newest concert hall and the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, was one of two winners in the architecture design category for the prizes, awarded Tuesday by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Architect Rick Joy, currently working on a resort in Utah and several residential projects in the Southwest, also received an architecture award.

The $165 million Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., is scheduled to open next month with a major celebration and is expected to draw 300,000 visitors in 2005. The structure, designed to feel airy and inviting, also mimics six industrial bridges that span the river and contribute to the city’s aesthetic.

Polshek Partnership specializes in projects for educational, cultural and nonprofit organizations and tries to combine beauty with a connection to history, company founder James Polshek said.

“Architecture has a responsibility somewhat greater than making beautiful form — it has to make beautiful form that has some lasting meaning,” he said.

Polshek Partnership also was recently selected to design an underground exhibit center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Polshek and Joy received the architecture awards Tuesday evening at a ceremony intended to celebrate and raise public awareness about “the important role that design and designers play in people’s lives,” museum director Paul Thompson said. “This year the jury seems to have made a very strong commitment toward environmental responsibility and design that emphasizes human values.”

Among the architecture finalists was Joseph E. Spear, renowned designer of Major League Baseball stadiums, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and the new Phillies ballpark in Philadelphia.

The seven other design award categories are lifetime achievement, corporate achievement, communications, environment, fashion, product design and the patron award.

For lifetime achievement, graphic designer Milton Glaser was honored for a career that spans more than 50 years and includes such iconic images as the “I (heart) NY” logo.

Beauty company the Aveda Corp. received a corporate achievement award, for “insisting on strong design and aesthetic standards, expressed within shifting parameters of materials and design processes that leave a minimal ‘footprint’ on the planet,” the museum said.

The communications award was presented to, an entertainment and media company. The museum said founder and chairman Jon Kamen is an “innovative leader in providing advertisers with communications vehicles that link their brand messages to consumers.”

William McDonough+Partners, an architecture firm based in Charlottesville, Va., received the environment award for its work creating projects that are “ecologically, socially and economically sound.” Its projects range from Nike’s European headquarters in the Netherlands to the revitalization of Ford Motor Co.’s sprawling River Rouge complex in Dearborn, Mich.

In the fashion category, designer Yeohlee Teng — who presented her spring collection in a gritty subway station instead of a clean, stark runway during New York Fashion Week this fall — was honored for “seasonless efficiency, striking geometry and concise functionalism.”

Designer Yves Behar received the product design award for his work that ranges from consumer electronics to footwear. He founded fuseproject, a San Francisco firm whose clients include Microsoft Corp., Nike Inc., Birkenstock and Samsung Electronics Co.

The museum recognized urban planner and civic activist Amanda Burden with this year’s design patron award for “fostering ideas, nurturing creativity and quickly producing solutions to enhance the residential, commercial and cultural landscape.”

The National Design Awards were launched in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council.