In its annual rite of laurels, the American Institute of Architects today announced the recipients of its 2010 Gold Medal, Firm Award, and Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education.
Peter Bohlin, the 72-year-old Pennsylvania architect and principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, known best for forging a diverse and profoundly personal modern idiom in wood, stone, and glass, has been named the recipient of the Gold Medal, which is the institute's highest honor to an individual and is given for a lifetime of work.
"Peter is a true American original," said architect James Timberlake of KieranTimberlake in Philadelphia, who helped nominate Bohlin for the medal and counts him as a mentor. Timberlake praised Bohlin's architecture but emphasized his leadership and guidance of younger practitioners as well as what he described as his native sense of sustainability. Bohlin "never had to find or embrace an environmental ethic, material sensitivity, sustainable practices, or deeply rooted tectonics," Timberlake said. "These ethics have always been there—from his earliest days."
Though his custom houses in wood have received the most attention, over the years Bohlin has become revered for his ability to work critically from a broad palette of materials and marry them emotionally to a building's situation, whether it involves nature or artifice. A house built as a rustic retreat in the Connecticut woods shows the same degree of triumph as the gridded glass cube he completed for an Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Atlanta architect Mack Scogin, of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, also supported Bohlin's nomination, citing his upholding of an ageless architectural tradition of sensitivity while making it his own with "personal will, character, and imagination."
The Firm Award, the highest honor given to a group practice, goes to Pugh + Scarpa Architects, the Santa Monica, Calif.–based firm renowned for its intelligent experimentation with urban building types, craft-intensive treatment of materials, and keen perceptivity of communities and the environment. The founding partners, Lawrence Scarpa and Gwynne Pugh, have worked together for 35 years. Angela Brooks became their partner in 2001. The recipient of 13 national AIA honor awards, Pugh + Scarpa has also drawn wide acclaim for its work in affordable housing.
Thom Mayne, of fellow Santa Monica firm Morphosis, supported Pugh + Scarpa's nomination. He described the architects as "[c]omfortable with aesthetic, practical, political, and functional issues," adding that they "have mapped an architectural path that is as didactic as it is successful." Steve Dumez, of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple in New Orleans, made the case to the AIA's board on behalf of Pugh + Scarpa, citing the principals' skepticism toward the norms of architectural practice in a search for inventiveness and substance in their work. Their design process, he said, "seeks to have us see something new in what is often considered mundane."
For the Topaz Medallion, the AIA's board chose a sort of crossover winner: Michael Graves, famous for his good-humored takes on postmodern classical forms and popular product designs, was cited for his wide influence on architecture students during 39 years on the faculty of Princeton University. The New York architect Paul Segal, of Paul Segal Associates, said in his nomination of the 75-year-old designer and educator that Graves "provided for all the students the first and foremost template of a life that is centered on design issues, history, and culture-at-large."
The honorees will receive their awards at the AIA's national convention in Miami in June 2010.