The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently announced the recipients of five professional awards, including the two most prestigious honors conferred by the institute each year: the Gold Medal and the Architecture Firm Award.

Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA
Credit: Courtesy American Institute of Architects

Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA

2011 Gold Medal Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA, of Tokyo-based Maki and Associates, is the 2011 Gold Medal recipient. The award honors an individual architect whose body of work has had a lasting influence on architectural theory and practice. Infusing every project with his elegant, dramatic, and slightly whimsical take on modernism, Maki's design approach of creating a collage from disparate shapes and forms draws on his background as one of the founding members of the Metabolists—a group of Japanese architects who believed fixed forms were obsolete and that expandable modular buildings offered unlimited possibilities. Maki's multifaceted buildings create order from disarray and harmony from discord. Although he has lived most of his life in Tokyo, Maki studied in the United States, earning graduate degrees in architecture from Harvard University and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and he frequently teaches in both the U.S. and Japan. Launch the playlist to view examples of Maki's work.

The principals of BNIM.
Credit: Courtesy BNIM The principals of BNIM.

2011 Architecture Firm Award Kansas City, Mo.-based Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell (BNIM) Architects receives the highest honor the AIA presents to a firm in recognition of a practice that has produced distinguished architecture for at least a decade. Since its founding in 1970, BNIM has played a defining role in developing and advancing sustainability in architecture, catalyzing the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council and the AIA's Committee on the Environment (COTE). BNIM also helped inform the LEED rating system through its work on several pilot projects. The firm also developed the Living Building Concept, which was later realized by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council as the Living Building Challenge, and this year BNIM completed one of only two buildings in the world certified under this stringent green building certification system. Led by self-described "Midwestern regional architects" Bob Berkebile, FAIA, Tom Nelson, FAIA, David Immenschuh, FIIDA, and Steve McDowell, FAIA, LEED AP, BNIM's work is not limited to any particular style, but runs the gamut from woodsy to refined. The firm's work has earned two AIA National Honor Awards and 20 state and local AIA awards in just the past two years, as well as many COTE Top Ten Green Awards. Launch the playlist to see examples of BNIM's work.  

Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA
Courtesy the American Institute of Architects Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA

2011 Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education In honor of his outstanding contributions to architecture education and the broad influence of his teaching over the past 20 years, Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA, receives the Topaz Medallion. Speck, one of five principals at PageSoutherlandPage in Austin, Texas, has been teaching since he graduated from MIT. Starting with his time as part of the MIT faculty, Speck has taught and practiced architecture concurrently. In 1975, he joined the faculty of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, where he helped found and eventually directed the Center for American Architecture and Design, and started Lawrence W. Speck Associates in Austin. Speck served as the School of Architecture's associate dean starting in 1990 and became its dean in 1992. He has written 50-plus articles for professional journals, contributed to several books written by others, edited and co-edited four publications, and created the journal CENTER. During his career, Speck's contributions to architecture education have been exceptional, as evidenced by the numerous University of Texas teaching awards he has received, including the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award, three Outstanding Teacher Awards from the School of Architecture, and the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, among others. He is lauded for his effective mentoring of graduates and younger faculty members, and the improvements he brought about in the architecture program.

2011 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award

Sharon Egretta Sutton, Ph.D., FAIA
Courtesy the American Institute of Architects Sharon Egretta Sutton, Ph.D., FAIA

This award is given to an architect or architecture-oriented organization that exemplifies the profession's responsibility toward current social issues. Sharon Egretta Sutton, Ph.D., FAIA, receives this year's award in recognition of her career-long advocacy of inclusion in the planning and design professions. After starting out as a musician, Sutton eventually transitioned into a second career preserving and redeveloping old buildings. Once she earned her degree from Columbia University and completed her apprenticeships, she founded her own office in New York City and began working toward a third career as an architecture educator. Sutton now holds five advanced degrees and has taught at several universities. Since 1998, she has been a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she directs the College of Environment's Center for Environment Education and Design Studies (CEEDS). As one of few African-American women architects, Sutton's interest in and advocacy for inclusion extends beyond the design professions into the built environment. Through CEEDS' participatory research and design program, she works to engage low-income and minority youth in community-based planning and design.  

2011 Edward C. Kemper Award

The institute honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the profession through their AIA service with this award. The 2011 Edward C. Kemper Award recipient is Chester A. Widom, FAIA, who has served as senior architectural advisor to the Los Angeles Community College District since 2008. A founding partner of Southern California-based firm WWCOT, where he spent 40 years, Widom retired from practice in 2008. Widom worked throughout his career to demonstrate architects' high potential as civic leaders. He began his service to the AIA in 1982 as the secretary of the Los Angeles chapter. He then moved on to hold positions with the AIA California Council, serving as its president in 1989 and currently serving as the chairman of its Capitol Forum. Nationally, Widom rose through the ranks of AIA leadership, as well. He served on the External Affairs and Professional Excellence commissions, on several special task forces, and as chairman of the National AIA/Associated General Contractors of America Joint Conference. After serving as regional director and vice president, he held the office of AIA president in 1995. During his tenure, he was responsible for shifting the institute's preference for traditional project delivery methods to emerging alternate methods of project delivery, culminating in the publication of the "Project Delivery Manual", which for more than a decade has guided clients, contractors, and architects in utilizing the delivery method most appropriate for each project. Widom also is actively involved with many state and local commissions and city task forces.