A portrait of architect Edward Mazria

Edward Mazria wins AIA Gold Medal for 2021

American architect Edward Mazria has scooped the 2021 AIA Gold Medal prize in recognition of "his unwavering voice and leadership" in the architecture industry's fight against climate change.

The esteemed Gold Medal award, which is the AIA's highest annual honour, is given to architects in recognition of their contribution to the field.

The institute said Brooklyn-born Mazria was selected by the jury for his longstanding dedication to "motivating the profession to enact positive change and take immediate action".

The exterior of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture by Edward Mazria
Mazria is the architect behind the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Photo is by Robert Reck

"An amalgam of architect, researcher, advocate, and influencer, Mazria's impact on the AEC industry is profound, helping to plot a new course for practice in the 21st century," explained the AIA.

"As one of the world's foremost experts on the built environment's role in both causing and curing climate change, Mazria addresses the global threat as a design problem," it said.

"Facing countless challenges and a client base of 7.5 billion humans, his leadership and positioning of architects as a critical resource is creating a healthy, just, and carbon-positive future."

The Stockebrand Residence in Albuquerque by Edward Mazria
The Stockebrand Residence in Albuquerque is one of his best-known projects. Photo is by Richard Rush

Pratt Institute-educated Mazria, who is also an established author and educator, is best known for helping to establish the AIA's Committee on the Environment and founding the pro-bono organisation Architecture 2030 in 2002.

Architecture 2030's mission is to transform the built environment from a major polluter into a solution to the climate crisis. According to the AIA, it has "shaped some of the world's actions on climate change".

This is through initiatives like the 2030 Challenge, which invites architects to make all new buildings and renovations carbon-neutral by the year 2030, and speaking to world leaders at events including the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference to shed light on the industry's environmental impact.

Prior to founding Architecture 2030, Mazria authored The Passive Solar Energy Book following a period of working in a teaching position at the University of Oregon with a focus on passive solar-energy systems.

The book, which remains widely referenced to this day, informed the design of some of his best-known buildings that include the Stockebrand Residence, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and Georgia O'Keefe's estate, Sol y Sombra, in New Mexico.

Georgia O'Keeffe's estate Sol y Sombra by Edward Mazria
Sol y Sombra was built by Mazria for artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Photo is by Kirk Gettings

In a letter supporting Mazria's nomination, architect Marsha Maytum said his work had ignited "a global network focused on sustainable growth and urgent climate action".

"Ed has been a tireless advocate, a consummate communicator, a skilled designer of innovative tools, and most importantly, a master builder of powerful alliances across professions, industries, and governments," she said.

"Mazria's voice in the wilderness about architecture's potential to change the projected path of impending global climate change seemed a formidable if not unattainable goal in 2003," added Thompson Penney, the 2003 AIA president.

"In the ensuing decades, his unwavering voice and leadership have shown that it can be done and in fact is being done," he concluded.

Mazria is the 77th laureate of the prestigious AIA Gold Medal award. A number of well-known architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Louis I Kahn, IM Pei and Moshe Safdie have also been bestowed with the honour.

This year's recipient of the award was Arkansas architect and educator Marlon Blackwell. In 2019, it was given to Richard Rogers after James Polshek scooped the prize in 2018.

Paul Revere Williams became the first black architect to receive the medal in 2017, a year after it was given to husband-and-wife team Denise Scott Brown and the late Robert Venturi.

Main portrait image is by James Stillings. All imagery is courtesy of Mazria.