Awe-Inspiring Adaptive Reuse Projects and Modern Masterpieces Finalists for Industry’s Top Design Honor

A 1952 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe design, finally brought to life. A winding canopy trail that gives humans a lemur’s-eye view. A 116-year-old unreinforced brick factory, upgraded for a second century of service--in a seismic zone, no less. A new place for travelers at one of the world’s busiest airports to begin their journeys and come home again.

What do they have in common? They’re all built with American steel, and they’re all finalists for the steel industry’s top design honor, AISC’s Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel (IDEAS²) Awards.

The IDEAS² Awards recognize projects that illustrate the exciting possibilities of building with structural steel, highlighting the many ways steel can help express architectural intent while harnessing its unique advantages for both simple and complex structural systems.

AISC’s award programs have celebrated landmark structures built with structural steel since 1960. These architectural icons span generations and stand the test of time--and this year, older structures made a real splash.

“In addition to modern masterpieces, our finalists include quite a few impressive adaptive reuse projects that used steel to define and protect amazing older structures, giving them a second life that is even better than their first,” said AISC President Charles J. Carter, SE, PE, PhD. “We’re all surrounded by inspiring steel innovation every day, and it’s fascinating to think about how those innovations can transform spaces that have housed American communities for decades--spaces that would otherwise be lost.”

AISC will announce the winners of the 2023 IDEAS² Awards in early 2023.


Less than $15 Million:


Downers Grove North High School Commons RoofDowners Grove North High School Commons Roof, Downers Grove, Ill.

Soaring steel trusses turn a previously unused, landlocked courtyard into the heart of a high school community.

Owner: Community High School District 99, Downers Grove, Ill.
Architect/structural engineer/general contractor: Wight & Company, Darien, Ill.


Judge comment: “What’s really refreshing about this project is that, as a public project which we would expect had a modest budget, they were able to maximize the outcome by adding the steel roof. It could have been very rudimentary, but it’s not. It’s a very elegant solution and an expressive structure. It’s a vibrant, well-lit space in the center of their school. It’s exciting for those students to be able to use that space for many different purposes." -Helen Torres, SE, PE, LEED AP, president and founder, Helen Torres & Associates


The Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + DesignThe Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, Bloomington, Ind.

In 1952, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed a house for the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity on the main campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, but funding cuts relegated the plans to the MoMA archives. Exactly 70 years later, students now get to enjoy that space--not as a fraternity house, but as a design school.

Owner: Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.
Architect: Thomas Phifer & Partners, New York
Structural engineer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Chicago
General contractor: CDI Inc., Terre Haute, Ind.

Judge comment: “It’s amazing to see that the team was able to honor the original design that Mies had. You can’t separate the idea of steel and the idea of that building--steel is the only thing that could make that building work. When it’s executed at that level, with that sensibility for detail and attention to the original intent of the architect, it’s a magical experience to see a building come together like that.” -Anders Lasater, AIA, architect and principal, Anders Lasater Architects


MacLac Building D (Rebirth of an Historic Paint Factory), San FranciscoMacLac Building D (Rebirth of an Historic Paint Factory), San Francisco

Airy steel trusses and a new mid-height structural mezzanine add state-of-the-art seismic resistance to an unreinforced brick factory from 1906--preparing it for another century of service.

Owner: Comstock Realty Partners, Los Angeles
Architect: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects, Berkeley, Calif.
Structural engineer: Gregory P. Luth & Associates, Inc. / GPLA, Santa Clara, Calif.
General contractor: RHC Construction, Oakland, Calif.
Consultant: Mark Hulbert Preservation Architecture, Oakland, Calif.

Judge comment: “What stood out to me on this project is how successful they were at highlighting the existing structure. The brick is beautiful now. It's 100 years old unreinforced, but it wouldn’t have been a very good lateral system for this building nowadays, especially in San Francisco. So they put it in moment frames that don't hide anything. They added a new CLT diaphragm to the floor. They reused old timbers and the trusses for the compression element in the top where you need something stocky but took advantage of steel for the tension bottomed portions of the trusses--a thin, sleek design, something you could only have done in steel that completely lets your eye pass to the historic pieces of the building that remain.” -Jim Foreman, PE, SE, senior project engineer, Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers


$15 Million to $75 Million


American Family Insurance AmphitheaterAmerican Family Insurance Amphitheater, Milwaukee

Music lovers have raised the roof at Summerfest’s permanent venue since 1987. With modern stage acts requiring more vertical space, the project team had to raise the roof, too--to the tune of 26 ft.

