Three projects, St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church, Mary Free Bed YMCA and Mercy Health St. Mary’s Cafeteria, brought home awards from the recent Grand Rapids Chapter of the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Honor Awards. Additionally, our friend and colleague Mark Kastner was posthumously awarded the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Every year, the Honor Awards program recognizes excellence in architecture throughout the Grand Rapids region. The awards promote the value of good design and encourage members to pursue excellence through their work and through service to the public.

Honoring our friend, Mark Kastner

Earlier this year we lost a beloved member of the Progressive AE family, architect Mark Kastner. Mark was a fixture in this company for more than 24 years. A consummate mentor and student of his craft, Mark’s impact was quiet yet powerful. Projects across the country, and many here in Grand Rapids, were shaped by his thoughtfulness, knowledge, keen eye and incredible attention to detail.

mark kastner

The AIA Grand Rapids Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to an architect who clearly demonstrates distinguished leadership in any phase of the profession over an extended period of time. Mark demonstrated these characteristics day in, day out. In fact, he was the embodiment of one of our company values, servant leadership.

Some of Mark’s most notable projects include work on: Meijer Supermarket stores, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital and Waterford Place rehabilitation and assisted living.

Mark’s talent and grace are greatly missed. However, we count ourselves lucky to have known and worked with him for so many years and across a wide range of projects. His award was accepted by his wife and two sons.

From Ashes to Living Stones – St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church

Quick Facts:
Award: Building Award
Award Requirements: Projects must successfully demonstrate design resolution, skill and sensitivity of functional and technical requirements, design advancements, or be exemplary in technical advancement.

Juror’s comments:

  • “Nice detailing”
  • “Sophisticated design”
  • “Like dramatic/soaring forms”
  • “Appreciate the rigor of the details and design”
  • “Wonderful scale and spatial forms”
  • “Great use of natural light”

St. Mary Magdalen St. Mary Magdalen St. Mary Magdalen

After losing their church to fire in July of 2012, members at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church looked to rebuild. The goal was to “create a journey of welcome, integrating a diverse, multicultural and multigenerational community… while inspiring serenity, reverence, worship and mission that reflects our Catholic identity.”

The church was designed in way that creates a spiritual experience and presence for all parishioners, as well as the surrounding community. The divine presence of the church is communicated through texture, materiality and height. Through use of clerestory daylighting and stained glass artistry, the sanctuary works to connect members to nature and, ultimately, their spirituality. Portraying beauty and mystery, the tabernacle is sheltered by a bronze baldacchino sculpture.

A transparent and lively gathering area supports worship activities and welcomes both members and visitors into the church. The spirituality of the space is created through the use of natural lighting and texture, showcasing the activity within the church to the community. St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church aims to serve as a beacon for the community and to become known as a place that is safe, welcoming, and spiritual.

Designing for Everyone – Mary Free Bed YMCA

Quick Facts:
Award: Building Award
Award Requirements: Projects must successfully demonstrate design resolution, skill and sensitivity of functional and technical requirements, design advancements, or be exemplary in technical advancement.

Juror’s comments:

  • “Nice project”
  • “Great open floor plan”
  • “Efficient circulation”
  • “Integrating and celebrating universal design”
  • “Great way of integrating gymnasium”
  • “Simple exterior and cost effective exterior with surprising dramatic interior”

Mary Free Bed YMCA Mary Free Bed YMCA Mary Free Bed YMCA

The Mary Free Bed YMCA is a 36-acre, LEED-certified community centerpiece that supports children, adults and families with unbridled ease of access to healthy living. This revolutionary new facility was designed using the principles of Universal Design and born out of a collaboration between Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

The design of the facility embodies the goal of inclusivity. This is accomplished through eliminating all material transitions, connecting spaces directly to the lobby and fitness areas, creating a ramp as the central way-finding/ circulation feature, and employing principles of Universal Design for color and accessibility.

Other unique elements include the wheelchair softball field that supports the growing program through Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and the Carol Van Andel Healthy Living Center which includes a learning farm, greenhouse and teaching kitchen.

Healing and Peace Through Nature – Mercy Health St. Mary’s Cafeteria

Quick Facts:
Award: Interior Architecture Award
Award Requirements: Projects must demonstrate design resolution of architectural interiors, which shows skill and sensitivity in functional and technical requirements or design advancement.

Juror’s Comments:

  • “Playful plan”
  • “Well balanced materiality”
  • “Cohesive and meets conceptual objectives”

Mercy Health Saint Mary's Cafeteria Mercy Health Saint Mary's Cafeteria Mercy Health Saint Mary's Cafeteria

Serving as a central hub between two buildings on the hospital campus, the Saint Mary’s cafeteria aims to attract visitors and staff. The facility focuses on ease of flow and self-service with a layout designed to maximize efficiency for both staff and visitors.

Through variety, materiality, and layout the cafe aims to accommodate different uses, work styles, and sizes or groups of people. Mobile tables and seating allow spaces to be customized to better serve a large family or one individual alike. The ceiling layout was designed without a grid to promote furniture movement and flexibility without visual ‘grid’ constraints.

Elements were taken from nature and brought into the space. Western light is drawn in through a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass. Wood, stone, and plant material are located throughout the cafe to bring the warmth of nature indoors. Combined, these elements help promote healing and eases tension for both staff and visitors.


Learn more about AIA Grand Rapids and their annual Honor Awards.