Awards '82

A fast blink and you might bypass most of the 1982 honor awards from the American Institute of Architects.

Modes that some called 90-mile-an-hour architecture - so conspicuous they are visible from a jet or simply monumental as they loom over the landscape - are conspicuous by their absence this year.

While the 125-year-old institute has festooned the city of Washington with blue-and-white banners pointing out significant architecture for its anniversary , it has selected prize buildings so retiring that the banners might mask their total form.

The phrases that the AIA uses are ''modest and low tech,'' ''relatively small in scale,'' ''subtle response,'' and ''unpretentious.'' Many of the 12 structures are so unassuming, in fact, that they give such valuable attributes a bad name.

Of the 12 awards, four went to recycled or restored buildings, many of which also virtually recede into the woodwork of their origins.

None of the acts of invisibility measures up to the lead award given by the magazine Progressive Architecture, to be sure. That prestigious award for unbuilt designs began with a plan for, of all things, a mausoleum in Hanover, N.H.

The Greenwich, Conn., firm of Shope Reno Wharton Associates designed the structure on five white-pine acres, which will become a park.

Coming back to earth, the magazine mostly continued its tradition of lauding elaborately trendy concoctions - residences for wealthy clients.

''This mountaintop palace for a Brazilian tycoon seems to come out of the far distant past when one thinks about architecture as a service for the very rich and very remote, as juror and historian Dolores Hayden commented on one of the winners.

While Progressive Architecture splices these displays of affluent enclaves with drawings of town and alumni centers, plus some research projects, the AIA award-givers offer few prizes that stir the eye or mind, with the exception of Stanley Tigerman's library for the blind and a few others.

So retiring are the final results that the press kit sent out by the institute has scribbles of ''before'' and ''after'' on photos, perhaps to guarantee that viewers can sort the start from the finish of the project.

The winners for current use include:

* Tigerman's Illinois Regional Library for the Blind, the most imaginative of the entries and an artfully contoured arrangement: multicolored, multifunctional , multi-imaginative.

* Kallman, McKinnel & Wood's American Academy of Arts, the most institutional--a page from Europe, a page from California, a page from the Midwest, and the melange almost makes it.

* LeJeune residence, Orono, Minn., by Frederick Benzt/Milo Thompson/Robert Rietow Inc., offered with a screening of foliage that seems to mask a fairly inconsequential home.

* The Garfield Elementary School, San Francisco, Calif., by Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis. Marching up a slope, this simple school may be more striking in its ''bold'' colors but doesn't seem overpoweringly successful.

* Lath House at Heritage Square, Phoenix, Ariz., by Robert R. Frankeberger. At last a ''winner,'' which looks like ''an exciting architectural event,'' the use of lath in a sheltering that has both vivacity and a friendly harking back to the delights of wooden latticework in the past.

* Talbot House, Nevis, West Indies, by Taft Architects. Conforming to the landscape with apparently agreeable materials, et al, but not memorable.

* Residence, East Hampton, N.Y., by Eisenman Robertson Architects, New York. The shingle style revisited in a pleasantly unassertive mix of forms.

* Macandray Terrace, San Francisco, Calif., by Hood Miller Associates. Broken-up bays blend with their neighbors in a civilized gesture which is repeated elsewhere, but often with equal ease and adroitness, however.

Extended use, a separate category for the last time this year, offers the same ho-hum designs that should, in some instances, have gone to the original architect or the painter rather than any designer. Such historic structures don't need heroic labors; but to survive, buildings should be made, or remade, and not simply bathed, it would seem.

Schulman House Addition, Princeton, N.J., by Michael Graves is the most irritating of these. It is a gable, according to Graves, and a less-than--inspiring application of paint and columns to the side of the house for this trendy but essentially trivial award.

The dramatic canopy of the Scoville Square Building done by John Vinci Inc. in Oak Park, Ill., with its snappy tile walk, certainly qualifies for praise-giving.

The cleanup at the Valley National Bank, Des Moines, Iowa, by Charles Herbert & Associates, and the seemingly simple slathering of paint at the Curtis Park Face Block Project in Denver may achieve laudable levels of taste but scarcely rise to the level of excellence that one associates with award-giving--especially, one would hope, in the AIA's anniversary year.

''We had anticipated more examples of design that could represent solutions to the many large-scale, socially significant, or technologically difficult building problems facing us today,'' the jury admits.

Instead, it had to settle on buildings that are ''sensitive to and fit easily into their surroundings, avoiding harsh juxtapositions of scale and treatment.''

The Progressive Architecture jury noticed the same lapse between sociological urges and architectural fulfillment.

''It's too bad there isn't some bold new building form responding to some new social problem,'' said Charles Moore, ''that could be elevated as being great architecture.''

If this was the state of Architecture USA before Reaganomics gave it financial justification, where we are heading today becomes a still more morose question.

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