On the technical review process for Oculus

A Sure Vet: How the technical review process holds design to a higher standard, Oculus, Spring 2022.

In 2020, AIANY decided to adopt the Common App for all Design Award applications, integrating sustainability as one of the key criteria for design excellence in all projects, while maintaining a special award for sustainability. This year, sustainability ceased to be a separate category and became fully merged into the process of evaluation for Design Awards.

Corbin says the merging of design excellence and sustainability has improved the way the awards reflect the Chapter’s values. “Integration led to greater success in seeing submissions across all categories rise to the top on sustainability metrics into the jury room and receiving awards,” he says.

Some members have raised doubts about AIANY using a technical review process to vet projects for the Design Awards. They suggest it could lead to a mechanistic process valorizing designs that meet quantitative performance standards, while neglecting the qualitative, humanistic values of architecture. Yet what is great architecture if not the art of gracefully deploying a variety of technical skills to achieve deliberate purposes? Technique is the baseline for protect-ing the built and natural environment from catastrophe as well as for creating beautiful, meaningful places.

The technical review process is designed to fully embrace the social and environmental values of the Chapter while allowing the wild diversity of project types by New York members to rise to the top of jury selections. “So many projects are on a different continent, in a far-off place, that it is difficult to funnel them into a language or system here in New York,” Corbin says. “We have to provide some confidence that, if you do your work in an appropriate way and apply yourself in an overlap-ping mindset that you see in the Common App and the Framework for Design Excellence, the jury members will look at your submission more favorably than you other-wise would have thought.”