This afternoon, The American Institute of Architects announced that Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, will receive the 2020 Gold Medal, the organization's highest honor recognizing "an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture," according to an AIA press release.
Born in Germany, Blackwell received a B.Arch. from Auburn University and an M.Arch. from Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. In 2000, Blackwell founded his eponymous, Fayetteville, Ark., firm Marlon Blackwell Architects, focusing his work in Northwest Arkansas. He is the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture and a distinguished professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas.
“Marlon Blackwell is a student of his ‘place’ in the world. This ethic provides a philosophical coherence to his work,” wrote Brian MacKay-Lyons in a letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination. “His is a uniquely American architecture; he builds confidently upon the American cultural landscape. His ‘cultural realist’ approach is democratic, looking to the ordinary and the everyday for inspiration. It is connected to society, rather than being aloof. This is not a nostalgic architecture, but an architecture of its time and place.”
Over the last 20 years, Blackwell's firm has been awarded 20 national and 14 international design awards including the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award. In 2017, he received the E. Fay Jones Gold Medal from AIA Arkansas. In 2018, he was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 2018 and he was selected as the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome.
Blackwell's notable projects include the Harvey Pediatric Clinic in Rodgers, Ark. (2017), the St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church in Fayetteville, Ark. (2012), and the Steven L. Anderson Design Center and Vol Walker Hall at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. (2013).
“Every Marlon Blackwell design is a new lesson in the transformative ability of architecture to reveal the uniqueness of every site and give meaning to any program, to achieve an expressive clarity in strong and simple forms,” wrote Julie V. Snow, FAIA, in a letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination. “In every way, across all measures, the work raises our expectations for our own architecture and teaches us that it is possible to exceed what appears to limit us.”
The jury for the 2020 AIA Gold Medal was chaired by Kelly Hayes-McAlonie, FAIA, director of campus planning at the University of Buffalo, New York; and comprised Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA, senior associate at Arrowstreet in Sommerville, Mass.; Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA, founder of Foster + Partners in London; Marsha Maytum, FAIA, founding principal of LMS in San Francisco; Takashi Yanai, FAIA, partner at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects in Culver City, Calif.; Scott Shell, FAIA, principal at EHDD in San Francisco; Melissa Harlan, AIA, architect at Kiku Obata & Co. in St. Louis; and Maurice Cox former planning director for the City of Detroit.
This is a breaking news story and will continue to be updated.