Marlon Blackwell Awarded American Institute of Architects 2020 Gold Medal

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The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has awarded the 2020 Gold Medal to Fayetteville architect Marlon Blackwell.

The Gold Medal is the AIA’s highest annual honor, recognizing individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

The AIA made the announcement this week. The Gold Medal will be officially awarded in May at the AIA national conference in Los Angeles.

Blackwell is a distinguished professor, E. Fay Jones chair and department head of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, where has taught since 1992. His professional practice, Marlon Blackwell Architects, is also based in Fayetteville and has been widely recognized with more than 120 national and 14 international design awards..

Blackwell is the second architect practicing and teaching in Arkansas to be awarded the Gold Medal since the program began in 1907.

Blackwell, an AIA Fellow, will receive the AIA Gold Medal 30 years after Fay Jones was accorded the same honor in 1990. Jones, an Arkansas native, was a longtime professor and founding dean of the Fay Jones School as well as a member of the first class of architecture students.

“Throughout his career, Marlon Blackwell has created inspiring architecture, transforming often limited resources into designs that celebrate each place and heighten all of our horizons,” said Robert Ivy, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the AIA. “Like former AIA Gold Medalist Fay Jones, Marlon Blackwell reminds us that powerful architecture can take place outside the traditional centers of media and fashion.”

Blackwell was named a Ford Fellow by United States Artists in 2014. His body of work was recognized with the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2016, and he was selected as the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome in 2018. He also was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 2018 and received the E. Fay Jones Gold Medal from AIA Arkansas in 2017.

“Too often, it is said, ‘A prophet is without honor in his own country,’” Dean Peter MacKeith, dean and professor of architecture at the Fay Jones School, said in a statement. “But this recognition of Marlon Blackwell definitively accords him a deserved place in architecture culture. For our school, he is a valued colleague and faculty leader, and for the state and nation, he is a distinguished representative and ambassador. Yet in these roles, Marlon is distinguished as much by his generosity and humaneness, as he is by his talent in design and his commitment to buildings and places.”

Past Gold Medal recipients include the leading architects nationally and internationally over the last century. These include numerous Fellows and honorary Fellows of the AIA such as Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, Louis I. Kahn, Buckminster Fuller, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Glenn Murcutt, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Moshe Safdie, Julia Morgan, Thom Mayne, and Steven Holl as well as other imminent architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, César Pelli and Le Corbusier.

Lord Richard Rogers was awarded the 2019 Gold Medal. Lord Rogers, along with many other Gold Medalists, is also a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, an international prize often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel.”

“As a practicing architect and educator myself, I have become aware of the growing estrangement between the world of practitioner and that of the academy,” Thom Mayne, 2013 AIA Gold Medal recipient, wrote in a letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination. “Marlon teaches, as do I, 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.”