Ken Wilson of Envision Design Recognized as Designer of the Year

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DC Architect Selected by Contract Magazine for International Honor

Kendall Wilson, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP, a principal and founder of Washington, DC-based Envision Design, has been recognized as “2005 Designer of the Year” by Contract magazine. Wilson is only the second designer from the Washington metropolitan area to win the award in the program’s 26-year history.

Contract magazine’s Designer of the Year award honors architects and interior designers who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and design excellence. The international field of past winners includes Michael Graves, Lauren Rottet, William McDonough, Shigeru Ban, Peter Pfau, and Shashi Caan. Debra Lehman-Smith, also of Washington, received the award in 1995.

Contract Editor in Chief Jennifer Busch noted Wilson’s “outspoken” advocacy for sustainable design, as well as his design talents, in presenting the award. “Though much of his work focuses on sustainability, Ken rejects the label ‘green designer,’” Busch stated. “He prefers to be thought of as a talented designer who happens to feel strongly about integrating sound environmental practices into his work. This attitude speaks to the important fundamental shift in ideas about sustainability that Ken and other designers like him are driving.

“Never should ‘green design’ and ‘good design’ be mutually exclusive terms,” Busch added. “…Ken is an individual who actually practices what he preaches. He lives and works like the spaces he designs—attuned to reducing the built environment’s footprint on the natural world. In his life, as in his design practice, Ken sets an intelligent, attainable, comfortable—and most importantly beautiful—example of sustainability for others to follow.”

Wilson has been a leading advocate for the green building movement in the US for many years. In addition to overseeing a number of award-winning, breakthrough sustainable design projects, he has lectured and published extensively on the subject, challenging design professionals, contractors, and manufacturers to focus on sustainable innovations and practices. He is active in the development of the USGBC’s LEED Rating System and serves on the LEED for Commercial Interiors and LEED for Core and Shell steering committees. Wilson also currently serves as Sustainability Forum Advisor to the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). In June 2004, IIDA presented him with its annual Leadership Award.

While accepting the award, Wilson noted that in his professional practice, he has come to believe that, “easy things have the greatest chance of being mediocre, and hard things have the greatest chance of being excellent…In a strange sort of way, a design problem needs to be challenging in order to produce a good product. This is one of the reasons I want to embrace the challenge of sustainability in design. It is this challenge that should arouse all of our egos….sustainable design is really more about moving toward intelligent design—and what’s not sexy about being smart?”

Wilson also urged audience members, who included many international design stars and leading manufacturers, to consider the importance of the environment in terms of today’s “moral values” debate, noting that the November 2004 elections caused him to wonder when “protecting our natural environment would become a moral value—or even patriotic?”

Wilson thanked a number of people who have been influential to his career, including his Envision Design partner, Diana Horvat, as well as “visionary people like Bill McDonough, who has paved the way for firms like Envision to do the kind of work we do.”

Wilson, who set a new standard in the industry by insisting that every member of his professional staff become LEED-accredited in 2004, took the entire Envision Design team to New York City for the awards presentation, along with his family. A number of clients, including senior representatives from Environmental Defense, Chase Manhattan, Nusta Spa, and Aveda, were also on hand to congratulate him.

About Envision Design

Since its establishment in 1999, Envision Design has earned nearly 40 regional and national design awards and citations, including numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association. Recent projects have included the World Wildlife Fund headquarters, the Greenpeace USA headquarters, the Washington, DC office and New York headquarters of Environmental Defense, and the headquarters for Conservation International. A new center for Green Door, a Washington, DC non-profit service organization, was recently featured in Interior Design and earned several 2004 design awards.

The firm is ranked #6 in the nation on Interiors & Sources “Top 25 Environmental Champions” list. Envision Design’s work has been featured at the National Building Museum and in such leading industry publications as Contract, Interior Design, Interiors & Sources and Environmental Design + Construction.

Currently, Envision Design is designing the Washington, DC headquarters for both APCO Worldwide and the Society for Neuroscience. The firm’s recent Nusta Spa project, anticipated to earn a LEED Gold rating, was the subject of a case study presentation by Ken Wilson at the 2004 GreenBuild conference.

Envision Design also served as LEED consultant to Knoll, one of the nation’s top five commercial furniture manufacturers, which received a Gold rating under the Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Pilot program for the Lubin manufacturing facility in East Greenville, PA. The project was also recognized at the GreenBuild Conference.


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