Laurie Olin
Olin Studio Laurie Olin

The National Building Museum announced legacy landscape architect Laurie Olin as its 2017 Vincent Scully Prize winner. The Philadelphia-based, septuagenarian practitioner is the founder of eponymous firm Olin Studio as well as a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

This multidisciplinary approach to landscape architecture contributed to his recognition in the 17-year-old program which celebrates longtime educator Vincent Scully, whose teaching and scholarship has affected a wide array of other architects and urban planners.

“[Olin’s] work has left (many) cities invaluably richer in terms of public space, civic pride, and quality of life. [He is] a prolific writer and thinker, advancing the history, theory and visibility of the field…all hallmarks of everything Vincent Scully deeply represented,” said James Corner, a former student of Olin's as well as a founder of James Corner Field Operations, in his nomination letter.

While overseeing offices in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Olin has been creating inviting environments as well as instructing and writing about the history and theory of architecture and landscape for over forty years. Olin was raised in Alaska, and earned his B.Arch in architecture from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1961 and formed a mentorship with landscape architect Richard Haag, who encouraged him to pursue landscape design.

After graduating, Olin later went on to work for Fred Bassetti in Seattle and Edward Larrabee Barnes in New York before traveling to London on a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship from 1972 to 1973. The following year, he began a two-year fellowship in landscape architecture at the American Academy in Rome. In 1976, he settled down in Philadelphia when he became a professor for the University of Pennsylvania and founded what was then Hanna/Olin with fellow landscape architect and University of Washington cohort Robert Hanna. Olin also went on to become the head chair of the landscape architecture program at Harvard University for a couple of years during the 1980s before returning to the University of Pennsylvania, wher he still teaches today.

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia
The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia

As principal and cofounder of Olin Studio, Olin has spearheaded multiple, noteworthy projects such as the Washington Monument Grounds in Washington, D.C.; Bryant Park in New York; Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia; and Simon and Helen Director Park in Portland, Ore.

In addition to the Vincent Scully Prize, Olin’s career honors include numerous design awards and the AIA’s Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture in 2013. He is also a 2012 recipient of the National Medal of Arts and received the 2011 American Society of Landscape Architects Medal.

The Vincent Scully Prize is presented annually to an individual or group of individuals who have exemplified notable theory and practice in architecture, historic preservation, and urban design. This year’s jury included James Corner, AIA, founder of James Corner Field Operations; architect and urban planner Maurice Cox, AIA; Ellen Dunham-Jones, AIA, director of Georgia Tech’s urban design program; architecture critic Blair Kamin; and jury chair Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, AIA, partner of Duany Plater-Zyberk.

Olin will join the ranks of other notable figures such as urban activist Jane Jacobs (2000); AIA Gold Medal winners Robert Venturi, FAIA, and Denise Scott Brown, Hon. AIA (2002); ARCHITECT contributing writer Witold Rybzynski (2007); Robert A.M. Stern, AIA (2008); and architecture critic Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA (2012).

Olin will be honored at an event at the Washington, D.C., museum on Oct. 16.