2019 George Matsumoto Prize-Winners

How busy is the architecture community across North Carolina?

So busy that the eighth annual Matsumoto Prize competition received just six entries this year. The number is usually about double that, says George Smart, executive director of North Carolina Modernist Homes, which sponsors the competition. Time and an abundance of assignments, it seems, were contributing factors.

But the quality of the projects in Asheville, Greensboro and Durham makes up for the quantity of entries. Both the voting public in the People’s Choice Awards and the team of judges from the profession – Jane Frederick, Tom Phifer, Michelle Addington, Kristen Ring Murray, Harry Wolf, and Kelly Lynch – agreed on that.

A mountain cabin in Sapphire, N.C. won top honors from both groups. It was designed by Rusafova Markulis Architects in nearby Asheville.

The judges awarded second place to the Trott Residence in Durham by Raleigh’s Tina Govan Architect Inc. in collaboration with Chapel Hill’s ThoughtCraft Architects. Third place went to Asheville’s Brickstack Architects, for their Black Mountain Residence in Black Mountain, N.C.

Second place in the People’s Choice Awards went to Winston-Salem’s STITCH Design Shop, for its Wainscott Residence in Greensboro, N.C. Third place was awarded to Govan and ThoughtCraft for their Trott Residence.

The awards honor architect George Matsumoto, who taught at N.C. State’s School of Design from its founding in 1948 until he moved his practice to California in 1961. In that time, he completed 30 groundbreaking midcentury-modern homes in North Carolina, a number of them national award-winners. He died in 2016.

The NCMH awards are a tribute to his legacy. “These awards are important because they encourage young architects and clients to continue the tradition of modern design that Matsumoto heralded in his era,” Smart says.

Like Matsumoto’s work, entries tend to be smaller in size, including this year’s double winner. “One of the things the judges loved about the Sapphire Cabin was that it was a beautiful, elegant design and an efficient space,” he says. “It’s not something you’d see with 5,000 square feet in Architectural Digest. It’s a beautifully detailed house like those prevalent in the early days of modernism – and a sustainable brand of modernism.”

And there’s still strong demand for small, green and sustainable modern homes, with the “For Sale” section of NCMH’s web site easily its most popular. “It’s not a Taylor Swift kind of movement or a huge phenomenon – it’s smaller and very consistent,” he says. “If it was trending and everybody wanted it, it would be gone in 10 years.”

Still, Carolina architects are striving to keep up with 2019’s demand – with little time, it seems, for awards and competitions.

But there’s always 2020.

For more, go here.

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