The New American Dream?: The condos at 1615 N. Wolcott: simple, sophisticated, and close to everything.

Photos: Martin Peters Photography

The New American Dream?: The condos at 1615 N. Wolcott: simple, sophisticated, and close to everything.

Click here to see this year's winners as well as the Builder's Choice archives.

This may have been the most unpredictable year on record in the 29-year history of the Builder’s Choice Awards. We weren’t quite sure what to expect in the way of design submissions amid news of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and personal hardship. And yet the entries arrived and shone in spite of the dreary economy, like the sun peeking out between the clouds even as the rain pours down.

We are happy to report that great work is still out there, and, in many ways, better than ever. But this year’s entries also are beginning to reflect a reality far different from the one we knew in the bubble economy. Big trophy homes were few and far between among the 2009 contenders, while our judges were presented with multitudes of nifty remodels, adaptive reuse buildings, affordable housing (particularly senior housing), and small, jewel-box custom homes—many of them green.

Regionalism has become an architectural imperative, it seems, in light of concerns about sustainability, and many winning projects are the proud bearers of local materials and craftsmanship. Luxury is not extinct, but it is simpler, more restrained, eco-conscious, and increasingly forged in housing configurations that share walls. Infill locations have become veritable hot spots as crumbling buildings, dead malls, and parking lots morph into thriving mixed-use neighborhoods.

It’s a different way of looking at design, to be sure. But it’s perhaps just what we need to foster a healthier industry and stronger communities.

Thanks to all those who entered for giving us good news to report and lots of good work to savor.

What the Judges Said


Jurors from the 2009 Builder’s Choice discuss trends illustrated by this year’s winning projects.

Click here to see this year's winners as well as the Builder's Choice archives.