AIA Names 25-Yr., Young, Kemper Awards for '08

December 18, 2007

By James Murdock

Tis the season for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to unveil the winners of its awards for 2008, several more of whom were announced today: Richard Meier’s Atheneum, in New Harmony, Ind., will be honored with the Twenty-Five-Year Award; Norma Merrick Sklarek, FAIA, will be recognized with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award; and Thomas L. McKittrick, FAIA, will receive the Edward C. Kemper Award.

The Twenty-Five-Year Award goes to a work first recognized by the AIA at its completion and whose design has held up well after its silver anniversary. The Atheneum is a visitors center for the town of New Harmony, a utopian community founded by a German religious group in 1814. Meier’s building was recognized with an AIA Honor Award in 1982. The three-story, white-walled structure features a ramp that leads visitors through a series of exhibition spaces, each one off-axis from the next, culminating with a rooftop platform that allows views of the town.

In a statement accompanying the AIA’s announcement, nominator Peter Eisenman, FAIA, said: “The Atheneum is one of Richard Meier’s seminal works of architecture. The design elements in this important work are evident throughout his career, having been further distilled to their most essential expression. While one of his earliest buildings, it is a wonderfully pure example of the recurring themes among his substantial oeuvre; it is a classic ‘Meier’ design.”

The Whitney M. Young Jr. Award recognizes an architect or organization that embodies the profession’s responsibility to address social issues; Young, its namesake, was president of the National Urban League in 1968 when he addressed the AIA convention that year about the need to increase the number of minorities and women within the profession.

The trailblazer career of Norma Merrick Sklarek, FAIA, includes several firsts for an African-American woman: first to earn a BArch. from Columbia University, in 1950; first to become a registered architect in the U.S., in 1954; and first to be named a Fellow of the AIA, in 1966. Sklarek spent 20 years with Gruen Associates, in Los Angeles, where her projects included the American Embassy in Tokyo. She cofounded the firm Siegel-Sklarek-Diamond, in 1980, and then established her own practice called the Sklarek Partneship in 1985. Four years later Sklarek joined the Jon Jerde Partnership, where her projects included the Mall of America, in Minneapolis.

Marshall Purnell, FAIA, the AIA’s recently inaugurated 2008 president—and the first African American to hold that position—said in a statement accompanying the award announcement that Sklarek “made me possible. She is mentally the strongest person in this profession that I know. Everywhere she went she was first.”

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Thomas L. McKittrick, FAIA, will receive the Edward C. Kemper Award, which recognizes people who contribute to the profession through service to the AIA. A professor emeritus of Texas A&M University, McKittrick is currently a visiting professor at the University of Houston. His resume includes terms as president of the AIA’s Houston Chapter and the Texas Society of Architects (TSA), as well as serving as a vice president and a board member of the AIA’s national component. At the TSA in 1984, McKittrick created the program “Let’s Grow … Better!” that encouraged each of Texas’s 17 AIA chapters to work with a school of architecture to develop ideas about growth issues.

“He advocated for and incorporated sustainability and active community planning involvement long before they became de rigueur for the profession, not only encouraging his students to pursue these goals passionately, but setting a personal example first and then ensuring that changes to architectural curricula were included as a result of the 2003 NAAB Validation Conference,” TSA executive vice president David Lancaster, Hon. AIA, wrote in support of McKittrick’s nomination.

McKittrick and Sklarek will be lauded at the AIA’s 2008 national convention next May in Boston. Meier will receive the Twenty-Five-Year Award at the 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 of these awards in a future issue of RECORD.

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