2021 AIA|LA Architectural Photography Awards Winners
Announced by the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA – March 11, 2021— The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles Chapter (AIA|LA) is honored to announce the 2021 AIA|LA Architectural Photography Awards (APA) winners.

Like the year they emanate from, the narrative the winners tell is often one of challenge and resilience. The challenges can be small, say that of a worker in “Washing Turrell,” photographed by Luis Ayala. Architectural—Tzu Chin Yu’s still of the long-awaited Taipei Dome on a COVID-empty street. Photographic: to capture a church designed by Costas Machlouzarides in Harlem, New York, Darren Bradley waited for a car to leave—it didn’t. They can be human: Jeff Durkin, Assoc. AIA’s portrait of Mike Atherton as the para-athlete trains, with I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall as a backdrop. Often they embody the times—Elizabeth Daniels’ photograph intended to remind of racial injustice and inequity. Finally, like Marius Nimitz, AIA’s, “Transformation,” they may blend multiple narratives, large and small. In Nimitz’ case, the juxtaposition of topography that is projected to ‘disappear underwater by 2050’ with a pilgrim journeying to a 14th century mosque, a fisherman, and a series of skyscrapers. (And these are just a few of the winning pictures.)

No matter their narrative, each of the 20 recipients of the 2021 AIALA Architectural Photography Awards are connected by their use of architecture and the built environment as a central component.

This year, twelve photographs were awarded Best Picture, two feeds were named Best Instagram Feed, and two images won best Rendering—a new category. Finally, three images were recognized in a category for this year alone: The Times We Live In: Reflections of 2020.

Below are the 2020 AIA|LA Architectural Photography Award recipients, along with jury notes. Within categories, winners were awarded at three levels, “Honor,” “Merit,” and “Citation,” Honor being highest. The award program’s jury was comprised of: Michael ‘Caco’ Peguero – Designer + Founder of United Futures; Craig Shimahara, Hon. AIALA – President & Founder, Shimahara Visual; and Claire Zimmerman – Author + Associate Professor in Architectural History and Theory at University of Michigan.

To view the images, visit this AIALA website page.

Best Image Category

Title: Transformation
Photographer: Marius Nimitz, AIA
Location: Mumbai, India
Instagram: @marius.nimitz
Jury Notes: The image powerfully dramatizes the uneven development between financial accumulation in global urban centers, and the specificities of local sites. | This portrait of a BRIC landscape squarely questions the economic adage that the rising tide lifts all boats. The background, midground, and foreground elements solemnly read like a stacked bar chart: multinational development on top, bearing down on a dry local economy, leaving the individual at the bottom with nothing in his hands and hiding his face.

Title: From the cocoon
Photographer: Tzu Chin Yu
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Instagram: @jackill0501
Jury Notes: The photograph depicts the long-delayed Taipei Dome partially wrapped in scaffolding. Bathed in pink light from the rising or setting sun, the image evocatively interposes duration into a still image. | Ghostly images of barren cityscapes are ubiquitous these days. How refreshing to see a familiar metaphor of hope within this stunning architectural COVID moment, replete with unfolding glassy wings stretching out towards the sun.

Title: Louvre
Photographer: Paul Vu
Location: Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Instagram: @hereandnowagency
Jury Notes: A lacy scrim dominates the upper register of the image, contrasting the stark white walls below. Four women clothed in black concentrate viewers’ attention, standing amid dapped light from the ceiling above. | The porous elevation of Jean Nouvel’s Arab Institute in Paris finds baroque expression as a massive domed ceiling in Abu Dhabi, only to be transformed back into an elevation by this exquisite photograph.

Title: Family at the Library
Photographer: Jeff Durkin, Assoc. AIA
Location: UCSD, La Jolla, CA, USA
Instagram: @durkin.films
Jury Notes: A family group caught in the act of marveling at the Pereira library at UCSD—the marvel of monumentality. | It looks like a still straight out of “Tales from the Loop”. A fantastic use of color. | This is a serious photo of three colorful, highly focused birdwatchers.

Title: Washing Turrell
Photographer: Luis Ayala
Location: Houston, Texas, United States
Instagram: @luis_ayala_v
Jury Notes: Compositionally striking, the image gets its charge from the individual cleaning Turrell’s Skyspace. | Using photography to flatten space often comes at the expense of architectural intent or understanding, but this playful Malevich-esque composition was too fun to pass up!

Title: Marginal Gothic
Photographer: Gerard Smulevich
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Instagram: @gsmulevich
Jury Notes: The vertical grandeur of the interstitial space of highway infrastructure captured in an image populated by a stray dog and a pair communicating in the depth of the picture, lit by the rising sun. | Within this infrastructural cathedral the two congregants at the backlit altar and the one sniffing around in the pews are each subject to an all-powerful, omnipresent eye – the camera.

Title: Bladerunner
Photographer: Jeff Durkin, Assoc. AIA
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Instagram: @durkin.films
Jury Notes: “Blade” describes the angular edge of the building, and the prosthetics of the runner. The photograph is beautifully shot and framed, and brings into our visual repertoire an expanded notion of “ability” | Defiant, proud. Built for speed; even the building leans forward, gobbling up tiny competitors.

Title: Fire Rebuild Delivery Completion – Malibu
Photographer: Gordon Stott, AIA
Location: Malibu, California, USA
Instagram: @connect_homes
Jury Notes: Construction photographs exert an enduring fascination in the depiction of architecture. Here, such a photograph recalls a devastating event and an ongoing environmental crisis. It draws on a long tradition of construction photography as the depiction of renewal and regeneration. | This classically composed photograph of a handsome, sumptuously sited project paints a portrait of resilience, strength, and possibilities.

Title: Stairbuilder
Photographer: Jeff Durkin, Assoc. AIA
Location: UCSD, La Jolla, CA, USA
Instagram: @durkin.films
Jury Notes: Prefabricated but historically grounded, the image of a stair to nowhere has metaphorical traction, even as the photograph also refers to the increasing automation of buildings and their fabricated parts. The stability of constructed material contrasts with the mobile figure in yellow, whose movement reminds us of the temporality of the construction process–and of architecture itself. | This photograph underscores the fact that stairs have been celebrated as art since at least the Laurentian Library, especially since the spiral sculpture on display here doesn’t even connect anything yet.

Title: Harlem
Photographer: Darren Bradley
Location: NYC, New York, USA
Instagram: @modarchitecture
Jury Notes: A period image of a period building, gesturing to the liveliness of a Harlem now threatened with the creeping effects of widespread gentrification. | The highly deliberate framing of this photograph allows the viewer to appreciate the quaint and quirky beauty of the multicolored facade in a manner that is likely under-experienced.

Title: Rebuilding from Woolsey 3
Photographer: Jordan Wyatt, AIA
Location: Malibu, California, United States
Instagram: @y8studio
Jury Notes: Construction workers in action, not carefully composed, but spontaneously engaged in the labor of building. | A reminder that we are always rebuilding. Each group member in the group is wearing a facemask, not to protect from the Woolsey fire but due to the global pandemic. | The idea of a wall has taken on heightened meaning in recent years. This photo presents a group of men at the base of one with a puff of danger in the air behind them, working to rebuild in spite of whatever walls they have experienced in their own lives.

Title: Preservation Realities
Photographer: Anne Cotter, AIA
Location: Newburgh, NY USA
Instagram: @ascphotos518
Jury Notes: The collage of this image is a collage of time and US disurbanization and economic decline. The elements are not perfectly aligned in the image, but they sum up the dilemma of preservation today. What not to save? | A portrait of three buildings juxtaposed in style equally forgotten. | Pilasters, Doric, pilotis: they all stand for collapse in this somber portrait of urban decay.

The Times We Live In: Reflections of 2020
*Images within this category or not discerned in levels.

Jury Notes: Taken together, these photographs form a COVID triptych that presents the environmental sequela of the pandemic at three different scales—from the air, on the street, in the room—all linked by a sense of atmospheric loneliness and isolation.

Title: Looking North
Photographer: Ashok Sinha
Location: New York, NY, USA
Instagram: @ashoksinhaphoto
Jury Notes: The image evocatively captures the internal world of COVID lockdown. | Looking outside the window through our pandemic daze to see outside slowly coming into focus.

Title: Beach Day 2020
Photographer: Aaron Araki
Location: Los Angeles, CA, US
Instagram: @aaron_araki_photo
Jury Notes: An aerial view of a post-COVID world, this empty beach scene strikes Angelenos with awe. To others, the conjuncture of mobile homes and prime beachfront comes as a visual conundrum, reminding viewers of the specificity of Los Angeles life.

Title: Inequity
Photographer: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Location: Elizabeth Daniels
Instagram: @elizabethdaniels01
Jury Notes: Fully frontal and brutally honest, the photograph reminds us how unevenly the effects of COVID have been distributed in US society and around the world.

Best Rendering Category

Title: Private Home
Photographer: Miguel Rodrigo with Here And Now Agency
Location: London, UK
Instagram: @hereandnowagency
Jury Notes: This quiet illustration deftly weds the architecture with its site while maintaining a clear understanding of compositional hierarchy. It does so with a painterly layering of horizontal strips, alternating between snow and natural landscape like the fingers of a white-gloved hand loosely intertwined with one that’s bare, then slipping the project into its environment like a ring.

Title: Cemetery
Photographer Name: Miguel Rodrigo with Here And Now Agency
Location: London, UK
Jury Notes: An excellent showcase of cel shading in 3d. The playful colors in contrast to the subject matter. | The tantalizing hints at a story within this netherworldly illustration outweigh any technical head-scratching.

Best Instagram Feed – Firm

Firm Name: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Instagram Handle: @eyrcarchitects
Jury Notes: We looked for good content and a good use of the tool as well. What immediately stood out was the cohesive branding across all graphics. The diagrams, renderings, photographs and stories also gave insight to the people behind the projects. | This feed showcases thoughtfully curated imagery organized into clear (but not rigid) patterns; fantastic play of geometry, scale, color, and negative space. Beautiful photography and design.

Best Instagram Feed – Individual

Name: Michael Wells
Instagram Handle: @regressionarymovements
Jury Notes: The photographer’s eye comes through in the cohesive aesthetic. A unique coupling of built structures and urban landscapes. | This feed feels like a single performance piece; a photographic poem on the kitsch, colors, and beauty within the Duchampian disuse of Americana.

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Tibby Rothman, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Marketing and Public Relations
t: 213.639.0763
e: tibby@aialosangeles.org