The AIA Board of Directors has announced their two biggest awards of the year. Steven Holl, FAIA, was honored as the 68th recipient of the AIA’s Gold Medal, which recognizes an architect whose body of work has had an enduring influence on architectural theory and practice. The 2012 Architecture Firm Award was awarded to VJAA, the Minneapolis-based practice led by principals Vincent James, FAIA, Jennifer Yoos, AIA, and Nathan Knutson, AIA.

Founded in 1995, VJAA has won praise for its innovative designs, such as the integration of structure and skin at the University of Cincinnati’s Clifton Arc Gatehouse, and its pioneering use of energy modeling and sustainable design, which garnered the practice AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects awards in 2008 and 2009.

VJAA, which also has an office in New York, has developed over the years from a regional practice to one more national and international in scope. Recent projects include the Central Master Plan for Tulane University, in New Orleans, and the Charles Hostler Student Center at the American University of Beirut. This magazine named VJAA the top award-winning firm in the 2010 Architect 50.

A professor of architecture at Columbia University since 1981, Holl is noted for his high-concept designs and his range of influences. In 1976 he founded Steven Holl Architects, a design firm of 40 employees with offices in New York and Beijing. Holl designs “buildings that satisfy the spirit as well as the eye,” Time magazine wrote in 2001, when the publication named him America’s Best Architect. 

In Helsinki, his Kiasma museum of contemporary art, with its swooping curves that mimic the surrounding landscape, plays on chiasma, defined in medical dictionaries as “the crossing point of optic nerves.” His recent projects include Beijing’s Linked Hybrid, a ring of mixed-use towers connected by a 20th-floor skywalk, and, also in China, Shenzen’s Vanke Center, a horizontal skyscraper propped on eight legs above a garden and park space.

As a winner of the AIA Gold Medal, he joins past recipients such as Louis Sullivan (1944), Frank Lloyd Wright (1949), Le Corbusier (1961), Louis Kahn (1971), I.M. Pei (1979), and Santiago Calatrava (2005). Recent winners of the Architecture Firm Award are Pugh + Scarpa (2010) and BNIM (2011). Both Holl and VJAA will be officially honored in May at the 2012 AIA National Convention in Washington, D.C.