insight.shepleybulfinch > blog

The Hobson Award comes home

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Hobson Award-SmilowThe Hobson Award is the highest level of design award given annually by the Boston Society of Architects. The AIAS Chapter at MassArt and the BSA have fostered a wonderful, collaborative relationship over the past five years. This relationship led to a phone call last fall asking if our chapter would design and create the next Hobson award.

It felt like being asked to design an Oscar, and we were thrilled to get started. I was one of five students who volunteered to participate. By brilliant happenstance, every grade level in the architecture department was represented by one of our students, from sophomore to grad student. Despite the differences in age and experience, everyone on the team worked together as equals. Everyone brought their strengths to the table, making the design process that much more special. The younger students brought wild ideas and a vast imagination, while the older students had an understanding of materials and the process of making. This collaboration led to a wonderful creation that was original, beautiful, and executable.

The design of the Hobson Award incorporates two prominent concepts: the work of celebrated 19th century Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson and the Mobius strip. The Mobius strip is a mathematical form that does not exist in physical space, which immediately inspired our idea of crafting the Mobius strip from negative space. HH Richardson is known for his substantial architectural masses and so the materiality of the Hobson Award stemmed from simple materials with innate substantiality. For us as architecture students in an art school, the beauty of a material’s natural qualities meant a lot. Why use wood if the material is transformed to look and feel like concrete?

The final award is made from acrylic, wood, and steel. The acrylic allows the negative space within to appear as a solid, highlighting the Mobius strip. The transparent yet solid nature of the acrylic creates a substantial mass with a permeable form. Small steel rods hold the acrylic in place, using natural friction to keep the form together. The steel-threaded acrylic sits on top of a wooden base, completing the form and conveying a sense of significance. The completed awards evoke the handcrafted design and refined craftsmanship that went into every piece.

It is exceptionally humbling to walk past one of the Hobson awards created by my MassArt team every day, in a firm founded by Henry Hobson Richardson himself.

- Christina Tully

Christina Tully joined Shepley Bulfinch’s architecture/technology staff in April 2015. She presented a Hobson award to Shepley Bulfinch for Smilow Cancer Hospital (healthcare facility design) at the BSA Design Awards in January 2015.


The MassArt Hobson Award design team (Christina Tully on right)

The MassArt Hobson Award design team (Christina Tully on right)


Comments are closed.