2018 Inspirations Awards Winners

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Contract is pleased to present the winners of the 10th annual Inspirations Awards, sponsored by Tarkett. The Inspirations Awards recognize a commitment to social responsibility in commercial interior architecture and design projects that improve the quality of life for those in need. Winners were announced during a ceremony in the Tarkett showroom in Chicago prior to NeoCon in June. 

Through these awards, Tarkett provides generous grants to worthy causes. This year, the jury awarded three grants to the top projects. This year’s competition jurors were Alissa Wehmueller, principal, Helix; Melissa Price, CEO, dPOP; and Jane Hallinan, Interior Designer, Perkins Eastman.

The grand prize of $10,000 was awarded to The Honor Foundation in San Diego (this page and opposite), designed by Gensler. Two additional grants of $3,000 and $2,000 were awarded respectively to The Open School in Portland, Oregon, by Holst Architecture, and FareStart in Seattle by IA Interior Architects.


Grand Prize $10,000 grant

Project: The Honor Foundation

Where: San Diego

Designer: Gensler

Founded in 2012, The Honor Foundation’s (THF) mission is to help Navy SEALs and members the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) transition their skills and training to careers beyond the military. In the past six years, the organization has graduated more than 300 Fellows from its program and has placed 92 percent of them in a professional career within 23 days of exiting active duty.

To even better serve this community, Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. (ARE), in partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation, recently unveiled a new national headquarters for THF. They commissioned Gensler to design a flexible, multifunctional space that would not only serve as THF’s headquarters, but also as a training facility, gathering space, and special events venue.

“Our Government has spent billions training and educating this elite community,” says Joe Musselman, THF founder. “They have sacrificed 10 times for us. They deserve a long-term solution and a sophisticated alumni network.”

The design philosophy for the space focused on reinforcing THF’s core values in order to create a patriotic, collaborative, and inspiring place that fosters team building, networking, and camaraderie. “The goal was to encourage a mind-set primed for continued goal setting and mission success by providing familiar visual cues that evoke BUD/S training facilities (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL), while simultaneously delivering an elevated, sophisticated, and inspiring environment to encourage them toward success in their next civilian mission,” says Stacy Cannon, studio director, Gensler.

In the long term, THF’s vision is to grow its program to impact an SOF community of 65,000 by 2020.


Winner $3,000 grant

Project: The Open School

Where: Portland, Oregon

Designer: Holst Architecture

Open School East’s mission is to prepare students who have struggled in traditional public school for success in college, career, and community. The school serves grades 7-12 in Portland’s Rockwood neighborhood—one of the city’s most diverse and lowest income areas—with a program designed to inspire.

Featuring 11 classrooms, two science labs, an art studio, and administrative spaces, the warm, light-filled building was designed to evoke the feel of a university building and reinforce the school’s belief in support and openness. “We wanted our students to walk into a space that looked more like a college than a traditional middle or high school,” says Terry Johnson, executive director, The Open School. “Our goal is to empower every student to believe that they can go much further in life than just high school graduation.”

The school’s mission to eliminate race and poverty as predictors of student success inspired the building’s wayfinding. The space is punctuated by inspirational quotes and the entrance of each classroom features a black-and-white portrait of a hero
who was an advocate for social justice and equality.

Unlike a traditional high school, Open School East offers small class sizes with two adults in every class, and a focus on social justice and wrap-around services. The school opened for the 2016 school year with 135 students in grades 7-9 and plans to add another grade level each year to serve a total of 270 students.


Winner $2,000 grant

Project: FareStart

Where: Seattle

Designer: IA Interior Architects

Seattle-based nonprofit FareStart helps combat homelessness, hunger, poverty, and other obstacles to employment by providing culinary and food-service training in a professional restaurant environment. In addition to operating kitchens in which trainees prepare meals for schoolchildren and needy communities, FareStart runs restaurants that offer meals to the public at reasonable prices.

Last year, FareStart expanded its outreach, launching three new restaurants in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood: Rise Coffee, fast-casual café Community Table, and the full-service restaurant/bar Maslow’s. The three venues are housed on the ground floor of an historic building leased by sponsor Amazon, which also funded construction and engaged IA to oversee the interior design.

Enlisting several local design partners—including Civilization for branding and Staicoff Design Co., a division of Oculus Inc, for
the restaurant design—IA created spaces that are functional, warm, and representative of FareStart’s values. “The design and experiential graphics embody and communicate FareStart’s mission to empower people and transform lives and the surrounding community,” says Jamie Martin, designer, IA Interior Architects. “In a neighborhood touted for its food-centrism and passion for sustainability and social responsibility, the new venture is a win-win, raising local awareness, providing good eats, and helping to create a pipeline for an industry that struggles with a dearth of skilled workers.”

Within three months of completing the apprenticeship program, more than 90 percent of adult FareStart graduates secure a good job in the food-service industry. Adding three new venues to the organization’s roster enabled the organization to double its outreach and spread awareness of its efforts to a new neighborhood.


Honorable Mention

Project: onenten

Where: Phoenix

Designer: Holly Street Studio

The organization one•n•ten “envisions a world where LGBTQ youth are embraced for who they are, actively engaged in their communities, and empowered to lead, with empowering social and service programs for self-expression, self acceptance, leadership and healthy life choices.” After the organization’s previous youth space was destroyed in a fire, Holly Street Studio was tasked
with integrating these values into a new space.

Aiming to create a welcoming home base for the organization, the design team transformed an old 1950s television studio that the firm had previously renovated into the Parsons Center for HIV/AIDS. The main goal was to improve the existing shell, which would house a space that could accommodate everything from celebrations to quiet group meetings and academic courses.

The new space is inviting and vibrant with abundant natural light, city views, colors, and textures. Dedicated amenity-filled zones offer opportunities for learning, cooking, performing, and creating. Simultaneously practical and playful, the space gives its visitors things to do, places to sit, signs of joy, and a sense of purpose.

“The new space provides youth with an opportunity to overcome trauma, seek opportunity, take pride in their identity, and celebrate one another,” says Diane R. Jacobs, founding principal, Holly Street Studio. Advancing one•n•ten’s mission, the space gives LGBTQ youth a place to call home.