by: Camila Schaulson Frenz
It’s no surprise to those who know him that AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, received the Edward C. Kemper Award for his significant contribution to the profession through service to the AIA during the keynote presentation titled “Powerhouse Panel: Sustainability & Resiliency.” He was an instrumental player in the creation of the Center for Architecture, AIANY’s home and a model for architecture centers nationwide. He is also an advocate of sustainability and Active Design, leading AIANY’s annual FitCity conferences and promoting our “FitNation” traveling exhibition worldwide (currently in London). For those who may not know Bell, a video set to “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads introduced the 2014 Kemper Award recipient and is available here.
Not surprisingly, during his acceptance speech, Bell didn’t mention his own many achievements, focusing instead on the accomplishments of former Kemper medallion recipients, other inspirational architects, and Kemper himself. He began by applauding 2013 recipient John D. Anderson, FAIA, as both “a visionary and, as we say in New York, a mensch,” noting Anderson’s role in making New York New Visions, AIANY’s post-9/11 recovery program, possible. According to Bell, what all Kemper Award recipients have in common, including Barbara Nadel, FAIA, is the “ability to bring people together for common cause, a clarity of purpose, through the use of design, to create community and change lives.” These same words describe Bell as well.
Bell went on to celebrate the award’s relatively unknown eponym. The AIA’s first executive director, Edward C. Kemper, Hon. AIA, devoted 34 years (1914-1948) to the AIA. “An ardent conservationist,” Bell said, “Ed Kemper knew that the world of buildings and that of nature were intertwined.” Kemper’s work anticipated the AIA’s embrace of environmental consciousness, as exemplified by Bell’s mentor Hillary Brown, FAIA; visionary practitioners including Randy Croxton, FAIA, LEED AP, and Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, and, of course, the day’s plenary speaker, Ed Mazria, AIA.
After thanking the AIA New York Chapter, in particular AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and immediate past President Jill Lerner, FAIA, who co-authored the Kemper nomination, Bell asked the audience to construe this award as a collaborative achievement. Tying his speech back to the keynote program, he said that his efforts paled in comparison to Mazria’s Architecture 2030 initiative. In concluding, Bell emphasized the collective nature of architectural efforts once again, stating: “From Ed Kemper to Ed Mazria is an enlightened trajectory, and I’m especially proud to be the first executive director to stand here and receive an award named for our first ‘talking Ed.’”