The Board of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) named Michael Graves, FAIA, as 2010 recipient of the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. The AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions to architecture education for at least 10 years, whose teaching has influenced a broad range of students and who has helped shape the minds of those who will shape our environment.
Graves, Princeton Universityâ€™s Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus, has been teaching architectural design and theory for over four decades. His teaching career evidences great breadth and influence. During his 39 years in Princetonâ€™s School of Architecture, from 1962 to 2001, Graves taught thousands of undergraduate and graduate architecture students and undergraduates in other disciplines, thereby influencing a wide range of students. In addition, he has served as a visiting professor, given lectures, and/or participated in design juries at numerous other schools of architecture in the U.S. Graves has given over a thousand public lectures, thereby extending his influence to a yet wider range of students as well as members of the profession and the public.
â€œMichaelâ€™s influence was pervasive and positive. He provided for all the students the first and foremost template of a life that is centered on design issues, history, and culture-at-large,â€ said Paul Segal, FAIA, of Paul Segal Associates in New York City in his nomination letter. â€œI also know of no one more deserving of this award, as one of the truly great educators in architecture in the past 50 years.â€
At both graduate and undergraduate levels in Princetonâ€™s School of Architecture, Graves taught architectural design studios, supervised independent study projects, advised students on their theses, conducted lecture courses and seminars on architectural theory and design, served on juries, participated in research projects, organized exhibitions, gave public lectures, and published scholarly papers. Many of these endeavors transcended specific expertise in architectural design by making connections among areas; urban design, architecture, interiors, painting, sculpture, and literature. His own designs and analyses draw on his knowledge of history from ancient to modern times, and he therefore imbues his students with a sense of the past in the context of current aesthetic and social interests.
Gravesâ€™s teaching career also evidences great depth and has had a cumulative effect on a long line of students. His teaching has been paralleled by an extraordinary career as a practicing architect. As results, he has been a positive role model for a variety of students â€“ those who have become educators, those who have become practitioners and those, like Graves himself, who have chosen to do both.
Graves was the 2001 recipient of the AIA Gold Medal, and has won 12 national AIA Honor awards. Over 65 AIA New Jersey awards have been collected by Gravesâ€™ firm. The New Jersey state component also established the Michael Graves Lifetime Achievement Award in his honor.
Graves has always regarded teaching as a way of contributing to the future of architecture. In addressing a graduating class at Florida International Fine Arts College, he remarked, â€œFor me, the profession of architecture is all about the joy of learning and creating, the fulfillment that comes with making a contribution to society. In my career, I have been like a doctor in a teaching hospital in that I practice, do research and also teach, which for me is a way to â€˜give backâ€™ to the profession.â€ By enriching the education of future practitioners and teachers, Graves has influenced the future of architecture and will continue to do so through his students for years to come.
A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Graves received his architectural training at the University of Cincinnati and at Harvard University. He earned his masterâ€™s degree in 1959 from Harvard Universityâ€™s Graduate School of Design. He then moved to New York to work in the office of George Nelson, whose diverse practice exposed Michael to architecture and design in the broadest sense, which set the stage for his subsequent multi-disciplinary professional career. After a two year residency at the American Academy in Rome, Graves joined the faculty of Princeton Universityâ€™s School of Architecture.
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