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Harvard Art Medal Honors Architect Gehry’s Innovations in Urban Development

By Brittany N. Ellis, Crimson Staff Writer

Frank O. Gehry will be the first architect to receive the annual Harvard Arts Medal.

Gehry, a prestigious architect known for designing buildings such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, will accept the award from University President Drew G. Faust on April 28 in a ceremony that marks the commencement of Arts First, the annual student art showcase. The award ceremony will take place in Farkas Hall and will feature a conversation with Gehry moderated by actor John Lithgow ’67.

Gehry is known for his curving, dramatic architectural designs. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall are two of his most famous works.

Diane E. Davis, who chairs the Design School’s department for Urban Planning and Design, commended the role Gehry’s work has played in revitalizing urban areas.

“His iconic Guggenheim Museum designed for Bilbao was really important in the larger redevelopment of a former industrial part of that city, thus placing his work and architectural vision squarely in the fields of urban planning and design,” she said. “One might even put his Disney concert hall in that category because it was part and parcel of an effort to bring more activities and people to downtown Los Angeles.”

After earning a degree in architecture from the University of Southern California in 1954, Gehry studied urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for three years. While he left before earning his degree, Gehry was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard in 2000.

Established in 1995, the Arts Medal is awarded annually to a Harvard or Radcliffe alumnus or faculty member in recognition of their achievement in the arts. The award is also meant to honor those who have used the arts to affect positive social change. Past recipients include Matt Damon ’92, Margaret Atwood ’62, and Yo-Yo Ma ’76.

The architect was on campus last fall for an event organized by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, at which he spoke about the challenges and successes of his over 50 year career and his transformation of contemporary architecture through artistic and technological innovation.

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