Marlon Blackwell is the 2020 recipient of the AIA Gold Medal, the Institute announced today. Regarded as the AIA's highest honor, the Gold Medal distinguishes an individual architect for their lasting influence and significant contributions to the field. Some previous recipients include James Stewart Polshek, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, Moshe Safdie, posthumously to Paul Revere Williams and Julia Morgan, Thom Mayne, and Richard Rogers.
Born in Germany, Marlon Blackwell has dug roots in the American South. As a traveling bible salesman, he experienced the South's simple dignity and rich culture that left a lasting impact on his worldview.
He earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Auburn University and a Master of Architecture from Syracuse University. The AIA commended Blackwell for “his important body of transcendent work in the hills of Northwest Arkansas”. His eponymous architecture practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas focuses on projects of any type, scale, and budget that aim to serve the common good. Founded in 1992, the practice has received 120 national and 14 international design awards.
Additionally, the AIA praised Blackwell for his outstanding leadership and achievement in architectural education. He is a distinguished professor, the E. Fay Jones chair, and the department head of the University of Arkansas' Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. He is also a visiting professor at schools across the country and served on the U.S. Department of State’s Industry Advisory Group for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations from 2012 to 2019.
“Marlon Blackwell is a student of his ‘Place’ in the world. This ethic provides a philosophical coherence to his work,” wrote architect Brian MacKay-Lyons, in a letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination for the 2020 Gold Medal. “His is a uniquely American architecture; he builds confidently upon the American cultural landscape. His ‘cultural realist’ approach is democratic, looking to the ordinary and the everyday for inspiration. It is connected to society, rather than being aloof. This is not a nostalgic architecture, but an architecture of its time and place.”
“Every Marlon Blackwell design is a new lesson in the transformative ability of architecture to reveal the uniqueness of every site and give meaning to any program, to achieve an expressive clarity in strong and simple forms,” architect Julie V. Snow wrote in a letter supporting Blackwell’s nomination.
Blackwell will be distinguished during the 2020 AIA Conference on Architecture in Los Angeles.
A few accolades that Blackwell has received include the AIA Arkansas Fay Jones Gold Medal in 2017, and he was named a USA Ford Fellow for Architecture and Design in 2014. In 2012, the American Academy of Arts and Letters named Blackwell as one of the recipients for an Arts and Letters Award in Architecture.
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