Owner: Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (Summerfest), Milwaukee
Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects, Milwaukee
Structural engineer: Larson Engineering, Inc., Wauwatosa, Wis.
Fabricator: Ace Iron and Steel, Inc., Milwaukee *AISC full member*
General contractor: Hunzinger Construction, Brookfield, Wis.
Detailer: Nu-Way Drafting Corp., Wausau, Wis.
Erector: SPE, Inc., Little Chute, Wis. *AISC associate member*
Consultant: Mammoet (formerly ALE Heavy Lift), Rosharon, Texas

Judge comment: “It is truly innovative to be able to analyze the existing structure from the 80s, to be able to come up with a cost-efficient system of lifting the trusses and developing the methodology to cut them loose, keep them stable, and to be able to reattach them 26 ft higher than what was originally designed. It's very cost-effective to reuse these existing structures as opposed to the environmental impacts of tearing them down. It's a great example of what can be done with steel in these adaptive reuse situations.” -David Horowitz, executive vice president, AECOM Tishman


Orange County Museum of ArtOrange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, Calif.

A flowing, irregular structure houses intimate small galleries, a reconfigurable main exhibition space, and a rooftop terrace for large-scale sculptural works.

Owner: Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Architect: mOrphosis Architects, Culver City, Calif.
Structural engineer: John A. Martin & Associates, Inc., Los Angeles
General contractor: Clark Construction Group, Irvine, Calif.

Judge comment: “The use of steel throughout the building is both obvious and in some ways obfuscated, which told the jury that the architect and the structural engineers really understand the unique qualities and material capabilities of structural steel and found ways to use it to their design advantage--not just as a structural solution, but really more as a way of expressing and hiding the structure to play with the visitor’s ability to understand the building.” -Anders Lasater, AIA, architect and principal, Anders Lasater Architects


University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Wigton Heritage CenterUniversity of Nebraska Medical Center’s Wigton Heritage Center, Omaha

A cube of steel and glass encapsulates two existing buildings to showcase the original hospital’s iconic columns and historic facade while creating a new space for study, gatherings, lectures, and more.

Owner: University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha
Architect/structural engineer: HDR, Inc., Omaha
Fabricator: Katelman Steel Fabrication, Inc., Council Bluffs, Iowa *AISC full member; AISC-Certified building fabricator*
General contractor: Hausmann Construction, Omaha
Detailer: J&J Design, Phoenix
Erector: Moen, Omaha

Judge comment: “It’s not an expansion that builds off an existing wall. They wrapped the existing building in a box, and it looks wrong at first! It’s like, ‘well, why did they add that much more glass? Why didn’t they just tie it into the edge?’ Because it’s not a functional wall-to-wall. It’s more like a museum exhibit, and this is a glass box encasing it.” -Jim Foreman, PE, SE, senior project engineer, Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers


$75 Million to $200 Million


DFW High C Gates Demolition and Replacement - Core & ShellDFW High C Gates Demolition and Replacement - Core & Shell, Dallas

Modularization brings a new 80,000-sq.-ft concourse in for a speedy landing in a challenging site.

Owner: DFW Airport, Dallas
Architect: PGAL, Addison, Texas
Structural engineer: Henderson Rogers Structural Engineers, LLC, Houston
Fabricator/detailer/bender/roller: Miscellaneous Steel Industries, Kyle, Texas *AISC full member; AISC-Certified building fabricator*
Erector: Acero Construction Services, Kyle, Texas *AISC-Certified erector*
General contractor: The Walsh Group, Chicago
Consultant: Mammoet, Rosharon, Texas

Judge comment: “This modular installation is a great way to showcase the efficiency of using steel in a tightly constrained site in an efficient speed-to-market application--and the adaptability of this material to create these modular sections that create open, long-span areas that can be quickly and efficiently assembled.” -David Horowitz, executive vice president, AECOM Tishman


Federal Reserve BuildingFederal Reserve Building, Seattle

Built in 1949 and retired in 2014 due its outdated security features and minor damage sustained during a 2001 earthquake, this historic landmark now reaches for the sky with seven brand-new floors, a new seismic system, and new steel framing that accommodates the fact that the building has moved during its 70-year lifetime.

Owner: Martin Selig Real Estate, Seattle
Architect: Perkins & Will, Seattle
Structural engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers, Seattle
Fabricator/detailer: Metals Fabrication Co., Airway Heights, Wash. *AISC full member, AISC-Certified building fabricator*
General contractor: Lease Crutcher Lewis, Seattle
Erector: The Erection Co., Arlington, Wash.

Judge comment: “The ability to connect a new structure over an existing building, and integrating seismic and lateral bracing throughout the existing building, showcases where steel has a truly unique ability to be connected and modified into an adaptive reuse of a building that otherwise could not be brought up to current codes.” -David Horowitz, executive vice president, AECOM Tishman


Greater than $200 Million


425 Park Avenue425 Park Avenue, New York

What’s old is new on Park Avenue, where the first new full-block office building in decades seamlessly incorporates 25 percent of the block’s original 1957 structure into a new 893-ft skyscraper. The tower's rear-facing core supports its three graduated tiers of column-free floors, helping to maximize its Park Avenue frontage while complementing neighboring Modernist structures.

