David Leatherbarrow
David Leatherbarrow

Today, The American Institute of Architects and the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Architecture named David Leatherbarrow as the 2020 recipient of the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education, the highest honor given to an educator in architecture. Since 1976, AIA and ACSA have been conferring this award on individuals for their demonstrated dedication to the education of and their influence on students of architecture.

A B.Arch. graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Ph.D. in art from the University of Essex, in England, Leatherbarrow began his teaching career at Cambridge University and the University of Westminster. Since joining the faculty of University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design in 1984, Leatherbarrow has led the program's first-year studio and a required first-semester course for the school's doctoral program. During his tenure, Leatherbarrow has served two stints as associate dean and department chair, spent two decades as the Ph.D. program chair, and was named interim leadership of the school’s urban design and undergraduate architecture programs.

“This is an outstanding teacher of exceptional energy and ambition. He has been invited as a visiting tutor and scholar quite literally by distinguished institutions all over the world,” wrote Kenneth Frampton, the Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, in a letter supporting Leatherbarrow’s nomination. “What can one say? Elite teachers in architectural schools do not come more distinguished than this.”

Leatherbarrow has also written prolifically, publishing 140 scholarly essays and articles, and more than 10 books. His latest work, Three Cultural Ecologies (Routledge, 2017) written with Richard Wesley, assesses certain works by Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Like his teaching, these publications have been unfailingly thoughtful and have made a notable contribution to the current debate, particularly to the relation of building to landscape and therefore the growing ecological concerns,” wrote Joseph Rykwert, the Paul Philippe Cret professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in his nomination letter. “As this was already implicit in his doctoral thesis, he must be thought of as one of the initiators of that important trend, rather than a follower.”

The 2020 Topaz Medallion jury comprised chair Evelyn Lee, AIA, Slack Technologies; Renee Cheng, FAIA, University of Washington; Pheobe Crisman, AIA, University of Virginia; Sarah Curry, Assoc. AIA, AIAS; and Robert Greenstreet, Int. Assoc. AIA, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.