Welcome to the 18th edition of the Superior Achievement in Design and Imaging awards, which recognizes outstanding achievement in creating successful retail environments. The winners are those architects and designers who craft memorable places that put the magic back in shopping, enhance or redefine a retail brand, capture a trend particularly well or solve a seemingly insurmountable problem.

This year's victors continue that tradition.

What distinguishes the winners from the also-rans is the talent to blend aesthetics with function to create a superior design that reflects the best the business has to offer. In other words, a SADI recipient has designed a building or series of buildings with more than just pretty faces.

Nine distinguished architects and designers joined our SADI judging team this year. For the first time, judges were prohibited from entering the competition themselves. In the past, judges that had entered were asked to recuse themselves while their projects were being discussed. This year, there were no overlaps at all between the firms represented on the judges' panel and those that entered the competition.

It was also a tough jury this year. Only four projects in the competition were deemed good enough to be considered full-fledged winners. Seven others were recognized as honorable mentions. There were a few projects that just missed being recognized for one reason or another. Four of those are shown on pages 24 and 25.

As has been a theme in recent years, international projects fared well, but did not run away with as many categories. This year, the bulk of the award recipients were domestic projects.

However, the grand prize goes to an international project. This year's Grand SADI award winner is Giorgio Burroso Design for its Fornarina store in London. The project is recognized on pages 18 to 21. Burroso has become a mainstay of the SADI awards. For the past three years in a row, a Burroso-designed project has won in the category “New Retail Store, Less Than 5,000 Square Feet.” (Last year, Burroso also took home an honorable mention in that same category.)

But this year marks the first time that a Burroso project has won our top award. The judges felt that of all the submissions, the Fornarina design was the one that most exemplified what it means to be a SADI winner and pointed the way forward for other architects.

The other big winner this year was Westfield Group, which had projects recognized in two categories. The firm's San Francisco Centre, jointly designed by ka Inc. and RTKL Associates, won in the “Renovated or Expanded Enclosed Center” category. That ground-breaking project merged two formally distinct properties as Westfield joined forces with Forest City Enterprises. And the renovation retained the structure's famous dome and integrated it into a new setting.

Additionally, Westfield Group's in-house design team was recognized for the renovated food court at Westfield Century City. Judges felt the project redefines mall dining. Rather than have a tight space dominated by food vendor logos, the new space at Century City has much more subdued signage, has both indoor and outdoor seating areas and makes use of natural lighting to create an inviting space. The feel is more of a sit-down restaurant than it is of a typical food court.

Callison, meanwhile, also impressed the judges. The firm did not win any categories outright, but was named honorable mention in both store categories for its LEIBER store in Las Vegas and for a Harvey Nichols department store in Dubai.

Overall, this year's winners and honorable mention projects all had one thing in common; all the recognized schemes went a step beyond the norm in finding solutions for sometimes very difficult design problems. Across the board, judges were impressed with how architects of those projects dealt with challenges such as tight site-plans, limited budgets and, in some cases, dreary settings in major need of a face lift.