Owner: L&L Holding Company LLC, New York
Architect: Foster + Partners, New York; AAI Architects, P.C., New York
Structural engineer: WSP Cantor Seinuk, New York
Fabricator: Owen Steel Co., Columbia, S.C. *AISC full member, AISC-Certified fabricator*
General contractor: AECOM/Tishman, New York
Detailer: Steel Systems Engineering, Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif. *AISC associate member*
Erector: A. J. McNulty, Maspeth, N.Y.
Erection engineer: Zieman Engineering, LLC, Stamford, Ct.

Judge comment: “The most exciting part of this project for me--and this is a nerdy engineering thing--is the expression of the exterior columns on this building. You look at the exterior of the building, and right away you can see the gravity system. And you can also see that it's not a simple gravity system. The exterior columns are outside of the floor plate of the building, almost outside of the exterior wall, part of the exterior wall. And they don't just go straight up--they slope in. As the building floor plate steps in, the columns step in as well. So you see the columns and you see a dramatic angle change in them. As an engineer, this is super exciting to see: an interesting structure boldly expressed outside the building. It is going to catch anyone's eye. Everyone's an engineer when they're looking at this building.” -Jim Foreman, PE, SE, senior project engineer, Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers


Climate Pledge ArenaClimate Pledge Arena, Seattle

The new home of the Seattle Kraken scores a hat trick: the near-total demolition of the existing structure and construction of a largely below-grade arena while keeping the landmarked facade and iconic roof intact, completed to meet the NHL schedule, with a commitment to being the first net-zero certified arena in the world.

Owner: Oak View Group, Los Angeles
Owner’s representative: CAA ICON, Denver
Architect: Populous, Kansas City, Mo.
Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.
Fabricator/detailer: LeJeune Steel Company, Minneapolis *AISC full member, AISC-Certified building fabricator*
General contractor: Mortenson, Kirkland, Wash.
Erector: Danny's Construction Company *AISC associate member, AISC-Certified erector*
Civil engineer: DCI Engineers, Seattle

Judge comment: “The challenge on this project was taking an existing structure, trying to keep the facade and the roof in place while the interior was gutted. There was excavation and an intense amount of shoring to keep the project stable during the construction process and do that on a very short timeframe. That succeeded in large part thanks to early involvement of the structural steel contractor, moving a lot of the decision-making earlier in the timeline of the project and allowing some of the coordination issues to go away before they would have even come up: during construction. There’s a lot of value in steel and a lot of things we can brag about with steel, and this is just a case where that shines.“ -Mark Trimble, senior vice president, American Institute of Steel Construction


Javits Convention Center ExpansionJavits Convention Center Expansion, New York

The 1986 I.M. Pei-designed venue is now 57% bigger, with a unique truck marshaling building that streamlines loading and unloading operations topped by a rooftop farm that hauls in 40,000 lbs of produce a year--all in a landlocked site bounded by the Hudson River and an unyielding cityscape.

Owner’s representative and architect: TVS Design, Atlanta
Structural engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle
Fabricator/detailer: Banker Steel Company, Lynchburg, Va. *AISC full member, AISC-Certified fabricator*
General contractor: Lendlease Turner, A Joint Venture (LLT), New York
Erector: NYC Constructors, LLC, A Banker Steel Company, Lynchburg, Va. *AISC associate member*

Judge comment: “New York City is ever-changing, and the area around the Javits Center was changing, too. And to keep up to date, the Javits Center needed to expand. Instead of moving outward, which would be the obvious choice, they needed to go up. The project was unique because it had heavy loads and long spans and a very tight schedule--all reasons only steel would work.” -Mark Trimble, senior vice president, American Institute of Steel Construction


Moynihan Train HallMoynihan Train Hall, New York

New York once again has a grand rail entrance. The Moynihan Train Hall expands Penn Station into the old James A. Farley Post Office, built in 1912--fortunately, with a steel frame. The project team modified 4,000 tons of existing steel and added 6,000 tons more to transform the 20th-century postal building into a 21st-century transportation hub--and an icon for years to come.

Owner: New York State/Empire State Development, New York
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York
Structural engineer: Severud Associates Consulting Engineers, PC, New York
General contractors: Vornado Realty Trust, The Related Companies, and Skanska, East Elmhurst, N.Y.

