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A city's skyline is only as striking as its buildings, which is why each year the Utah chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) honors new projects and top architectural firms for their contributions to urban development.

This year's winners continued to design more ecologically friendly buildings, said Elizabeth Mitchell, executive director of the AIA Utah chapter.

"Most projects now integrate sustainable designs. It's become an ethic within the professional architect community to include green design as a basic strategy, not just financially, but for the benefit of the people working in those buildings, too," Mitchell said. "There's more natural light, better filtration, and if people are healthier, they're more productive. It pencils out in many ways."

Some 33 new projects were entered in this year's competition, now in its 44th year. The number is down from 2009 when there were 50 entries. Mitchell attributed the decrease to the downturn in the economy, which has cut into the construction industry.

The AIA awarded top honors to five buildings including: the Salt Lake County Public Works Administration Building in Midvale; the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) in Idaho Falls; Utah Valley University's Noorda Theatre in Orem; H-House, a single-family home in Salt Lake City; and the Tracy Aviary Visitor Education Center in Salt Lake, an unbuilt project that will serve as the new entrance of the aviary.

The entries were judged by top professionals in the architecture field and awards were presented at a special ceremony on Nov. 19 at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City.

AIA Utah also teamed up with The Salt Lake Tribune for the "People's Choice Award." The public could vote for its favorite building on the newspaper's website. The winner was the Tie Fork Rest Area in Spanish Fork Canyon, which garnered 459 votes. It was designed by the Archiplex Group of Salt Lake, and incorporates elements of railroad architecture from the early 20th century. Some historical information about the railroad is offered inside in the rest area, as well.

During the ceremonies, the AIA also honored several individuals for their contributions to Utah architecture. They include:

Lifetime Achievement Award • James W. Christopher, the principal designer at Brixen and Christopher Architects since 1963.

Bronze Medal • Robert K. Herman, for 30 years of work, particularly in Ogden.

Associate Member Award • Gregory M. Walker,for leadership in architecture.

AIA Utah Firm Award • FFKR Architects, Salt Lake City, for its community icons that include Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake Art Center, EnergySolutions Arena and Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Client Achievement Award • Dean Davies who oversees temples and special projects for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People's Choice • The Tie Fork Rest Area in Spanish Fork Canyon was designed by the Archiplex Group of Salt Lake City, and incorporates elements of railroad architecture from the early 20th century.