The selected winners of three of the AIA’s highest-profile awards were named today in separate announcements by the organization that saw the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion, and Edward C. Kemper Award crowned, respectively.
The winner of the 2023 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education went to Parsons School of Design professor Dr. Sharon Egretta Sutton over her documented abilities to affect change and create the “framework and vision for a more just and robust profession.”
“An educator, author, and citizen architect with worldwide reach, Sutton, has shifted the profession of architecture toward a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive future,” the award’s citation reads. “Fueled by a passion for representing the unrepresented, she has shaped a career informed by the obstacles constructed by the country’s political landscape. Throughout, Sutton has developed research and tools that encourage the next generation of design professionals to heed the call of activism.”
The 12th-ever Black woman to become a licensed architect in the United States, Sutton has held positions at Columbia University, the Pratt Institute, the University of Washington, and the University of Cincinnati over her esteemed career. Sutton is the author of six books, including 2017’s When Ivory Towers Were Black, and is behind the forthcoming title Pedagogy for a Beloved Commons: Pursuing Democracy’s Promise Through Place-Based Activism that will “offer a game plan for students and other hopeful citizen architects to learn and use practical skills to continue her vital work.”
Sutton was joined by the 2023 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award winner Robert L. Easter. The former NOMA president and current chair of architecture at his undergraduate alma mater Hampton University, Easter has, since his time as a graduate student at Virginia Tech, been an impassioned advocate for representation in the field, authoring several lectureship series, roundtable discussions, and other efforts in line with the life’s work of the award’s namesake.
Easter also served as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers and was instrumental in working with architects in post-Apartheid South Africa in order to advance efforts there toward professional development and established a sister organization to NOMA.
Finally, this year’s Edward C. Kemper Award was given to Jeff Potter for his service to the AIA over many years. Potter was the organization’s 88th President and is credited with repositioning the AIA to “more effectively communicate the value of architecture and its benefit to society.” He is also credited with reinvigorating the AIA philanthropic efforts in the midst of the 2008 recession and the previous creation of the influential Texas Architect magazine, which he helped found through his work with the Texas Society of Architects’ Publications Committee in 1994.
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