AB's Architectural Showcase a Yearlong Affair

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The Architectural Showcase in June is the one issue of Athletic Business I look forward to most each year. It's also the issue I spend most of each year working on.

From January to March, we invite architects, builders, consultants and facility owners to submit their best work from the previous three years. I spend the last weeks of March fielding phone calls and emails from submitters while trying to keep up with the daily deliveries of hardcopy submissions. As organized as I'd like to think I am, my office ends up looking like the scene of a collision between UPS and FedEx trucks.

But then the fun begins.

In preparation for the June issue, the editorial team must whittle down the pages of information to just 200 or so words and select the photos that best portray each project. I'm never quite sure what I'm in for when I open each one. There are some facilities that instantly take your breath away, but some are subtler.

It was a Thursday afternoon, but I was ready for the weekend. We had sent the pages of the May issue off to the printer the previous day — though we go through the same process each month, it never seems to get any less hectic. I opened a collection of photos of a recreation center and was giving them a cursory look as I usually do before delving into the text description when something caught my eye: a couple of curious reddish-brown marks on the entry plaza in an exterior shot. Pylons? Oddly placed, if so.

After enlarging the photo to take up the entire width of my computer screen, I laughed; they were foxes. Or rather, statues of foxes, a troop of them frozen in states of animated play on the plaza as well as the roof of the entryway.

I couldn't wait to read the project description and find out how such a detail had found its way into the recreation center's design. This, at least for me, is what the Architectural Showcase is about: the passion and ingenuity that go into designing a facility, going beyond the basic "pool, gym, fitness center, community spaces" formula of a recreation center and creating something truly unique to its community and memorable for its users.

The Showcase doesn't end with the June issue, however. After the magazine is finished, all of the projects are added to our online galleries, and then we prepare for the Facilities of Merit judging in August, inviting a panel of architects to our offices in Madison, Wis., to review all of the submissions. For two days, they analyze the fine details of each project — not which facilities are most breathtaking or most expensive, but which make the best use of their budgets and site constraints, which best serve their intended user group. The discussion can get contentious, and Day One's favorites can easily become Day Two's discards. Every year I gain a greater appreciation for the architectural design process.

In the end, the judges arrive at a list of 10 projects to be honored as Facilities of Merit. The winners are notified and featured online in early fall, as well as in our November issue. Honorees are also invited to the Athletic Business Conference & Expo, which takes place this year Nov. 13-15 in Orlando, Fla., where their accomplishments will be recognized during the opening keynote and at a special awards reception.

And then in December, we gear up to do it all again.

I hope you enjoy this year's Showcase as much as I have enjoyed putting it together, and I wish you success if you choose to go on your own personal foxhunt.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Athletic Business under the headline, "Delight in the Details."

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