The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced that Marlon Blackwell will receive the 2020 Gold Medal, the AIA’s highest annual honor which, according to their website, recognizes individuals “whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.”
“Marlon Blackwell is a student of his ‘Place’ in the world. This ethic provides a philosophical coherence to his work,” Brian MacKay-Lyons wrote in a letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination. “His is a uniquely American Architecture; he builds confidently upon the American cultural landscape.”
Blackwell received a Bachelor of Architecture from Auburn University and his Master of Architecture from Syracuse University. Although he was born in Germany, the AIA describes Blackwell as a “product of the American South”, which shows through his large body of work in Northwest Arkansas. His first monograph, An Architecture of the Ozarks: The Works of Marlon Blackwell, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2005 and in the Fall of 2020, a new monograph will be released under the title Radical Practice.
His achievements are not only in practice but in strong academic leadership. As the department head of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, Blackwell was named one of DesignIntelligence’s “30 most Admired Educators.” He also served on the U.S. Department of State’s Industry Advisory Group for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations from 2012 to 2019.
“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 in another letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination.
2013 Gold Medal recipient, Thom Mayne, wrote, “As a practicing architect and educator myself, I have become aware of the growing estrangement between the world of the practitioner and that of the academy. Marlon teaches because of the great sense of responsibility to add a measure of reality to the education of architectural students while also supporting the theoretical or less pragmatic aspects of their education.”
The 2020 Advisory Jury consisted of:
Kelly M. Hayes-McAlonie, FAIA (Chair), The State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA, Arrowstreet Inc., Boston, MA
Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA, Foster + Partners, London, United Kingdom
Marsha Maytum, FAIA, LMS, San Francisco, California
Takashi Yanai, FAIA, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, Culver City California
Scott Shell, FAIA, EHDD, San Francisco, California
Melissa Harlan, AIA, Christner, St. Louis Missouri
Maurice Cox, City of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan