The AIA and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) jointly awarded Harrison Fraker, Assoc. AIA, the 2014 Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education.

The Topaz Medallion is given to individuals who have spent at least a decade contributing to the field of architectural education. As the founder of the Center for Environmental Studies, Fraker more than meets the criteria—he has been a major part of the academic community since the late 1960s.

After receiving a B.A. and a M.F.A. in architecture from Princeton University, he returned to his alma mater as a studio lecturer in 1968. After several years of teaching, Fraker honed his research focus on energy in architecture and, in 1972, established the Center for Environmental Studies in collaboration with the engineering department. The center, created to explore how buildings interact with the environment, is now a part of the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Fraker also launched two professional practices, Princeton Energy Group (PEG) and Harrison Fraker Architects (HFA) to partner with the Center to use scientific research in the application of energy-efficiency building design. A partnership at the forefront of sustainable building design in the 1970s, PEG developed energy-monitoring tools; HFA designed passive solar buildings.

In 1984, Fraker became the dean of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. One year into his position, Fraker created the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Minnesota, which earned him the college's Distinguished Service Medal.

In 1996, Fraker left Minnesota to join the University of California, Berkeley as dean of its College of Environmental Design. Upon arriving at Berkeley, he discovered that the department's building, Wurster Hall, was ranked the most seismically dangerous on campus, according an architectural appraisal by the campus's Seismic Review Committee. Fraker designed and built a temporary building for the faculty, raised the funds for retrofitting Wurster Hall, and improved the facilities for his department.


Fraker served as dean until 2008, when he took a year-long sabbatical to study how best practices for sustainable design in Europe can be applied in the U.S., which became the subject of his book, The Hidden Potential of Sustainable Neighborhoods: Lessons from Low-Carbon Communities.

Last year, Fraker was appointed chair of the UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group, where he continue to research the relationship between energy and the built environment. Fraker also still teaches undergraduate and graduate studio classes around the world.

Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Environmental Building Design program William Braham, FAIA, nominated Fraker for the award. The two met during Fraker's work at Princeton. “It was one of the most exciting experiences of my career, and in some ways I am still trying to recover that sense of adventure and purpose that surrounded Harrison,” Braham wrote in a letter of recommendation.

Check out all the 2014 AIA Honor Awards.