Good Manors

A tour of some of Vermont’s most amazing recent construction

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

Good architectural design, like good art, can lift the spirit as much as it pleases the eye. Thus it seems fitting that the Vermont chapter of the American Institute of Architects would hold its 2010 annual Excellence in Architecture awards ceremony at the T.W. Wood Gallery and Arts Center at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

The array of 9 award-winning designs, eight of them chosen by a jury of architects from AIA-western Massachusetts and one chosen by popular vote, represent the breadth and depth of exceptional talent to be found in Vermont’s architectural community. And so, to lift your spirit and please your eye, we offer this pictorial display of architectural excellence.

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River House

PHOTO: Carol Stenberg

Maclay Architects, Waitsfield

Maclay Architects received Honor awards for two of its projects.

River House, Moretown, Honor Award

Builder: Michael Ellis

The River House is a net-zero energy residence the jury described as “elegantly situated” on its site. The driving force for this house was twofold: the client’s desire for an environmental building and the dramatic site on a historic dam abutment above the Mad River, says Danielle Petter, LEED AP, research director at Maclay. Stone from the dam location was harvested and incorporated into the building and the landscape.

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Putney School Field House

PHOTO: Jim Westphalen

Putney School Field House, Honor Award

Builder: DEW Corp.

This building has the honor of being the first net-zero energy athletic facility in New England. In addition to the large, collaborative project team, this project pulled in the rural community, school faculty, and students who offered design ideas and guidance. Jury members were particularly impressed by this collaborative process. The two-story structure features an on-site 36.8-kilowatt photovoltaic system that allows it to annually produce more energy than it uses, energy-efficient lighting with daylight and occupancy sensors, composting toilets, air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling, and earth- and human-friendly materials throughout.

Gossens Bachman Architects, Montpelier

Gossens Bachman took three awards: one Honor Award and two Merit awards.

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Three River Design Group offices

PHOTO: Samuel M. Purvis IV

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Private Residence in Windsor County

PHOTO: Gary R. Hall

NAMCO Block, Windsor, Honor Award

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PHOTO: Gary R. Hall

Builder: E.F. Wall & Associates

This four-story, 85,000-square-foot brick apartment block was built in the 1920s and over time became very rundown and had a pretty bad reputation, says Tom Bachman, the project architect. “In the past few decades, what was called Armory Square at the time accounted for 36 percent of the town’s crime. Inside, hallways were marred with graffiti, beer cans, and drug paraphernalia.” The idea was to create a safe and healthy mixed-income “community within a community” Bachman says.

“One thing we did was reduce the density of the building, which originally had 78 apartments in it — just crammed. We completely gutted it and ended up with 52 apartments.” Energy efficiency was a major goal. Before renovation, the building was burning 60,000 gallons of oil a year; the first year after renovation, 19,000 gallons were burned. The project also won the 2009 Grand Award for Engineering Excellence from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Vermont.

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Riverfront Office Buildings

PHOTO: Gary R. Hall

Riverfront Office Buildings, Montpelier, Merit Award

Builders: Connor Contracting and Gendron Contracting

This project, creating the architect’s own workspace on the Winooski River, consisted of two buildings: one of steel, built by Connor, and a wood one built by Gendron. “We wanted to design an office that kind of captured the spirit of our working style in a building,” says Gregg Gossens, the project architect. “We work in kind of an open-studio, workshop-like environment, so saw the building as something where we could work in almost an experimental way.” The space is large and open and contains various systems — for example, passive solar strategies and techniques for controlling the heat and light from its southern exposure. The jury panel praised the “simple and exciting resolution” that was achieved on a modest budget.

