As my Samoan friends know, a couple years ago we had to rebuild our official Residence in Apia because the old wooden structure had been irremediably damaged over many years by rot and insects. A decision was made to use concrete and steel so that the new structure would be durable, environmentally sensible, easier and cheaper to maintain, and much more flexible for the many different indoor and outdoor uses to which a Residence is put.
Designed by Garrison Architects of Brooklyn, New York, the rebuilt Residence is strikingly modern but nestles nicely into the lush vegetation of the property. The roof reflects the roll of waves on the sea, and the floor plan is open, airy, simple, and easily reconfigured for different kinds of events (because certain walls and panels were designed to slide on tracks). Although you can’t really tell from these rather stark photos, the trees on the property were of course preserved.
Since construction concluded we have used the property for a variety of events including our Fourth of July reception, formal dinners to celebrate Samoa’s 50th Independence Day, picnics with Peace Corps volunteers and local students, and choir concerts. I have seen it function beautifully, and my Chargé Chad and his family report that it’s a pleasure to live in, despite the bruising when Chad’s youngest son falls on the concrete floor.
So, I was not at all surprised to learn that the Residence was recently honored with a 2012 International Architecture Award (“IAA”). Co-sponsored by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design & Urban Studies and the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture & Design, the IAA is reputed to be the highest and most prestigious recognition program for cutting-edge, global design.
Each year hundreds of submissions and nominations from around the world are considered by an international jury of experts. This year the jury convened in Oslo, Norway … and selected our Residence in Apia as one of the winners. That’s pretty amazing, particularly since we were the only project honored from the Pacific Islands region.
This month the two co-sponsor institutions will present a special exhibition of IAA winners at their annual symposium, “The City and the World,” to be held in Istanbul, Turkey in conjunction with the Istanbul Biennial. When the Biennial closes, the exhibition – including the photos of our Apia Residence – will tour Europe.
I’m delighted that we’ve been able to raise Apia’s visibility around the world, particularly in the context of cutting-edge design. If you happen to be in Istanbul or elsewhere and see an advertisement for the IAA exhibition, stop by and take at look at the photos and the models of our Residence.
If you live in Samoa, we’d love to have you over for an in-person look. We hope to have the opportunity to welcome you to the Residence during one of my upcoming visits or for one of the events that Chad hosts between my trips.