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AIA Announces Awards—Piano Wins Gold

December 13, 2007

By James Murdock

Corrections appended December 17 and 19, 2007

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced today that it is awarding its 2008 Gold Medal, one of the profession’s highest honors, to Renzo Piano, Hon. FAIA. The AIA also announced that KieranTimberlake Associates will receive its Firm of the Year Award and that Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, will be lauded with the Topaz Medallion.

Oscar Niemeyer
Photo © Michel Denancé, Courtesy FXFowle
Renzo Piano’s New York Times headquarters, completed in 2007.

National Congress Building, Brazil
Photo © Peter Aaron/Esto

KieranTimberlake’s Loblolly House, completed in 2006.

National Congress Building, Brazil
Image © Built Light, 2006

Stanley Tigerman’s Pacific Garden Mission, completed in 2007.

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Piano, the 70-year-old Italian architect, gained international acclaim early in his career by winning the 1971 competition to design the Pompidou Center art museum, in Paris, together with Richard Rogers, with whom he shared a practice at the time. Piano’s museums remain among his best known buildings: for instance, The Menil Collection, in Houston, completed in 1987, and the High Museum Expansion in Atlanta, completed in 2005, both showcase his ability to control natural light within interior spaces, a talent reminiscent of his one-time mentor and employer Louis I. Kahn. But Piano’s range of work extends to office towers, college buildings, and airports—prompting RECORD to wonder in 2005, “Is Renzo Piano America’s Default Architect?” Indeed, his recently opened headquarters for the New York Times Company has been hailed by the U.K.’s Observer newspaper as New York City’s “best new skyscraper in 40 years.”

In a statement accompanying the Gold Medal announcement, Thomas S. Howorth, FAIA, chair of the AIA Committee on Design Gold Medal Committee, said that Piano’s work “demonstrates the complete range of architectural concerns. It is sculptural, beautiful, technically accomplished and sustainable. He integrates the diverse disciplines that combine in contemporary building into cohesive, humane environments.”

KieranTimberlake, the Philadelphia-based firm headed by Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA, is admired for its sustainable and research-based approach to design that has helped reinvent the nature of componentized construction. The pair met in graduate school and began a working relationship during the 1970s, including a stint with Venturi Scott Brown, which culminated in 1984 with the founding of their practice.

“A long-standing commitment to and keen understanding of sustainable design in particular are among the fruits of the firm’s unusually thorough design research, a firm approach that focuses on new materials, processes, assemblies and products (the firm assigns four professionals and 3 percent of its gross revenues to research annually),” said Hubert Murray, AIA, president of the Boston Society of Architects/AIA, in a statement accompanying the Firm of the Year announcement.

KieranTimberlake’s projects include extensive work for schools and higher education institutions, such as Yale University and Cornell University—many buildings featuring prefabricated components. This approach was also embodied by the Loblolly House, a 2006 residence for Kieran on the shores of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Kieran and Timberlake used building information modeling software that modeled the house and each of its parts through the supply chain, into their assemblage as larger modular components, and onto the building site. This method was inspired by the pair’s tour of a Boeing aircraft plant a few years earlier; their book, Refabricating Architecture, about the revelations they had while studying the aircraft, shipbuilding, and automobile industries, is now regarded as a classic. “Parametric modeling was the break-though that allowed us to take components manufactured at various places off-site and bring them together with a high level of precision on-site,” Kieran told RECORD in 2006.

Tigerman, FAIA, whose practice Tigerman McCurry Architects is based in Chicago, will receive the AIA’s Topaz Medallion, which recognizes architects who are also educators. The iconoclast is known for humanitarian approach to selecting projects, which include the recently completed Pacific Garden Mission, a new 156,000-square-foot facility for the nation’s oldest outreach center and shelter for homeless people in Chicago. Together with Eva Maddox, in 1993 Tigerman co-founded Archeworks, an alternative design school that encourages students to partner with nonprofit clients.

In an interview with RECORD earlier this year, Tigerman said of his design philosophy: “Rich people don’t need me. There’re plenty of architects, good architects, to do villas for princes and princesses. I’m not needed. You see, you want to go where you feel you’re needed. I’ve worked in areas of social causes before and it’s very rewarding because you’re doing something for people who never had access to, say, good design.”

The AIA will present these awards at its annual Accent on Architecture gala, with the American Architectural Foundation, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on February 22, 2008. Look for further coverage in a future issue of RECORD.

Correction: This article inadvertently omitted the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, which cosponsors the Topaz Medallion. Also, RECORD's parent company, McGraw-Hill, is the publisher of Refabricating Architecture.

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