Gold Nugget Awards celebrate design, building, planning and development excellence.

In June each year at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, Lisa and Shane Parrish of Peter M. Mayer productions stage the Gold Nugget Awards. For 52 years, this occasion has celebrated the resilient fusion of design, building, community planning and development, and clients and customers. This year was no different, and what captured this year's proceedings in a flash for me was a single tableau on stage and one sound bite.

For a good run of years, the work of several architect teams--Bassenian Lagoni, Danielian Associates, Robert Hidey Architects, KTGY, and Woodley Architectural Group--keeps cropping up among the merit award and grand prize winners for the residential for-sale categories. Mike Woodley's gangly stride to the stage for a moment in the spotlight is now familiar, and this year the Woodley team took top Gold Nugget honors for best single-family detached home from 2,500 to 2,900 square feet, for work on Vue, Plan Three, the Infinity Home Collection series at Stapleton in Denver.

So, Woodley and Infinity Home Collection general manager Dave Steinke and a couple of "next generation" Woodley associates are on stage for their close-up moment, and Mike Woodley says. "We did Vue Plan Two and it worked, and Dave said to me, 'let's do this again,' and I said, 'no, let's do something different.'"

So what comes of initially differing perspectives and points of view and interests and financial stakes and senses of possibility and hunches about what will work and won't work are moments that bring all of these threads of difference together. Builder, architect, planner, municipal official, client, customer, all get something they value from the process. And, as it did in this instance and happens so frequently, it starts with somebody saying, "no, let's do something different."

In the case of Vue Plan Three, Gold Nugget judges were particularly impressed with how a sub-3,000 square foot home could "live large" by subtracting the meaningless, i.e. rooms people don't use, and adding the meaningful--flow, and natural light, and connectedness between the defined identities of kitchen, living area, and dining area. Material choices and palette define and "break down" the two-story massing to sculpt the exterior into a warm newness.

Denver's Stapleton features Infinity Home Collection single-family Vue models from Woodley Architectural Group.

The ideas are new. The values--humanness, warmth, light, a balance of protection and relatedness--are timeless. The Gold Nugget Awards, as classy and rarefied as an event as it is, is a fraction of a fraction of all the amazing narratives going on these days that bring divergent--even diametrically oppositional--forces into a state of balance and cooperation, if only for an instant. Every time there's a spark of "no, let's do something different," there's an occasion for this type of breakthrough.

And in one moment after another at the Gold Nugget awards last month in San Diego, on commercial projects, multifamily projects, affordable projects, mixed-use, attached and detached, the narratives were the same: widely different--dramatically opposed, in some cases--interests would need to merge in order that otherwise impossible projects become not only possible but actual in the realest of everyday circumstances. These narrative plot lines more often than not involve big personalities, big egos, powerful players, and a host of stubborn, daunting issues, each succumbing to a whole that works.

If the Woodley sound bite was timeless, the tableau in which he uttered it also etched itself into the classy fabric of the evening. With Mike on stage was that "next generation" of Woodley Architectural Group associates, and to stage left were the "next generation" of Parrishes who've literally become an essential part of the animus of the evening, and among many of the builders and many of the architects in the San Diego Convention center ballroom, were the "next generation" of each of those organizations. Some of them are the next generation in family names, and some of them are descendants and successors of a different order. New ideas, timeless values.

“Let’s do something different” moments are what burst myths and false assumptions about where trends are leading, and what old practices those trends will leave behind. New ideas can awaken timeless values anywhere.

How can it be that just as most of the smartest urban planners and prognosticators and economists are certain that downtown USA is the "new geography," not only of jobs but of living, society, and culture, we'd see the emergence and deep appeal of a community phenomenon that strikes us as contradictory: the agrarian master planned residential community?