2014 Alice Washburn Architectural Award Winners


Sara Bronin

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The Alice Washburn Award is named for the distinguished Connecticut residential architect of the 1920s. The annual award program is a joint effort of the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Connecticut Magazine to acknowledge excellence in traditional house design. Focusing on style, the program honors the thoughtful adaptation of tradition to address 21st-century needs. The competition is open to architects licensed and residing in Connecticut. This year, projects had to be one- or two-story houses completed after June 30, 2008, and designed in a style considered traditional—including but not limited to Shingle, Georgian, Queen Anne, Gothic, Colonial and Greek Revival. The three jurors chosen by AIA Connecticut for their expertise in traditional design were: George Dickinson, AIA, Duo Dickinson Architect, Madison; William Grover, FAIA, Centerbrook, Connecticut and Dennis Wedlick, AIA, Barlis Wedlick Architects, LLC, New York City and Hudson, New York.


Winning Project, Renovation and Addition

The Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been honoring residential architects as part of its Alice Washburn Awards for over a decade. It goes without saying that the competition is always stiff, and this year was no exception. Top prize was awarded to an urban property, completely remodeled and updated to suit the needs of a young, vibrant family.

The Hartford brownstone of the Bronin family (above) is both the first rehabilitated property and urban property to win the Alice Washburn Award. According to Joanne Rees, program director of the Connecticut Chapter of the AIA, the award competition was opened to include renovations and additions two years ago after the economy dipped in 2008 and new construction stalled. The Bronins’ brownstone may be the first to check both boxes but it was selected for the top prize because, “The project was simply the one that the jurors thought the best,” says Rees. And when you move through the grand residential home of Luke and Sara Bronin and their three small children, it is easy to see why.

The property, which is part of the Elm Street National Register Historic District, was half-abandoned and completely derelict when the pair purchased it in July 2012, but they were undaunted. They could see the house’s potential and the beautiful life they would be able to live after a renovation. They had spent three years, from 2006 to 2009, living next door to (and pining for) the brownstone. They had moved away to Washington, D.C., for three years, but Sara Bronin say they “always had their eye on this house,” because they always saw downtown Hartford as an ideal place to raise children. Between Bushnell Park (theirs is the only single-family home directly on the green) with its carousel and playground, and the multitude of cultural and educational opportunities housed in the state capital, the pair knew Hartford would offer more opportunities for their family.

They were able to move into the home after nearly a year of work, and now that they’re settled Bronin admits the location is as wonderful as they always imagined it would be. Bushnell Park is directly across the street from the brownstone and they are immediately adjacent to the State Capitol, which allows her husband, who serves as the governor’s legal counsel, to walk to work every day.

The dramatic 32-foot kitchen-dining room, with two working fireplaces, was created by combining four different rooms. The owners painstakingly restored the historic mahogany paneling at right, and added a complementary wine cabinet.


There was a lot of work to be done before the brownstone could be turned into their dream home including restoring damaged or missing historical features, refinishing the façade and reorganizing the interior space. Bronin, a law professor at the University of Connecticut, served as architect of record on the project, the first time she did so in many years. The Washburn jurors honored her contribution to the project by saying, “[The design] is sensitive to the historic building, and its renovation, both economical and courageous, could not have been done without an architect.” Winning the award has inspired Bronin to open her own architecture and design practice, Studio Voladizo.   

What emerged was a meticulously decorated, four-story home where each generation is given its own private living space—the kids on the top floor with parents below on the third. “We thought the kids would love having their own floor, and they do!” said Bronin. “From their playroom, they can see City Hall and most of Bushnell Park…The third floor is the ‘adults’ floor.’ It’s where I work—my desk overlooks Bushnell Park. My office doubles as a library and family room.”


The second floor, which is the main floor of the house, is arranged for versatility, allowing the couple to throw small dinner parties or large family gatherings. Bronin explains that, “There’s a flow on that floor but with distinct spaces separated by the historic staircase.”

A number of important energy-efficient upgrades were also made. The home now boasts eight heat pumps, denim insulation and the highest-performing windows and doors. There is no VOC paint, floor stains or other surface treatments used, which contributes to superior air quality. The family used formaldehyde-free cabinetry and innovative materials like Plyboo in the project.


“There are nice details; the new front bay was perfectly rendered,” said the Washburn jurors. “Given the tone of much of the work entered, the jury appreciated the wit that was shown in the blending of aesthetics celebrated in this project. This is a good example of what this award program is hoping to achieve, bringing the traditional to the present.”

• Architecture, Interior Design and Furnishings: Sara C. Bronin, Studio Voladizo, Hartford, (646) 228-7336
• Associate Architect: Joel Raphael, Raphael Associates, Hartford, (860) 560-9191
• MEP Design: Wayne Nelson, LN Consulting, LLC, Winooski, VT (802) 655-1753 lnconsulting.com
• Lead Carpenter: Roark McCutcheon, Hartford Builders LLC, Marlborough, (860) 977-4452
• Mason for Brownstone Restoration: Sebastian Damiata, Damiata Masonry, Cromwell, (860) 635-1179
• Mason for Interior and front courtyard: Sal Giarratana, K&G Masonry, Farmington, (860) 827-1110
• Mason for Interior:  Rollo W. Jones, Capital Masonry, Hartford, (860) 493-0650
• Mechanical/HVAC:  Kevin & Dean Kral, Connecticut Heating & Cooling LLC,, East Hartford, (860) 985-1252
• Electric: Corey Gengenbach, CLG Electric LLC, Somers, (860) 803-7330
• Plumbing:  Anthony Nelson, TC Plumbing LLC, Hartford, (860) 250-7329
• Painting: Bruce Washbond, Washbond Custom Painting LLC, West Hartford, (860) 233-8314
• Custom Cabinetry:  Pat Hart, Heartwood Custom Cabinetry, Marlborough, (860) 295-0304, heartwoodcab.com
• Back Courtyard Landscaping & Design: Jeff Hutton, Earthworks LLC, Tolland, (860) 875-3539, earthworksct.com


2014 Alice Washburn Architectural Award Winners

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