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Roberts Ivy Becomes The First Architect To Receive The Neil Polk Lifetime Achievement Award

Robert Ivy recently made history by becoming the first architect to receive the Neil Polk Lifetime Achievement Award. Ivy, the CEO and Executive Vice President of the American Institute of Architects, is a respected architect, scholar and entrepreneur. A native Mississippian, Ivy received the award for his artistic approach to design that seamlessly unites form and function. The award was presented on April 11, 2016. Previous recipients of the honor include Shelby Foote, Eudora Welty, Walter Anderson, Leontyne Price and Morgan Freeman.

Carl Elefante, President of the American Institute of Architects, commented, “Robert Ivy has proven himself worthy of the honor. He has served as the chief executive officer of the AIA since 2011. He is a practicing architect, author and editor. This award crowns his professional and personal achievements as a native of Mississippi. The AIA is delighted to give him this honor.”

The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, or MIAL, voted to honor Ivy. MIAL president, Nancy LaForge, explained the reason for the one-of-a-kind honor, “There is no one else from Mississippi that has contributed to making architecture more accessible to the public like Robert Ivy. He has shown exceptional devotion as an author, commentator and writer of architecture globally. Now, he is taking his rightful place on the list of honorees of the Noel Polk Award.”

Highlights of Ivy’s Career

Born in Mississippi, Ivy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Sewanee. He subsequently enrolled at Tulane University where he earned a Master’s in Architecture. Ivy then joined McGraw-Hill Construction as a company vice president. During this period of his life, he worked for the Architectural Record where he was responsible for 33 publications, many of which won signature awards during his tenure. Currently, Ivy works for the American Institute of Architects where he encourages architects to address key issues such as sustainability, climate change and incorporating digital technology into designs.

Ivy has won many awards including a 1998 McGraw-Hill award for his management skills. In 2009, he won the prestigious Crain award. Other important awards followed including the “Master Architect” award and MIAL Neil Polk Lifetime Achievement Award.

The AIA Magnifies Its Influence Under Ivy’s Leadership

Since Robert Ivy became the CEO of the AIA, the organization has transformed to keep up with technology changes that affect architecture in the 21st century. The organization is committed to heightening awareness of architecture’s influence on everyday life. Ivy has pursued building better infrastructure based on digital technology and addressing critical issues such as sustainability, responsible use of resources, climate change and design’s impact on health.

The AIA was founded in 1857 by a small group of men with conventional ideas, but Ivy has expanded the organization’s role to embrace digital technology and urban collaboration among different fields of endeavor. The AIA now has more than 90,000 members, and Ivy is fully committed to encouraging architects to expand their efforts to solve many public problems that a building’s design can alleviate.

The AIA has grown steadily under Ivy’s leadership, and it now has its highest membership of its 160-year history. There are now seven global chapters of the AIA. American architects develop properties all over the world including new markets in China and Canada. The AIA provides architects with support, community collaboration and resources to advance their careers and businesses. The organization also engages government and civic leaders to solve common issues.

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Robert Ivy Earns High Marks for Scholarship and Collaborative Architecture

Ivy committed heavily to using architectural designs for better urban planning during the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. He believes that architecture can be used to promote other important urban goals such as fostering better health.

The AIA subsequently committed to a decade of collaborative design to improve public health. The initiative involves conducting university research, encouraging app and technology development to design smarter buildings and collaborating with community organizations.

Known for memorable speeches and thought leadership that stimulate intellectual debate, Ivy is also celebrated as the author of “Fay Jones: Architect.” Fay Jones was a respected artist, architect and admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ivy published the biography in 2001. During a long career and apprenticeship with Wright, Jones designed more than 218 projects including educational and commercial buildings, pavilions, chapels, metal structures and residential constructions. Ivy’s biography of Jones was praised by the Art Library of North America for “the highest standards of scholarship, design, and production."

Ivy has also received the prestigious honor of being named a Master Architect by Alpha Rho Chi, the national fraternity of architects. Previous honorees include I.M. Pei, R. Buckminster Fuller and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Ivy is one of seven architects to be so honored and the first of the 21st century. Other awards and honors that Ivy has received over his long career include:

- Editor-in-chief and Editorial Editor of Architectural Record
- G.D. Crain Award in 2009 for achievements as an editor and entrepreneur
- Editorial Director of McGraw-Hill Construction Media
- Juror on the panel that chose Frank Gehry to design the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
- 26 Jesse H. Neal Awards
- 2008 MPA Digital Award for Website of the Year
- 7 Ozzies: Folio Design Awards

Robert Ivy believes strongly that architecture can make a big difference in quality-of-life issues, and it’s this kind of thought leadership that has resulted in Ivy receiving signature honors such as the MIAL Lifetime Achievement Award. Ivy commented recently in an interview, “Design has played an integral role in public health throughout the course of the history of the U.S., dating back to the draining of swamps in Washington, D.C., to the Olmsted design of Central Park in New York. The idea with Central Park was to eradicate substandard housing and normalize a part of the city that was challenged. Originally, it was not primarily a recreational space -- it was conceived in the context of improving public health.”

There are an incredible number of ways that architects can promote better living, and these include designing buildings capable of providing disaster relief, promoting exercise, reducing energy use, maximizing natural light and fresh air and delivering recreational options. Ivy and the AIA will continue to follow a mandate to expand the role of architects in the foreseeable future.

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