The prestigious Kamphoefner Prize – established in 1988 by NC State’s School of Design Dean Emeritus Henry Kamphoefner and his wife Mabel – has been awarded this year to the Raleigh Architecture Company.
The firm’s now breathing rarified air. Past recipients include Frank Harmon, Ligon Flynn, Kenneth Hobgood, Phil Szostak and Tonic Design (now Katherine Hogan Architects).
In part a reaction to the advent of Postmodernism in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Kamphoefners wanted this endowed prize – it carries with it an award of $10,000 – to encourage individuals and firms to pursue the fundamental principles of the modern movement in architecture.
Robby Johnston and Craig Kerins, founders of the design/build firms Raleigh Architecture Company and Raleigh Construction Company have been doing precisely that since 2012.
They’re both graduates of UNC-Charlotte, and both veterans of design/build firms – Johnston at Tonic Design and Kerins at Austin’s Jay Hargrave. And they’re firmly dedicated to working in the modernist idiom.
“To be eligible, you have to have practiced for 10 years, with a commitment to modern design over a sustained period, not just one or two houses,” Kerin says. “You have to have a belief in the fundamentals of modern design and that canon of work.”
Most of the firms’ work is single family residential, though they do venture into multifamily spaces, commercial upfits and light commercial work.
Their client base is diverse, with an age demographic that crosses three to four decades. “A consistent thread is that they’re curious and have a real need and interest in creating a building – where and why they want to make it,” Johnston says.
And just because the firms are named after the capital city of North Carolina – and not themselves – doesn’t mean they’re limited to the Triangle area. “Naming the firm after a place is meant to emphasize the importance of place no matter where it is,” he says.
Increasingly, their commissions are coming from beyond Raleigh’s borders. “Having roots here makes it work better elsewhere,” Kerins says. “We’re in Virginia, the Outer Banks, Pennsylvania, Western North Carolina and South Carolina.”
And their commitment to design/build also means a commitment to innovative design. “We’re trying to be leaders with design excellence in our studio,” he says. “We seize and refine the process of design and construction and pursue invention and innovation.”
All of which the Kamphoefners would surely appreciate – as long as the firm doesn’t wander back in history for precedents like Chippendale pediments or beswagged public buildings.
That surely would cause the former dean to spin in his grave.
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