Stern snares Scully Prize

Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, the Dean of the School of Architecture, has had quite a week.

After rededicating the architectural masterpiece of his mentor Paul Rudolph, Stern is being honored in the name of another mentor, Professor Vincent Scully ’40 GRD ’49. The National Building Museum awarded Stern the prestigious 10th annual Vincent Scully Prize at a ceremony in Washington D.C. on Wednesday night, in front of an audience of leaders in architecture, urban planning and education as well as University President Richard Levin and other top administrators.

Stern received the award for his contribution to architecture, his years of teaching at Columbia and Yale universities, his leadership as dean and his seminal works on the history of architecture in New York, according to the National Building Museum’s Web site.

Scully, who is recognized as one of the country’s leading architectural historians and critics, said Stern’s accomplishments as a dean, critic and historian — not his designs — were the major focus of the award.

“Stern is the organizer of civilized conversation in architectural circles,” Scully said. “He prevents polarization and creates dialogue about architecture. This award is not given for knock-your-eye-out designs.”

The Vincent Scully Prize and endowment were instituted 10 years ago in honor of Scully. Although he currently only teaches Introduction to the History of Art — not architecture — he has influenced many architects and architectural patrons in the course of his 61 years teaching undergraduates at Yale.

Previous recipients of the award include Scully himself, architect Robert Venturi, urbanist, writer Jane Jacobs and Prince Charles.

Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg made a speech at the award ceremony about Stern’s contributions to the city, said Deputy Provost for the Arts Barbara Shailor who attended the event.

The award is special, Stern said, because Scully is both a teacher and a friend.

“I hope I have been awarded [the Vincent Scully Prize] because of a career combining practice in architecture with contribution to scholarship,” Stern said, noting that this combination is unusual for many architects.

While Stern has garnered criticism for his traditional designs, he has been credited for turning the Yale School of Architecture from a “complacent institution” into “a vibrant nexus of ideas,” Robin Pogrebin wrote of his deanship in a New York Times profile last year.

“Bob is the greatest dean since Rudolph,” said Charles Gwathmey ARC ’62, the architect of Rudolph Hall’s restoration project. “He resurrected the School of Architecture.”

Over the past 10 years as a dean, Stern — who was re-appointed for his third consecutive five-year term last year — has revamped the curriculum and attracted famous architects, such as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Richard Meier, to serve as visiting professors.

He is the founder and senior partner at Robert A.M Stern Architects, a 300-person firm that creates buildings “that do not, by their very being, threaten the aesthetic and cultural values of the buildings around them,” the firm’s mission statement declares. The firm’s current commissions include the construction of Yale’s two new residential colleges, as well as the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas and the Museum of African Art in New York.

Stern will make a speech about education in architecture at the Embassy of Canada today as a part of a two-day celebration of his award.

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