Glenn Marcus Murcutt, the Australian architect whose small, elegant buildings have influenced designers worldwide since the early 1970s, has been awarded the 2009 AIA Gold Medal, the institute's highest honor. Although Murcutt practices only in his adopted homeland, "the effect of [his work] is amplified by impassioned and extensive lectures and a commitment to teaching throughout the world," said Gold Medal Committee chair Tom Howorth in a Dec. 4 press release announcing the award. In addition to his many visiting professorships at architecture schools, Murcutt teaches an annual master class for the Architecture Foundation Australia.

Born in England in 1936 and raised in New Guinea, Murcutt trained at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, where he established his solo practice in 1970. Throughout his career his architecture has fused environmentally and socially sensitive design with Modernist geometries and vernacular forms, resulting in human-scale structures?primarily private homes in urban and rural locales?that "touch the earth lightly," an Aboriginal saying that has served as a mantra for the 72-year-old.

Murcutt is the 65th person to receive the AIA Gold Medal, which will be presented to him at a February gala in Washington, D.C. In 2002 he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize; the year before that, the University of Virginia honored him with the Thomas Jefferson Medal. In 1992 Murcutt received the Alvar Aalto Medal.

In a letter of support for Murcutt's nomination, 2008 AIA Gold Medal winner Renzo Piano praised the architect's work, noting his ability to build with "simplicity and clarity" as well as "context and presence." But the most important contribution Murcutt has made, wrote Piano, "is what I call the ethic of profession: the honest and the obstinate daily work about quality."