Today, the AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture jointly named Douglas S. Kelbaugh, FAIA, as the 2016 winner of the AIA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architecture Education. Since 1976, the award has been granted to individuals living at the time of nomination whose work in architectural education has spanned at least a decade, primarily in North America.
"Kelbaugh is the quintessential teaching architect who has, over the course of four decades, achieved estimable success in teaching, practice and writing, which he has ably woven together to shape a generation’s thinking about the environmental aspects of architecture," according to an AIA press release announcing the award.
Passive solar design and transit-oriented development have been continuing threads throughout Kelbaugh's career, which includes academic postings, private practice, and international development work. In 1978, Kelbaugh founded the award-winning practice Kelbaugh + Lee in Princeton, N.J., whose passive-solar buildings were met with acclaim and helped to form the basis of the growing body of research around low- to zero-energy structures that continues today. In 1985, he was tapped to chair the department of architecture at the University of Washington, in Seattle. While there, he established the firm Kelbaugh & Calthorpe, continuing his work designing award-winning energy-conscious structures. At the University of Washington, Kelbaugh homed in on transit-oriented development with an emphasis on charrettes mixing students, faculty, and guest professionals to puzzle through urban design issues. His 1989 Pedestrian Pocket Book, co-authored with architect Peter Calthorpe, derived from one such charrette and explores how the suburbs can incorporate mass transit.
Other published work includes Common Place: Toward Neighborhood and Regional Design (University of Washington Press, 1997) and its sequel Repairing the American Metropolis: Common Place Revisited (University of Washington Press, 2002), both covering regionalism. A civic activist, Kelbaugh has authored articles and spoken at conferences as well as to the media on topics related to his sustainable-design work.
From 1998 to 2008, Kelbaugh served as dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, where he is credited with shrinking the faculty-to-student ratio from 1-to-12 to 1-to-9 for a more hands-on educational environment. In 2008, Kelbaugh took a two-year leave to work as the executive director of design and planning for Dubai-based global real-estate development firm Limitless on mixed-used transit-oriented projects in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Today, he teaches graduate architecture, urban design, and sustainability studios at Taubman and also lectures to graduates and undergraduates there.
Kelbaugh earned a B.Arch. and an M.Arch. from Princeton University's School of Architecture, where in 1975 he designed a passive solar house that uses a Trombe wall pairing glass and a heat-absorbing material to warm a building through solar radiation. The structure remains an icon of the passive-solar movement of the late 1970s.
Kelbaugh joins the 2015 Topaz Medallion winner, Peter Eisenman, FAIA, who is the founder and principal of the New York–based firm Eisenman Architects and has served as the Charles Gwathmey Professor in Practice at Yale University, in New Haven, Conn., since 2005. Previous medallion winners include the practitioner–educators Marcel Breuer (1981), 2016 AIA Gold Medal co-winner Denise Scott-Brown (1996), and Michael Graves (2010).
The jury for this year’s Topaz Medallion comprised: Michael Hoffman, AIA, associate professor and graduate-program director at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt.; Danielle Mitchell, Assoc. AIA, national president at the nonprofit American Institute of Architecture Students, in Washington, D.C.; Stephen Vogel, FAIA, professor of architecture and former dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit; Katherine L. Schwennsen, FAIA, professor and director at Clemson University’s School of Architecture, in Clemson, S.C.; and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, FAIA, dean and professor at the School of Design and University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
Read ARCHITECT’s complete coverage of the 2016 AIA Honor Awards.