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Eclecticism in modern design

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Buildings designed to do duty for church and state account for the bulk of the winners of this year's American Institute of Architects (AIA) honor awards. This often offbeat architecture in the service of government and God gleaned 8 out of 11 prizes to be given out at the AIA's national convention in New Orleans next weekend (May 22-25).

Aside from their similar clients and their sometimes frantic adoption of the slogan ''new is beautiful,'' the structures share few common traits, ''reflecting the rich diversity in architecture today,'' the AIA says.

''The results celebrate their individual styles and an exciting pluralism that suggests that contemporary architecture is the liveliest and most provocative of the arts in the 1980s,'' the AIA jury finds. (Ironically, though, the 25-year-old building prize went to a building that still appears equally eccentric, Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, Okla.)

This eclecticism in modern, or post-modern, design, in new buildings - rather than the ''extended use'' category for old ones heavily lauded in recent years - appears in the winners chosen from 599 entries. Energy-efficiency also figures less heavily in the jury commentary.

Jurors were Charles Gwathmey, chairman; David L. Browning; Chris Coe, a student representative; Robert J. Frasca; Graham Gund; George J. Hasslein; Bates Lowry; Antoine Predock; and Milo H. Thompson.

The tiling in terra cotta and blue of the YWCA Masterson Branch and Office Building in Houston by Taft Architects, looks less like the clunky municipal forms that characterize ''Y'' buildings than cutouts to pattern the inside of a fantasy-land pool.

The AIA jury calls the YWCA ''a building of anticipation and hope,'' inviting one into the structure's small-scale spaces - a layout that turns the work and play parts of the ''Y'' into ''a cohesive whole.''

Equally playful, with patterns of glass blocks outside and a terra cotta cornice above, the Best Products Corporate Headquarters in Richmond, Va., by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates of New York City, holds the offices of the company.

The building also boasts the insertion of the Rockefeller Center elevator cab , ''two massive limestone eagles that once sat atop the Moderne 1939 Airlines Building'' in New York City, and an art collection - all typical of the discount store's labors to patronize art and architecture in a vanguard fashion.


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