In 1956, Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA, began his career as a professor of architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, where he received his first commission: an arts center for the university’s main campus. "I did my first project in the U.S. about 50 years ago," Maki says. "Then they [Washington University] asked me to do a second project [the 2006 Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts]—after they found out I was still living."

Born in 1928 in Tokyo, Maki studied at the University of Tokyo, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and finally the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1960, he became involved with the Metabolist school. Five years later, Maki established his eponymous firm in Japan.

Maki attributes the decades-long gap between his first U.S. commission and his second—the 1993 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco—to "a question of human resources." Maki and Associates initially focused on projects in Japan. "My firm was not ready at that time to do work overseas. When the opportunity arose, I took it," Maki says.

"I was very grateful," Maki says, speaking about being named AIA Gold Medalist for 2011. "Receiving it at the age of 80, it is almost an endorsement of what I’ve been doing my entire professional life."