Welcome to the 19th edition of Retail Traffic's annual Superior Achievement in Design and Imaging awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in creating beautiful and successful retail environments. The winners are those architects 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 projects recognized with awards and honorable mentions from the also-rans is a designer's ability to make a meaningful architecture statement while also allowing retailers and their merchandise to shine.

Six judges were on the team this year. As with last year, firms that entered projects were prohibited from participating on the jury. The judging took place in late July at the American Institute of Architect's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Judges this year put a huge emphasis on recognizing projects that provided a balance between retail and architecture. They are not projects that are great architecture that happen to be a store or shopping center. They are also not typical stores or shopping centers that happen to have extra ornamentation and decoration. Instead, judges strove to recognize projects that solved specific design challenges while not overpowering the business side of the equation.

The judging process produced an interesting discussion on the question of what defines good retail architecture. It inspired a further examination of that question. That conversation eventually was turned into a feature story that begins on page 28.

In the interest of only recognizing top projects, this year only three entries were deemed full-fledged winners. However, 11 other projects received honorable mention in their respective categories.

As has been a theme for the past several years, judges awards recognized many international projects. Stores and shopping centers from Hamburg, Germany; Paris; Bejing; Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila and Tokyo are among the entries honored this year.

For the second straight year the grand prize goes to an international store. Los Angeles-based GRAFT LLC's OPTICON upscale sunglasses store in Hamburg took the grand SADI award. The project is recognized on pages 8 and 9 and further images of the store adorn the cover of the magazine and this section. GRAFT's victory ended Giorgio Burroso Design's three-year stranglehold in the “New Store, Less than 5,000 Square Feet” category. Judges appreciated how the architects overcame a difficult site — a deep and skinny space — to create a store that is “innovative yet simple.” They also liked how “the restrained palate allows the product to take center stage.”

In addition, GRAFT won a second award. Its Eric Paris Salon in Bejing received honorable mention accolades in the “New Store, 5,000 Square Feet or More” category.

Callison was this year's other big winner. The Seattle-based firm won the “Renovated or Expanded Power or Community Center” category with its reimagining of the Royal Hawaiian Center. Judges thought the way Callison took a dark, brutalist and concrete-heavy project and transformed it into an bright, upscale open-air center was an exemplary example of what a redevelopment should look and feel like.

Callison also took home honorable mention in the “New Store, 5,000 Square Feet or More” category with its design for a Seibu Flagship Department Store in Jakarta, Indonesia. This is the second straight year that Callison has had two projects win awards.

Overall, we hope you enjoy perusing the profiles of this year's award winners.