In 1962, as a student at Pratt Institute in New York, Edward Mazria was drafted by the New York Knicks. He entered the Peace Corps instead, an experience that helped shape a singular career that has now earned him the highest honor bestowed by AIA. Mazria pioneered the effort to calculate the built environment’s outsize role in exacerbating climate change and, with his New Mexico–based nonprofit Architecture 2030, has led a decades-long effort to make the profession take action. Mazria responded to his Gold Medal in predictable fashion—with a challenge to his fellow architects:
“These are extraordinary times. The awarding of the AIA Gold Medal this year signals a break with the past and looks to the immediate future where architecture, planning, and design confront and prioritize practices that address the most significant crisis of our time: climate change. It portends an architecture not just on the Earth, but of the Earth, manifesting in unprecedented design opportunities and possibilities that dramatically expand architecture’s scope and unique role in the world.
“This particular award reexamines architecture and brings with it a serious discussion and new way of thinking, looking at the global picture and major challenges we face, while mobilizing and motivating the profession to take actions that ensure we continue to coexist with the natural and biological world. The time scales to act are short, meaning how quickly we transform as a profession may very well determine the sustainability of the planet.
“The 2021 Gold Medal challenges each of us to achieve that which will be our most important legacy.”