Auburn Alum Wins American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal

It’s one of the most distinguished honors in the world of architecture, and this year the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Gold Medal has been awarded to an Auburn graduate. Marlon Blackwell, an esteemed educator and architect, is the 2020 Gold Medal winner. The Gold Medal is the highest honor given by the AIA and is akin to a lifetime achievement award, recognizing those individuals whose work is making an indelible and lasting mark on the world of architecture.

A fellow with the AIA, Blackwell graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC). He currently serves as the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture and a Distinguished Professor in the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas. He continues to practice with his own firm, Marlon Blackwell Architects, which has won dozens of national and international honors.

Blackwell has collaborated with CADC in several ways over the years. He was a visiting professor in 2008 and serves as a reviewer for the college’s Rural Studio in Newbern, Alabama. Rural Studio Director Andrew Freear spoke with the AIA’s Gold Medal committee in support of honoring Blackwell. “I see his work firsthand because he regularly comes to support the mission of Rural Studio as a guest critic, a lecturer, an inspiration and, of course, comic relief,” Freear said. “He takes architecture seriously but doesn’t take himself too seriously. And the work is very serious.” With projects that range from commercial to residential and rural to urban, Blackwell demonstrates to others that good design should be available to all. “As his practice has matured, Marlon has deliberately focused on projects that foster community and the public good, most notably in education, health care and recreation,” Freear stated.

Freear said that Blackwell’s distinguished body of work makes him highly deserving of the Gold Award. “To visit one of Marlon’s buildings is like meeting Marlon himself: generous in spirit, engaging and embracing, deeply human and authentic,” he stated. “If he does have a specialty, it would be in harnessing the power of design to transform the truly ordinary into the extraordinary.”

CADC Dean Vini Nathan has stated that Blackwell, along with alumnae AIA President Jane Frederick and American Institute of Architecture Students President Sarah Curry, will be celebrated at the CADC Annual Awards Banquet this coming fall.