Graduate School of Design Prof. Awarded Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture

Graduate School of Design professor Michael Van Valkenburgh—who specializes in landscape architecture—will be honored this coming May with the American Academy of Arts and Letters’s 2010 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture.

Van Valkenburgh is the only living GSD Landscape Architecture professor to have received this award, which is rarely awarded to a landscape architect.

Van Valkenburgh’s work has included landscape designs for Pennsylvania Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History, and Cornell and Princeton Universities. He has also spearheaded efforts to restore Harvard Yard over the past twenty years.

Most recently, Van Valkenburgh designed the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge Park at Pier 1 in New York City, which Ethan Carr, an associate professor of landscape history at the University of Virginia, said will likely be one of the “most successful of this new generation of municipal park projects.”

Hugh Hardy, a member of the committee that awards the Brunner Prize, said the committee selected Van Valkenburgh for his contribution to public life.

“He has really done some wonderful things in urban environments,” Hardy said.

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe said that Van Valkenburgh is “passionate about his work and passionate about the importance of well-designed public space for a liveable city.”

Van Valkenburgh has been a member of the faculty at the School of Design since 1982, serving as program director from 1987 to 1989 and chairman of the landscape architecture department from 1991 to 1996. He is also the lead principal for Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., which has offices in Cambridge and New York.

Van Valkenburgh described his creative process as “some place midstream between the mode of inquiry and research that a scientist uses and the poetic and deeply intuitive instincts of a painter or sculptor.”

Gary R. Hilderbrand, an adjunct professor at the GSD who has worked with Van Valkenburgh for the past twenty years, said that Van Valkenburgh has “design leadership of a rare kind.”

“Whether it’s wind, sound, or reflection, or wildness, I think that Michael’s work focuses mainly on qualities of landscape and by exaggerating or by emphasizing, he brings them forward so that people see them in a way they had never seen them before,” Hilderbrand said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: March 31, 2010

An earlier verison of the Mar. 31 news article "Graduate School of Design Prof. Awarded Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture" incorrectly stated that Graduate School of Design professor Michael Van Valkenburgh is the only living GSD professor to have received the American Academy of Arts and Letters’s 2010 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture. In fact, Van Valkenburgh is the only living GSD Landscape Architecture professor to have received this award.

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