Skin Deep:

A beautiful building has more than just a pretty face

What makes a building or structure beautiful? And why is the idea of defining beauty important?

Answering those questions is what every Harleston Parker Medal jury has been asked to do since 1923. Once a year, the Boston Society of Architects invites a group of 10 practitioners, educators, journalists, developers, engineers and other professionals interested in the built environment to meet over the course of several months to evaluate dozens of nominated projects. The jury visits a short list of finalists and picks one to be called that year's "most beautiful." Many attributes express a building's beauty—physical appearance; integration with its surroundings; a plan that includes big ideas about smart growth, sustainability and universal design; sensitive attention to detail; the way it makes you feel when you dwell, play, worship or work inside it.

The jury process is rigorous and reveals a lot more about each project than we can show you in this short series of slides, but we thought it would be interesting to look at the four 2012 Harleston Parker Medal finalists and ask our readers to vote on which building is the most beautiful of all.

Browse through the galleries on this site, then vote for which building or structure you think is the most beautiful!

The People's Choice Award winner will be announced at the 2nd BSA Design Awards Gala on January 31, 2013. Check back here on February 1 to see who won.
The Harleston Parker Medal is one of Boston's oldest, most prestigious design awards. It was established in 1921 by J. Harleston Parker, in honor of his father and the first Medal was awarded in 1923. The jury process is administered by the Boston Society of Architects and is co-sponsored by the City of Boston.

Read more about the Harleston Parker Medal, criteria for selection, the jury process and see past winners at Nominations for the 2013 Harleston Parker Medal are due on Friday, February 22. Write

Don't miss the 2nd BSA Design Awards Gala!
Thursday, January 31, 2013 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place

The 2012 Harleston Parker Medal winner may have been announced, but the rest of the winners of the 2012 BSA Design Awards program won't be revealed until the 2nd Design Awards Gala in January. To find out what projects won top honors in 2012, join the hundreds of architects, contractors and clients for a night of sophistication, anticipation and celebration. Tickets are available at For sponsorship opportunities, write