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Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA




2008 Vincent Scully Prize


Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, founder and senior partner of Robert A.M. Stern Architects and dean of the Yale School of Architecture, has been named the winner of the 10th annual Vincent Scully Prize. He was selected "for his years of teaching at Columbia and Yale Universities, his leadership as dean of the Yale School of Architecture, and his seminal publications reflecting on the history of architecture in New York," according to Vincent Scully Prize Jury Chairman David Schwarz.

"I am gratified. The Scully Prize is very important because, unlike other prizes that are for design achievements, this one recognizes the interdisciplinary achievements of people in architecture who may or may not be architects," says Stern. "I am very pleased to receive it also because it honors Vincent Scully, who was my teacher and who has been my friend for all these many years."

Stern is the author of numerous books, including New Directions in American Architecture (Brazillier, 1969, revised 1977), George Howe: Toward a Modern American Architecture (Yale University Press, 1975), Modern Classicism (Rizzoli, 1988) and a series of books on New York City architecture. These include New York 1900 (Rizzoli, 1983) co-authored with John Massengale and Gregory Gilmartin, New York 1930 (Rizzoli, 1987) co-authored with Thomas Mellins and Gregory Gilmartin, New York 1960 (Monacelli, 1995), New York 1880 (Monacelli, 1999) co-authored with Thomas Mellins and David Fishman, and New York 2000 (Monacelli, 2006), co-authored with David Fishman and Jacob Tilove.

Stern's work has also been the subject of 13 books, and he hosted an eight-part documentary TV series, "Pride of Place: Building the American Dream" for the Public Broadcasting System. He has also lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad on both historical and contemporary topics in architecture. Stern is involved in the design of every project in his office of 300 people, which includes architects, interior designers, landscape architects and support personnel. During 39 years of practice, he has worked on many residential, institutional and commercial projects throughout the U.S. and around the world, including libraries, hotels, master planning and campus buildings. The firm currently has projects underway in 26 states and numerous countries.

A graduate of Columbia University (B.A., 1960) and Yale University (M. Architecture, 1965), Stern has been an educator as long as he has been an architect. Previous to his current position as dean of the Yale School of Architecture, he was a professor of architecture and the director of the Historic Preservation Program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

"I have always taught ever since I began practice as an architect," says Stern. "I take a certain measure of pride in the fact that I have been able to do quite a lot of good work and influence people to think differently about the built environment through books and buildings and teaching." He finds design work and teaching to be complementary. "I wouldn't know what to do if I had to spend every minute in the office," he says. "I think being around young architects in a school situation provides a different stimulation from what you get in the office. Having both is what I call 'The Captain's Paradise.' That was an old movie from the 1950s starring Alec Guinness. He had two lady friends, one on either end of the ferry between Gibraltar and Tangiers. I don't have the romance of the ferry, but I have the New Haven train. And I have not got two lady friends, but two mistresses of practice."

Stern adds that there are many issues and a great deal of new material facing architecture students today. "A much more global perspective and a greater and more creative responsibility to the environment are required of all architects and we want to introduce those ideas in the schools," he says. "And then there is the wealth of new computer techniques and computer-aided techniques that allow you to fabricate things. Architecture students need to be introduced to these and to be aware of the potential that is lodged inside a computer.

"At the same time, architects still need to know what architects have always known in the past – how to draw, how to see, how to compose, how to build simply and responsibly, how to put things together. We have a responsibility to teach infinitely more in almost less time than architects have ever had since the beginning of formal architecture education 125 years or so ago in this country. It is important to keep young architects' minds open to the diversity of expression that can exist and does exist at any single time in architecture. Some means of expression – like traditional ways of building – are not supported by the mainstream of the profession. That doesn't mean they don't have a place and that young architects shouldn't be made aware of what a traditional building really means in our time."

Previous Vincent Scully Prize winners include Vincent J. Scully, Jane Jacobs, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, His Highness The Aga Khan, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, (See Traditional Building, February 2006, page 240) Phyllis Lambert, Witold Rybczynski and Richard Moe (See Traditional Building, June 2008).

Stern received the AIA New York Chapter's Medal of Honor in 1984 and the chapter's President's Award in 2001. He was also the recipient of the 2007 Athena Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism and the 2007 Arthur Ross Board of Directors Honor from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America (ICA&CA) for "his ongoing and far-reaching contributions to architecture, education and publishing." (See Traditional Building, June 2007.)

Established in 1999 by the National Building Museum, the Vincent Scully Prize honors Vincent J. Scully, one of the country's leading architectural historians and critics, and the Sterling Professor Emeritus of the history of art at Yale University and a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Miami for more than four decades.  



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