Last week, the American Academy of Arts and Letters announced architect Phyllis Lambert as the 2016 recipient of the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, which awards US$20,000 to an architect of any nationality who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. Dubbed as the "Joan of Architecture", Lambert is widely recognized for founding the Canadian Centre for Architecture and her role as Director of Planning for the iconic Seagram Building (which she commissioned Mies van der Rohe to design), among her other initiatives that advocate for architecture's cultural value. In more recent years, she received the 2014 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award and also has a grant named after her that awards notable emerging designers based in her original hometown of Montreal.
The Academy first launched their architecture awards program with the Brunner Memorial Prize in 1955. Since then, the Academy has added four Arts and Letters Awards in Architecture, which will be presented to architect Andrew Berman, Andrew Freear of Auburn University's Rural Studio, nARCHITECTS' Mimi Hoang & Eric Bunge, and Theodore Prudon for 2016.
The winners were selected out of 35 individuals and practices who were nominated by Academy members. With Elizabeth Diller as chairperson, the 2016 jury was a star-studded group of architects including Henry Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, Hugh Hardy, Steven Holl, Cesar Pelli, James Polshek, Robert A. M. Stern, and Tod Williams.
In a CCA press statement, Elizabeth Diller described Lambert as “the conscience of modern and contemporary architecture, protecting its past and advocating for its future as a vital art form.” Jury member Robert A. M. Stern noted Lambert's role as Director of Planning for the Seagram Building as “one of the great acts of architectural patronage in modern times”. Under her leadership, the CCA "amassed an incomparable library and staggering archive of drawings, and has mounted important public programs that have done much to rescue the profession of architecture from inertia and amnesia," Stern said.
Along with the 2016 recipients, Lambert will receive the Brunner Memorial Prize during the Academy’s annual Ceremonial in New York City in May. The Academy will also showcase an exhibition of the winners' works from May 19 through June 12.
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