The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. The Academy’s annual architecture awards program began in 1955 with the inauguration of the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize and has since expanded to include four Arts and Letters Awards. The Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize awards $20,000 to an architect of any nationality who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. The Arts and Letters Awards give $10,000 to Americans who explore ideas in architecture through any medium of expression.
This year’s winners were chosen from a group of 32 individuals and practices nominated by the members of the Academy. The jurors were Annabelle Selldorf (chair), Kenneth Frampton, Steven Holl, Thom Mayne, James Polshek, Billie Tsien, and Tod Williams. The awards will be presented in New York City in May at the Academy’s annual Ceremonial. Work by the winners will be featured in the Ceremonial Exhibition: Work by New Members and Recipients of Awards, on view in the Academy’s galleries on Audubon Terrace.
Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize: Smiljan Radic
Smiljan Radic “creates strong atmospheric spaces that resonate deeply and transcend the visual,” said Annabelle Selldorf. A graduate of the Catholic University of Chile’s School of Architecture and the Istituttto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, Radic founded his own practice in Santiago, Chile, in 1995. He was the youngest architect to design the Serpentine Pavilion when asked in 2014. Other notable projects include the Bio Bio Regional Theater, Concepción, Chile (2018); the VIK Wine Cellar, San Vicente, Chile (2014); and the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art extension, Santiago (2014).
Arts and Letters Award: Brad Cloepfil
Brad Cloepfil’s architecture is “exceptionally varied,” said Kenneth Frampton, with a “wide range of material expression.” Cloepfil founded his practice, Allied Works, in 1994 in Portland, Oregon, and expanded to New York in 2003. The Clyfford Still Museum (2011) is “masterly,” said Frampton, showcasing Cloepfil’s “tactile palette.” His National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, is expected to open in 2018.
Arts and Letters Award: MASS Design Group
MASS Design Group “challenges architectural preconceptions,” Tod Williams said, focusing on “how architecture might be used as a tool for healing.” MASS is deeply sensitive to the impact of architecture on people and their communities, and incorporates that mindfulness into every aspect of their practice. For them, “architecture is inextricably united to social equity,” said Williams. MASS Design Group is led by Sierra Bainbridge, Christian Benimana, Justin Brown, Kelly Doran, Patricia Gruits, Sarah Mohland, Michael Murphy, David Saladik, Amie Shao, Matthew Smith, and Alan Ricks.
Arts and Letters Award: Cassim Shepard
Cassim Shepard’s work explores “the unseen lesser-known city that we all inhabit,” said Billie Tsien. Shepard was the founding editor of Urban Omnibus, the Architectural League of New York’s innovative online publication, which examines the questions facing the modern city through a variety of media, and confronts the intersections of design, justice, and the urban fabric. Shepard recently published a new book called Citymakers: the Culture and Craft of Practical Urbanism.
Arts and Letters Award: William Stout
William Stout’s work as a bookseller and architectural publisher “has nourished architecture culture for over forty years,” said Steven Holl. William Stout Architectural Books, which has locations in San Francisco and Richmond, California, grew from an informal exchange to a crucial repository of the knowledge and culture of contemporary architecture. As a publisher, he highlights local innovation and essential classics.
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