Private Residence, Windsor County, Merit Award

Builder: Ennis Construction

This house was built for a young Boston family of four as a vacation home, says Jeff Stetter, the project architect. “They live in a fairly small footprint — urban, downtown living, shades drawn all the time.” The aim, says Stetter, was to create an inside-outside connection “so you feel when you’re in the house that you’re really connected with the outdoors. Many local materials were sourced, including red slate, maple, and locally quarried fieldstone. The home, which sits on a steeply sloped, five-acre site, features 2,400 heated square feet encompassing a living room, kitchen, dining area, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two study areas. An additional 900 square feet make up the terrace, screened porch, deck, and balconies. The building has a high-performance envelope, high r-values above and below, triple-pane windows, and long-lasting, durable materials. It has a 5 Star Plus Energy Star rating.

Black River Design, Architects, Montpelier

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The Courtyard at Given

PHOTO: Gary R. Hall

The Courtyard at Given, UVM, Burlington, Merit Award

Builder: Engelberth Construction

This project connecting two four-story wings of the University of Vermont College of Medicine’s Given Building drew praise from the jury for its “elegant arrangement of interior planes, space, and connecting bridges.”

“We were trying to create a building that complemented the existing structure in some way but also allowed for a lot of natural light into spaces, and would represent a destination within the college of medicine — something that stood out,” says Keith Robinson, a partner in the firm who managed the project with Jim Drummond, also a partner. The challenge was to make a bit of a statement without going totally overboard, Robinson says. “Because it was completely inside another rather large building, we didn’t have to worry about moisture or thermal concerns, so we tried to make it not-so-large by using a lot of angles and not having the floors stack directly on top of each other. We set the top floors back so the natural light could go down into the space.”

Three River Design Group LLC, Woodstock

Three River Design Group Offices, Woodstock

“The simple thing about the design, since it was our own office, was being as creative as possible for as little money as possible,” says Samuel M. Purvis IV, a principal of the firm. “That’s what we try to do for our clients, so also for ourselves.”

The office is in a former garage space that had a garage door with no windows. To bring light into the office, one of the first tasks was to install a full-glass garage door for the opening. The conference room is right off that door, says Purvis, “so we clipped the corner of that interior space and installed that clear Lexan material [see photo] to borrow the light from the garage door coming through the conference space.”

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Archie Bunker

PHOTO: Michael Heeney

Sellers & Co. Architects, Warren

Archie Bunker, Waitsfield, Honorable Mention

This project, which the jury chose for its delivery of “raw excitement” and irresistible “bravado and exuberance” celebrates a return to Dave Sellers’ “wildness of the past,” says Rudy Polwin, an employee of the firm.

“As Dave describes it, he did some wild stuff in the ’70s up at Prickley Mountain, and people would come to him and say, ‘I really love what you’re doing up here, but I want to reduce the wildness down to 90 percent.’ Then someone else would see that project and say, ‘Well, really great, but take 10 percent of the wildness down.’ Dave decided to return to where he was years ago and go all out.”

The poolside facade is a rolling, Plexiglas wall about 12 by 14 feet, says Polwin, “and the entire wall of the living room rolls away so you can jump right out into the pool. Underneath the kitchen is an enormous pullout bed on casters that rolls out into a lower living space, and next to it a storage bin, both fronted by plywood to create a single arch flanked by concrete pillars.”

Truex Cullins Architecture and Interior Design, Burlington

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Maltex Building

PHOTO: Jim Westphalen

Maltex Building, Burlington, People’s Choice Award

Builder: Collins General Contracting

This award selection was made by the general public after viewing all entries over a two-week period in Burlington. The renovation of this 1950s warehouse addition to a factory built in 1900 sought to transform the warehouse into leasable office and studio space, increase the energy efficiency of both structures, and contribute to the vitality of the post-industrial Pine Street corridor. A palette of engineered wood panels and ribbed metal was introduced at the Annex building to complement the adjoining brick structure while activating the street edge. The annex received new energy-efficient windows and a new deck providing storefront business direct access and frontage on Pine Street. At the rear, the loading dock was transformed into a pedestrian-friendly garden.

The Maltex project was also one of the final nominees for the Burlington Business Association’s 2011 Architectural Excellence Award. •