Kenneth Frampton Wins Jefferson Medal

John Hill
5. 4月 2022
Kenneth Frampton at Columbia GSAPP in November 2015 (Photo cropped from original by GSAPP/Flickr)

The University of Virginia, which does not grant honorary degrees, collaborates annually with the Jefferson Foundation to award medals in fields of special interest to Thomas Jefferson: architecture, citizen leadership, and law. The trio of medals were announced at the end of March, with Frampton named the recipient of the Architecture Medal; Sherrie Rollins Westin, president of the nonprofit behind the Sesame Street children's TV show, named recipient of the Citizen Leadership Medal; and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer named recipient of the Law Medal. It should be pointed out that Frampton, described as "one of the world’s foremost experts in modern architecture" by UVA, is not alone in having an impact on architecture: Breyer has been a member of the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury since 2011, and he will remain on the jury even after he steps down from the US Supreme Court later this year.

The annual medals are given out formally on April 13, the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. Events over the last two pandemic years were held remotely, but this year's ceremonies will be in person, with a luncheon at UVA and formal dinner at Monticello. Accompanying those invitation-only events are free public lectures by the recipients that will also be livestreamed; details are on the UVA website.

The Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture was created in 1966, when it was given to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Recent winners include Francis Kéré, Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, David Adjaye, Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara, Cecil Balmond, Herman Hertzberger, Toyo Ito, Laurie Olin, and Rafael Moneo.
Covers of a few of the many books authored by Frampton, from 1980 to 2022. (Image: World-Architects)

Born in 1930, Frampton attended the Architectural Association in London before working in the architecture office of Douglas Stephen & Partners in the mid-1960s. Overlapping with his time in that office was a position as technical editor for Architectural Design, where he was responsible for the design and layout of three-dozen issues. In 1965 he moved to the United States, first teaching at Princeton University but then becoming the Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia GSAPP in 1974, a post he held until his retirement in 2020. Although 1974 also saw Frampton realize, in collaboration with other architects, Marcus Garvey Park Village Housing in Brooklyn, he would devote his days forward to teaching, writing, and other aspects of architecture outside of practice. 

Out of Frampton's teaching at Columbia, his fellowship at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) in New York, and other positions came the books he is known for, most notably Modern Architecture: A Critical History — first published in 1980, translated into at least a dozen languages and updated four times, most recently in 2020 — and Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture. His books have become staples in architecture schools, influencing future generations of architects. Likewise, his contribution to the 1983 book The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, "Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance," which was written as a critique of the postmodern architecture popular at the time, is one of the most important architectural texts of the last fifty years, even leading to a publication about it decades later.

Frampton's Jefferson Medal for Architecture joins recent honors given to the famed historian and critic, including the Golden Lion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale and the 2019 Soane Medal, given out by London's Sir John Soane’s Museum.