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Marlon Blackwell Receives the 2020 AIA Gold Medal

The Board of Directors and the Strategic Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) have awarded renowned architect Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, with the 2020 Gold Medal. This prize credits an individual that had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

Blackwell, “recognized for his important body of transcendent work in the hills of Northwest Arkansas”, has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Auburn University and a Master of Architecture from Syracuse University. Although born in Germany, it was his experience in the south that shaped his vision and his authenticity. His work emerges from a deep understanding of site, landscape, art, and craft.

Marlon Blackwell is a student of his ‘Place’ in the world. This ethic provides a philosophical coherence to his work, […] 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. — Brian MacKay-Lyons, on supporting Blackwell’s nomination for the Gold Medal.

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His eponymous firm, Marlon Blackwell Architects has collected over 120 national and 14 international design awards. Moreover, Blackwell is a distinguished professor, the E. Fay Jones Chair, and department head of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas. Blackwell is often a visiting professor at schools across the country and served on the US Department of State’s Industry Advisory Group for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations from 2012 to 2019. Through his work and his teachings, Marlon Blackwell has influenced an entire generation of architects.

As a practicing architect and educator myself, I have become aware of the growing estrangement between the world of practitioner and that of the academy, […] Marlon teaches, as do I, because of the great sense of responsibility to add a measure of reality to the education of architectural students while also supporting the theoretical or less pragmatic aspects of their education. — Thom Mayne, FAIA, 2013 AIA Gold Medal recipient, on supporting Blackwell’s nomination.

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, […] In every way, across all measures, the work raises our expectations for our own architecture and teaches us that it is possible to exceed what appears to limit us. — Julie V. Snow, AIA, on supporting Blackwell’s nomination.

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