Beginning in 1955, the American Academy of Arts and Letters have awarded architectural accolades to those who made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. Recently, the organization began giving such awards, formerly called Academy Awards, to honor American architects whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction or explores architectural ideas through any medium of expression. This year’s winners include Kathryn Gustafson (Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture), Hilary Ballon (Arts and Letters Award for medium expression), Marlon Blackwell, Elizabeth Gray & Alan Organschi and Michael Maltzan (Arts and Letters Awards for personal direction)- a mixture of architectural academics and practitioners, landscape designers and fabricators.
More about the winners after the break.
To receive such an award, the winners were first nominated by members of the Academy and then reviewed by the Academy’s selection committee, chaired by Richard Meier. Other committee members include Henry N. Cobb, Michael Graves, Hugh Hardy, Steven Holl, Ada Louise Huxtable, James Polshek, Billie Tsien, and Tod Williams. Work by the winners will be featured in the upcoming exhibition on view in the Academy’s galleries on Audubon Terrace, located on Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets.
Hilary Ballon, scholar of architecture and urban studies, explores how the built environment affects life in our cities. Currently, Ballon has curated the Museum of the City of New York’s The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011, in addition to a three part exhibition for Queens Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University examining Robert Moses and the Modern City. With this award, Ballon is recognized for the “quality of scholarship and the originality and relevance of her books, articles, and exhibitions on architectural history and urbanism,” said Ada Louis Huxtable, “which have done so much to deepen and enrich our understanding of the art of architecture.”
Based in Arkansas, Marlon Blackwell is a Distinguished Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. “He enters the national discourse from a position that is rooted in the vernacular of his region — the South,” said Billie Tsien. “Working outside of the mainstream Blackwell has developed a voice that is uniquely his own.” Be sure to view Blackwell’s projects featured on ArchDaily.
Elizabeth Gray and Alan Organschi are teachers, architects, and fabricators whose New Haven-based practice has explored the intersection of environmental constraint, social need, and available resources to produce architecture that is environmentally sensitive as well as culturally and physically durable. “Simple structures like a contractor’s storage shed or a footbridge,” said Tod Williams, “are gently re-imagined and then realized as elegant, exactingly detailed buildings that are as spare and as astonishingly rich as a poem.”
Kathryn Gustafson has practiced landscape architecture for over 30 years from her offices in Seattle and London, and has built work in Europe, North America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. “She is an artist of space,” said Polshek, “who has moved far beyond the boundaries of landscape architecture or environmental design.” Kathryn Gustafson is only the third landscape architect in 57 years to be awarded the Brunner Prize in Architecture.
Michael Maltzan’s practice has created work that demonstrates a deep belief in architecture’s essential role in our cities and landscapes. His work has created new cultural and social connections across a range of scales and programs. “From inventive architecture of the house to a blend of inner-city works, Maltzan’s architecture is distinguished in its spatial energy,” said Steven Holl. “His ability to bring formal aspects to bear on problems of social space is inspiring and promising.” View Maltzan’s projects on AD here.