Photos: Benjamin Benschneider

Through the ages, art and architecture have always been a reflection of their time. Versailles speaks of an era in French history marked by frivolity and opulence. The Arts and Crafts movement arose in response to the Industrial Revolution and the fear that fine craftsmanship would be lost to machinery.

The same “art reflects life” principle applies today as issues such as fuel costs, climate change, shifting family structures, and the credit crunch reshape the built environment as we know it. For evidence, look no further than the Gold Nugget Awards, the annual PCBC-sponsored competition orchestrated by Peter M. Mayer Productions, that lauds exceptional work in 14 Western states as well as international markets. Many winners this year were compact, green, and affordable. Others were impeccably nostalgic, reflecting a craving for simplicity in these frenetic times.

Beauty is always a fine sight to behold, but when sustainability, social responsibility, and resourcefulness are also part of the package, you’ve really struck gold.—Jenny Sullivan

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Seattle, WA.