The biennial Maine Prize for Architecture is an award that acknowledges an architect, an individual, or an organization that has added significantly to the legacy of Maine building and to the Maine community in the belief that architecture plays a meaningful part in our lives.

The 2010 Maine Prize for Architecture was awarded to Philip M. Isaacson.

Philip Isaacson seated in a Pernilla easy chair. Architectural design by F. Frederick Bruck. Photograph courtesy of Eric Roth, © 2009.

Isaacson was art and architecture critic for the Maine Sunday Telegram for forty-five years. Fifty years ago, he built a modern house in Lewiston, Maine. He approached the architect Jose Luis Sert to design the house. Although Sert was interested, with Issacson’s shoestring budget for the design of a house in Lewiston, Maine, Sert eventually sent Isaacson to the architect F. Frederick Bruck who accepted the commission. A lifelong friendship ensued. Isaacson has painstakingly cared for the house for these fifty years and the house remains in splendid condition. A model and photographs of the house at No. 2 Benson Street, are included in storefront for architecture maine’s exhibition “maine modern: 50 years of modern architecture in maine” and featured in October’s 10th-anniversary issue of dwell magazine. Isaacson’s personal love and appreciation of modernism have carried the torch for at least fifty years.

In the year 2000, Philip Isaacson wrote to the architects Wiebke and Steven Theodore, “I look at architecture constantly and read about it when I’m not looking at it.”

Juror Wiebke Theodore wrote, “Thankfully he also writes about it! In Round Buildings, Square Buildings, & Buildings That Wiggle Like a Fish Isaacson describes Maine Grange Halls, the whitewashed buildings of Sabbathday Shaker Village, and his own iconic modern home. He illuminates the qualities of great design.

The commission of his home and its careful preservation would in itself make him worthy of this prize. Its location in town, and use of local, readily available materials, make it as important today as it was when it was built. It has elegant simplicity and is resourceful.”

Juror Edward E. Leger comments, “In an age with a focus on the superficial and the ephemeral, it is rewarding that an individual such as Philip Isaacson continues to remind us not only of Maine’s built heritage, but of contemporary architecture and its place and importance in the life of Maine residents. Such passion for a subject is rare in our times.”

Photograph by storefront for architecture maine, © 2010.

Photograph by storefront for architecture maine, © 2010.

Architectural design by F. Frederick Bruck. Photograph courtesy of Eric Roth, © 2009.

Philip Isaacson was a Mainer who took a risk in building his modern house. He absorbed the knowledge of building along with being a fine writer, an attorney, and a preservationist. Philip Isaacson has shown how one person can have a great influence in the lives of many.

The 2010 Nominees for the Maine Prize:

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
Peter Forbes FAIA
Earl G. Shettleworth Jr.
Philip M. Isaacson
Henry L. Cobb FAIA
Roger Richmond

Jurors for the 2010 Maine Prize:

Mary Owen Babikian
Leila Bisharat
Suhail Bisharat

Gavin L. Engler

Edward E. Leger
Wiebke Noack Theodore

Carol A. Wilson FAIA, Chair

“Construction and design are inclusive of all cultures, originating in the common unity of the human condition and, like all endeavors, are the product of desire and reason, of dream and detail.”

Jaan Holt, Director of the Washington-Alexandria Center