AIA 2009 COD Competition / First Prize Albert M. McDonald


Albert M. McDonald, an associate architect from PBC+L Architecture, just shared his winning entry for the AIA 2009 COD Competition, Listening to the Past, Looking to the Future: A House for Today. The sketch competition asked participants to design a sustainable home to replace the demolished Rachel Raymond House designed by her sister Eleanor Raymond, FAIA.  The new 2,500 sq ft home would be placed on the original site using the same program brief as the original, yet it would be a contemporary interpretation and implement sustainable strategies.

The jury noted that McDonald’s proposal was ”the most thoughtful and sophisticated text considering the history of the site and the original Raymond House. This submission had the best integrated sustainable strategies in terms of the Living Building Challenge and was very thoughtfully done with the site in mind. This project created a sense of place and a place that could be enjoyed for both communal and individual experiences.”

More about the winning proposal after the break.


“Reverence derived as a response to the history as well as the current situation of the original Raymond House site using the original house as an inspirational point of departure,” explained the architect.

McDonald’s proposal to move the new home to sit slightly uphill from the original home provides views of where the Raymond House once stood. The home’s “honorific halo” of evergreen trees still encircle the original home’s void ”preserving the memory of the previous structure.”  These evergreens frame the original home’s placement through a “tree corridor” but also help isolate the new home from its neighbors, instilling “a stronger sense of privacy to the inhabitants”.  The placement allows the home to develop a connection with the original home and a relationship with the natural environment.


A new outdoor area, complete with a patio and reflective pool, was designed within the circle of evergreens where the original patio sat.  This new outdoor area is connected to the new home by an arbor constructed of reclaimed cedar.  The arbor, an extension of the new residence’s circulation system, slides underneath the trees to physically and programmatically connect the new with the old.


Learning from the original Raymond House, which was comprised of two overlapping L shaped programmatic functions, the new proposal features similar organization of spaces.  In the new proposal, a “horizontal tube of space…is sliced evenly into the two L shapes…and defines the predominant public and private spaces and their respective associates spaces. The L shaped spaces slide into each other establishing visual and physical relationships to each other and the landscape.”


New sustainable systems are implemented in the proposal to create “a comprehensive strategy for responsible construction practice as well as responsible energy and resource consumption.” Solar energy practices, natural cross ventilation, photovoltaic panels that energize a rainwater cistern, and the insulating value of green roofs are a sampling of the many different systems used to create a perfect environment for the new homeowners.

All images courtesy of Albert McDonald.





Cite: Cilento, Karen. "AIA 2009 COD Competition / First Prize Albert M. McDonald" 22 Jul 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • ZIED

    amazing.. i wonder what is the software used to generate those sketches? I’d realy love to know.

    • word

      my guess would be sketchup with a combination of hand drawings and photoshop

  • lastra_is

    amazing renders, does anyone know the sotftware??

    • Jose Antornio


  • fordy

    Nice drawings; however, this style perfected by LTL. Hand drawing + photoshop + 3d model.

  • pedro falé

    the lamest of all… google’s sketch up


      i would have to disagree, those renderings have all the trademarks of a line drawing…done by hand. is it too much to believe that in this digital age the majority of architects still feel most comfortable working out the ideas in their head through a pencil in their hand?

      beautiful project, the award seems very well deserved

  • word

    I think the software used is much less important than the ability to convey a message visually. Really, I think the fact that the images are very evocative and have some level of depth in spite of using the *dreaded* sketch-up-speaks more to the designer’s ability to synthesize media in to a meaningful collection of spatial representations. I think this graphic style-this case included, the graphic whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    • Lucas Gray

      well said. I think Sketch up gets a bad (and undeserved) reputation. It can be a great design tool and can make nice graphics if used by a good designer.

  • Amanda

    I would be banking on a sketchup and photoshop montage

  • Richiee Phan

    To me, I think that he used sketch-up with the special style, and photoshop for background + people. Impression on me!



    • ZIED

      cristian , u left nothing to mention, those are the programs everybody knows
      but im with amanda, photoshop and sketchup

  • Ing

    Imression from Autodesk makes the handstyle better than “hand style” ;-)
    There is everything done per computer

  • Juan Gomez-Velez

    Why would anybody deem such a powerful and easy to use tool as sketchup as lame is really not easy to understand. For those of us in the real world of architectural practice a simple surface modeler with true shading, that allows for both conceptual design and prompt presentation is priceless. The design itself is well presented and rather large. It echoes the Ponce House by Mathias Klotz in Chile. The interesting ting is the need to alter the viewpoint to achieve a sense of the scale of the place. It seems to have been designed perceptually, that is to say with what is seen as it’s fundamental premise. That seems to explain the length of the floor plan. Color, surface material was played down, yet all the surfaces were well articulated. That’s why it seemed hand drawn, that’s the fiddling that those of us who were trained to draw do when we wish to embellish a rendering. All in all I feel gratified in seeing something well thought out and clearly expressed in a rendering any of us can attempt to do successfully be recognized.