Judge comment: “What was fascinating is that the structure, which had been perhaps wrapped in plaster for 100-plus years, is now unwrapped and has been exposed to view and becomes part of the sculpture of this beautiful space. It shows the resilience of steel: You can take that 110-year-old truss and still keep it working.” -Helen Torres, SE, PE, LEED AP, president and founder, Helen Torres & Associates


SoFi StadiumSoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Calif.

It takes true innovation to make a below-grade structure surrounded by a 100-ft-tall, mechanically stabilized earth wall feel light, but the SoFi project team did just that. That wall gives the stadium room to safely move during a seismic event at the nearby Newport-Inglewood fault.

Owner: Hollywood Park, Inglewood, Calif.
Architect: HKS Architects, Inc., Dallas
Structural engineer: Walter P Moore, San Francisco
Fabricator/detailer: Schuff Steel, Long Beach, Calif. *AISC full member*
General contractor: Turner Hunt Joint Venture, Inglewood, Calif.
Erector: Southwest Steel, Henderson, Nev. *AISC full member, AISC-Certified fabricator*

Judge comment: “It's really a special project, and its setting is really thoughtful. The use of the structural steel is almost overwhelming because it in many ways feels as grand and as spectacular as any of the great churches that you may have been in--I hate to sound like I'm saying that it's a church because it's a sporting facility, but in many ways it has a magical quality to it. There's a lightness to it that really elevates the spirit. It's a dramatic experience.” -Anders Lasater, AIA, architect and principal, Anders Lasater Architects

Sculpture/Art Installation/Non-building Structure


Chemocentryx Feature StairChemoCentryx Feature Stair, San Carlos, Calif.

The feature stair at biopharmaceuticals company ChemoCentryx’s new headquarters showcases the flexibility and versatility of steel. Steel provides the strength and support necessary for suspending the stair and gives it a continuous radiused spiral stringer design. The use of threaded rods as part of the stair support allows for the sculptural organic form to remain the main focus, while creating a visual illusion of the stair as a floating structure.

Owner: ChemoCentryx, San Carlos, Calif.
Architect: DGA, Mountain View, Calif.
Structural engineer: KPW Structural Engineers, Inc., Oakland, Calif.
General contractor: Truebeck Construction, San Mateo, Calif.

Judge comment: “The stair is very sculptural, but all the steel elements, the stringer plates, and the tension rods are integral with the architecture. The curved stringers are supported by tension rods that also functioned as a handrail. Those lines go up to the ceiling. The curved plates continue as a sculptural element, mimicking what we're seeing on the stringers--very dynamic. It was a very thoughtful solution that is also very beautiful.” -Helen Torres, SE, PE, LEED AP, president and founder, Helen Torres & Associates

Watch the project team discuss the feature stair.


Michael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy TrailsMichael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy Trails, St. Louis

The project team behind the Michael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy Trails weren't monkeying around when it came to seamlessly interweaving steel paths and climbing structures with live trees and other natural elements to give visitors a treetop experience--but the real star of the show is uncoated weathering steel, which can gracefully withstand the seasonal changes of the Midwest.

Owner: Saint Louis Zoo
Architect: PGAV Destinations, St. Louis
Structural engineer: Leigh & O'Kane, Kansas City, Mo.
Fabricator: The Gateway Company of Missouri, Berkeley, Mo. *AISC full member, AISC-Certified building fabricator*
General contractor: Tarlton Corporation, St. Louis
Detailer: Nicoloff Detailing, Edwardsville, Ill.
Bender/roller: Max Weiss Company, Milwaukee *AISC associate member*
Erector: Acme Erectors Inc., St. Louis
Animal enclosure consultant: A Thru Z Consulting, Tucson, Ariz.

Judge comment: “The challenge on this project was the need to have things fit precisely at the locations where they were intended to be--that requires a lot of coordination between the fabricator, the contractor, and the detailer, and a lot of unusual layout techniques. Given the way those walkways snake through the site, the ups and downs, the almost roller-coaster-ride-type curves, I don’t think this project could have been made with anything other than steel. The way the paths are nestled through the trees seems almost natural. And with uncoated weathering steel, it just blends right into the background. It makes me wonder what those monkeys think about when they're looking at us humans as we walk down the path, if they're wondering if maybe we are the monkeys.” -Mark Trimble, senior vice president, American Institute of Steel Construction

Take a virtual tour of the primate canopy trails.


AISC would like to thank this year's judges for their dedication and enthusiasm:

IDEAS² Judges 2023

  • David Horowitz, Executive Vice President at Tishman Construction
  • Jim Foreman, PE, SE, Senior Project Engineer at Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers
  • Mark Trimble, PE, Senior Vice President at AISC
  • Anders Lasater, AIA, CEO, Principal Architect at Anders Lasater Architects
  • Helen Torres, SE, PE, President and Founder at Helen Torres & Associates Structural Engineers