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American Academy of Arts and Letters honors five with Architecture Awards

Francis Kéré, Paul Goldberger, Theaster Gates are among the winners

Night shot of a structure with an enclosing walls made of sticks.
The Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize was awarded to Diébédo Francis Kéré.
Photo by Iwan Baan courtesy of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

The American Academy of Arts and Letters, an honor society founded in 1898 of 250 members that include architects, artists, composers, and writers, has announced the recipients of its 2017 architecture awards.

Awarded annually since 1955, the $10,000 cash prizes are given to American architects whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction, or who explores ideas in architecture through any medium of expression. The Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize of $20,000 is awarded to an architect of any nationality who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art.

This year’s recipient of the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize is Diébédo Francis Kéré, the Berlin-based founder of Kéré Architecture. Kéré, who was born in Gando, Burkina Faso, is known for structures that incorporate local materials and technology that reflect the site’s environmental and economic contexts, like the acclaimed Gando Primary School. Kéré will also be designing this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, which will open in Kensington Gardens, London, in June.

A design by Walter Hood.
Courtesy Hood Design Studio

Installation artist Theaster Gates and critic Paul Goldberger received the two $10,000 prizes for their exploration of ideas in architecture. Based in Chicago, Gates founded the Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit that supports artists and strengthens communities by providing free arts programming and developing affordable housing, studios, and live-work space in underserved communities. Gates’s work also focuses on the preservation of black history and the reclamation of culture from ruin. Gates opened the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago in 2015.

Author, critic, and lecturer Goldberger worked as The New Yorker’s architecture critic from 1997 to 2011 and is currently the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School in New York City. His latest book, Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, was published in 2015.

Landscape architect Walter Hood and architect John Ronan were recognized for work characterized by a strong personal direction. Hood is the founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, and a professor and former chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Notable projects include the Arthur Ross Terrace at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York and the Broad Museum Plaza in Los Angeles.

Ronan is the founding principal of John Ronan Architects in Chicago and a professor of at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture and is known for the Poetry Foundation building in Chicago.