With a strong passion for successfully integrating tall buildings into their surrounding communities, William Pedersen, FAIA, FAAR has played a significant role as founding design partner in transforming Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) into an international powerhouse, whose diverse portfolio is executed by over 600 staff members in six global offices.
In honor of his undeniable success, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced Pedersen as recipient of the 2013 AIANY Medal of Honor during a ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City Wednesday.
More information and an interview with William Pedersen after the break…
During his acceptance speech, Pedersen honored his friend and partner A. Eugene Kohn, Chairman of KPF, and his wife of 52 years, Elizabeth who he described to be the “foundation of his life”. He continued on to pay homage to the Rockefeller Center, designed by architect Raymond Hood, as an early childhood trip to Midtown Manhattan sparked his interest to be an architect.
He described: “[Rockefeller Center] was created by a collaboration of strong and diverse personalities, each responding to the challenging pressures which are brought to bear on a complex work of commercial and civic architecture. Together, these individuals created a remarkably poetic balance of humility and nobility. Their example of collaboration has inspired me for over forty years.”
Of particular concern to Pedersen has been the development of what he calls the “fundamental building block of the modern city”: the high-rise commercial office building. Throughout his career, he has systematically sought ways for buildings of this seemingly-mundane type to gesture and connect to other participants so that each does not stand mutely in isolation from its neighbors, but rather joins in an active architectural conversation with them. He regards his accomplishments in this area of architectural pursuit as his most substantial accomplishments. Presently, he is at work on Hudson Yards in New York where his philosophical intentions for commercial buildings are being given the ultimate test.
Pedersen’s partner Kohn noted the significance of Pedersen’s commitment to enabling the successful integration of tall buildings into the surrounding community: “After Bill and I founded the firm with Shelly Fox in 1976, we sought to find a way for the tall building to relate to the urban street wall, and to be a participant in the urban context. Our firm remains committed to that concept and recognizes the important role of tall buildings. This prestigious award is one Bill truly deserves and acknowledges his success in making the tall building a more meaningful participant.”
Since the firm’s inception, it has been Mr. Pedersen’s intention to lead only a segment of the firm’s designs, thereby allowing for the parallel development of other design partners and for his continued focus on each project he directs. This aspiration has led to stimulating competition within the KPF design community and has allowed the firm to expand in capacity and dimension while still maintaining design quality, particularly necessary since the advent of KPF’s global practice.
During his career with KPF, Mr. Pedersen has received seven National Design Awards for work he has directed. Personal honors which Mr. Pedersen has received include the Rome Prize in Architecture in 1965, the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the University of Minnesota’s Alumni Achievement Award, the Gold Medal from the national architectural fraternity, Tau Sigma, and the Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award from the CTBUH. Mr. Pedersen lectures internationally and serves on academic and professional juries and symposia. He is on the Board of the University of Minnesota Foundation and has been a visiting professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Columbia University, and Harvard University. He has held the Eero Saarinen Chair at Yale University and has also been the Otis Lecturer in Japan. In 1989, he was honored as the Herbert S. Greenward Distinguished Professor in Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago.