A performing-arts center that takes its cues from the forms of a 16th-century villa. An auto dealership driven by environmental concerns. A children's hospital whose windows open to the world.

Photo courtesy of AECOM
The YouthLink Youth Opportunity Center in Minneapolis is the region's Best Small Project

The nation's heartland yielded a bounty of outstanding projects this past year—projects whose unique designs and technological daring reflect the visions of progressive owners and their ambitious programs.

The following pages honor ENR's best of the Midwest in sectors ranging from transportation and landscaping to offices, interiors, housing and entertainment. The common thread is that each rose to meet unique challenges by excelling in the areas of innovation, quality and safety.

To select ENR Midwest's Best Projects, a panel of industry professionals evaluated submissions in 15 categories. Their deliberations resulted in 15 Best Project winners. An additional 14 projects received Awards of Merit.

From the field of 15, the panelists selected the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Corporate Headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, as Project of the Year. Among other distinctions, Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the largest wholly owner-occupied office building in the world to receive LEED-Platinum certification.

As the following pages demonstrate, achievement comes in all sizes. Consider the modest origins of the Opportunity Center in Minneapolis (shown above). The $1.4-million project commenced with a voluntary weekend design charrette and concluded with a facility equipped with the resources to help homeless youth escape a life on the street.

The full list of winners includes:

Best Office Project/Best Regional Project