CNU 18 Athena Award Winners

Recipients are Vincent Scully and Jaquelin T. Robertson

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The CNU tradition of presenting Athena Awards to pioneers who have laid the foundation for New Urbanism continues at CNU XVIII in Atlanta with cast-bronze medals going to Jaquelin T. Robertson and Vincent Scully. They join a prestigious list of individuals who have exerted a lifetime of effort for vibrant urban landscapes and establishing an underpinning for the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Jaquelin T. Robertson's (FAIA, FAICP) career spans 45 years and includes an impressive range of scale, from private houses to extensive urban plans. CNU board member Doug Kelbaugh says of Robertson, “As a professional in both the public and private sector and as an academic dean and teacher, Jaquelin T. Robertson has been one of his generation's most consistent and effective advocates and practitioners of traditional design and urbanism." In interviews Robertson often quotes the Roman engineer architect Vitruvius who spoke eloquently of the "rules of place" (the genus locü). His work old and new, is at once innovative and traditional, drawing on regional practices, patterns, forms, and materials that are culturally relevant and have survived over time. These concerns are evident in his buildings as well as his own plans.

Robertson was educated at Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He began practicing as an architect in New York City where he worked with Mayor John Lindsay, co-founded the city’s Urban Design Group, was the Director of Midtown Planning and Development, and a New York City Planning Commissioner. The innovative urban design and planning practices of the Lindsay years, established powerful urban precedents and became a model for the rest of the country. In the mid-seventies Robertson directed the planning and design of Shahestan Palavi, a new capital center for Iran in Tehran. He subsequently returned to his native Virginia as Dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, where he taught, practiced and published influential articles on American Urbanism, “In Search of an American Urban Order” in which he argued that they country's traditional buildings, towns, and landscapes set out initial intentions and values that are relevant today and should serve as the basis for reconciling social and ecological considerations in the context of future urban growth, (e.g. the Nagasaki Syndrome and The House as the City). During this time he cofounded The Mayor's Institute for Urban Design.

In 1988 Robertson resumed full time architectural practice, joining his Yale classmate Alexander Cooper in Cooper, Robertson and Partners. Robertson continues to advance urbanism, designing such iconic New Urbanist towns as Celebration and WaterColor, Florida, as well as the well-received town Val d’Europe outside of Paris, France. He has also won many awards for private houses.

Robertson received the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (1998), a Presidential Design Award (2000), the Seaside Institute Prize (2002) and the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture (2007). He is currently a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAICP) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (FAIA). A Visiting Chair in his name has recently been established at the University of Virginia.

Vincent Scully is one of the most prominent architectural historians and lecturers of our time. For over half a century, Scully taught some of the nation’s most significant architects, urban developers and politicians as a professor at Yale University. New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger, when speaking of his former teacher remarked, "Scully has always taught that the point of architecture is not just the making of buildings, but the making of civilized communities. His thinking has always been based on the notion that architecture is not purely aesthetics, and that the real meaning of architecture is how it can be used to make better places.“

Throughout his career, Scully has provided the intellectual stimulus and impetus for New Urbanism. He understood early on that urban development during the 1950s tended to destroy neighborhoods by the imposition of freeways and superblocks, even suggesting that the principles of modernism were incompatible with communal values. In contrast, Scully has advocated planned, small developments modeled on traditional small towns (like his hometown of New Haven) with convenient public spaces as a way of restoring a sense of community in a car-dominated culture. CNU co-founder Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk says of Scully, "Through seven decades of energetic and inspired scholarship Vincent Scully has transformed the way we conceive urbanism. He helped us understand the value of design that transcends any one time or single building. We the New Urbanists are heirs to his work."

In 1992, invited by his former students Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Scully and his wife began working at the University of Miami. Commenting on the rise of New Urbanism Scully said it, “is coming close to bringing to fruition the most important contemporary movement in architecture, the revival of the vernacular and classical traditions and their reintegration in to the mainstream of modern architecture in its fundamental aspect: the structure of communities, the building of towns.” Scully’s lifetime commitment to architecture in context and comprehensive communities is finally being realized through the efforts of New Urbanism.

Jaquelin T. Robertson was honored at the Friday, May 21st evening plenary at CNU 18 with an introduction by Dhiru Thadani.
Although he was not able to attend in person, Vincent Scully was honored at the Saturday morning plenary on May 22nd by Elizabeth Plater- Zyberk.