  • Julie

    It’s hand rendered. Might be traced from a 3D print, but in the main living room perspective you can see the traces of eraser and some cockles.

    Good perspectives and clear plan.


      Though I do think the images are handsome, I’m generally turned off by fake perspective construction lines over shaded model renderings. I understand the desire to express the presence of the human hand in the work, but I can’t get past the dishonesty of the technique. It’s like looking at a faux finish, or cultured stone.

  • Scarpasez

    Software tool snobbery has nothing to do with design, just like hate on parametric software and a hankering for the “good old days” is a hallmark of the small-minded curmudgeon. Understanding craft method is very helpful. If the images work, they work. Who cares if the design was created with Maya, Sketchup, hand drawing, CAD, Rhino + Grasshopper, Microstation + GC, or any other platform? Calling software “lame” because it’s easy to use or you find it simplistic is pure idiocy. Is the design smart? Elegant? Effective? A design or rendering tool is just that: a tool. It’s only as good as the designer. People get hung up on these tools, but great design is drawn by a wonderful diversity of means today: please take your techno-phobia, techno-snobbery and tool cliques away from the discussion forum and focus on design. Personally, I don’t go for these renders, but only because I find the hyper-sexy shots of people doing yoga/looking beautiful rather silly and ultimately a distraction from the design itself. The plans and elevations tell a much better story of the design.

  • josep

    i think the drawings are nice
    a less sophisticated old Diller & Scofidios type of presentation
    3d first then hand drawing over then photoshop

  • Matt

    I can see nothing we haven’t seen hundred’s of times before.

    I like it, but to win an award?

  • Jason

    Using a specific software isn’t lame. Trying to make computer drawings look as if they were hand drawn is lame.

    I’m with the above poster who commented on the dishonesty of the technique. I also agree with the comparison to a faux finish.

    I’ve seen people do this sort of things a lot, recently, and I’ve always thought “wow.. who would actually be impressed by faking a hand drawing”. Now I know my answer, the people who look at archdaily. I’m disappointed more people aren’t calling them on this.

    Hand drawings ARE beautiful. Fake hand drawings are not.

    • Scarpasez

      I totally agree regarding the faux hand drawing. What’s kind of funny is that they got it backward: I’ve seen some excellent drawings where the hard lines were computer generated but the colors, shading and living landscape elements were hand drawn in afterward. These drawings didn’t endeavor to trick; it was a good collage technique. Here, they’re actually tracing in guide lines and adding vanishing points on top of a render. It’s silly.

  • Jason

    On the positive side, the colours are beautiful, and the layout is, in general very nicely done – although obviously rushed. Mistakes are evident when viewing some of the images up close.

    The font chosen is quite attractive as is the detail of the underscore between words in titles. Does anyone know which font this is? I know I’ve seen it around quite a bit, but I’m just curious.

    The project is well thought out, conceptually, but ultimately, I find the representation distracting from the actual content project. The image where text is placed over the leaders is awful, however. I’m not sure if the font simply does not work in this situation or if it’s just a matter of the text colour being black, but that particular image is horrendous.

  • Dustin

    I dont think this is sketchup because with sketchup vertical lines are not 90 degrees, the field of view always makes it somewhat diagonal, unless there is a trick I don’t know about to make it look like this?

    • Lucas Gray

      you can change the camera setting to 2d perspective which gets the vertical lines to be straight.

  • Lewis

    It is a tad overdone.

  • Scott C.

    You will all be renderers, not architects.

  • helen

    im sorry but this is one of the most boring projects ever. totally agree with the 1st year project impression

  • ZIED

    oh dear helen, show us your work then, y do we critisize every thing in a such a very negative way “1st year”.
    i think any media or method used to deliver the thoughts of an architect should indeed be used; sketchs, 3d models…etc and this includes what is presented here.

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  • D. Z. Adams

    I find that this work is exceptional. Great detail. It reminds me of a “cabin” sketch that I once saw.

  • Sebastian

    Fresh!Graphic!I like it very much!Congratulations for the prize!

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