View PDF version


New York, March 20, 2012 — The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced today the recipients of its 2012 architecture awards. The Academy's architecture awards program began in 1955 with the inauguration of the annual Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, which is awarded to a preeminent architect from any country who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. In 1991, the Academy began giving Arts and Letters Awards (formerly called Academy Awards) to honor American architects whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction. An additional award category was created in 2003 to honor an American from any field who has contributed to ideas in architecture through any medium of expression.

Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture

$5000 given to an architect of any nationality who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. The winner is Kathryn Gustafson of Seattle, Washington and London, England.

Arts and Letters Awards in Architecture

Three Arts and Letters Awards of $7500 each recognize American architects whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction. The winners are Marlon Blackwell of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Elizabeth Gray and Alan Organschi of New Haven, Connecticut; and Michael Maltzan of Los Angeles, California.

One Arts and Letters Award of $7500 recognizes an American who explores ideas in architecture through any medium of expression. The winner is Hilary Ballon of New York, New York.

The winners were chosen from a group of 40 individuals and practices nominated by the members of the Academy. The members of this year’s selection committee were: Henry N. Cobb, Michael Graves, Hugh Hardy, Steven Holl, Ada Louise Huxtable, Richard Meier (chairman), James Polshek, Billie Tsien, and Tod Williams. All five awards will be presented in New York City in May at the Academy’s annual Ceremonial. Work by the winners will be featured in the upcoming exhibition on view in the Academy’s galleries on Audubon Terrace. A list of previous winners can be found here and here.

Biographies of Winners

A scholar of architecture and urban studies, Hilary Ballon's work explores how the built environment affects life in our cities, New York and Paris in particular. She is curator of The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011, which is currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York. In Robert Moses and the Modern City, she reconsidered the impact of New York's master builder and stimulated a debate about large-scale public works in a three-part exhibition (MCNY, Queens Museum of Art and Columbia University) and book (W.W. Norton, 2007). Her other books include New York’s Pennsylvania Stations, (W.W. Norton, 2002); Louis Le Vau: Mazarin’s College, Colbert’s Revenge (Princeton University Press, 1999); and The Paris of Henri IV: Architecture and Urbanism (Architectural History Foundation/MIT Press, 1991). She is University Professor at NYU, Professor of Urban Studies and Architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi. This award recognized the "quality of scholarship and the originality and relevance of Hilary Ballon's books, articles, and exhibitions on architectural history and urbanism," said Ada Louis Huxtable, "which have done so much to deepen and enrich our understanding of the art of architecture."

Marlon Blackwell has practiced architecture in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for over two decades, and is Distinguished Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. "He enters the national discourse from a position that is rooted in the vernacular of his region — the South," said Billie Tsien. "Working outside of the mainstream Blackwell has developed a voice that is uniquely his own. The Eastern Orthodox Church in Springdale, Arkansas, has a facade that recalls the iconography of a Stuart Davis painting and possesses the stark strength of a totem. This is truthful architecture — simple, powerful, and steadfast." Other projects include the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion at the Indianapolis Museum of Art; and the Museum Store at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Blessings Golf Clubhouse, and L-Stack House, all in Arkansas.

Elizabeth Gray and Alan Organschi are teachers, architects, and fabricators whose New Haven-based practice has explored the intersection of environmental constraint, social need, and available resources to produce architecture that is environmentally sensitive as well as culturally and physically durable. "Simple structures like a contractor's storage shed or a footbridge," said Tod Williams, "are gently re-imagined and then realized as elegant, exactingly detailed buildings that are as spare and as astonishingly rich as a poem." Notable projects include the Fairfield Jesuit Community Center, Material Storage Barn, and Firehouse 12 Music Studio in Connecticut. Current projects include Common Ground Environmental High School, Barnum Landing Ferry Terminal, and Mill River Park Carousel Pavilion, also in Connecticut.

Kathryn Gustafson has practiced landscape architecture for over 30 years from her offices in Seattle and London, and has built work in Europe, North America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. “Two projects in particular,” said James Polshek, “best exemplify her quietly spectacular work: the poetic and sublime Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London and her Lunar Garden (Arthur Ross Terrace) that frames the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. The power of her imagination and the precision of her execution have enriched the many natural and man-made places she has touched with her magic.” Other notable projects include the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard in Washington D.C.; the Lurie Garden in Chicago; Towards Paradise installation at the Venice Biennale; Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam; and Valencia Parque Central in Valencia Spain. “She is an artist of space,” said Polshek, “who has moved far beyond the boundaries of landscape architecture or environmental design.” Kathryn Gustafson is the first solo woman and third landscape architect in 57 years to be awarded the Brunner Prize in Architecture.

Michael Maltzan’s Los Angeles-based practice has created work that demonstrates a deep belief in architecture’s essential role in our cities and landscapes. His work — from the MoMA Queens renovation in New York to the New Carver Apartments near Skid Row in Los Angeles — has created new cultural and social connections across a range of scales and programs. Other notable projects include Inner–City Arts in Los Angeles; St. Petersburg Pier in Florida; Zhe Zhi Bridge in Chengdu, China; San Francisco State Mashouf Performing Arts Center; Playa Vista Park in California; and the Pittman Dowell Residence in La Crescenta, California. "From inventive architecture of the house to a blend of inner-city works, Maltzan's architecture is distinguished in its spatial energy," said Steven Holl. "His ability to bring formal aspects to bear on problems of social space is inspiring and promising."

Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards

Work by the winners will be featured in the upcoming Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, which will be on view in the Academy’s galleries on Audubon Terrace. More details can be found on our Current Exhibitions page.

Press Contact: Cody Upton (212) 368-5900, cupton AT artsandletters DOT org.