File it in the can’t hurt department. The American Institute of Architects has named Daniel Feil as one of three recipients of the 2012 American Institute of Architects Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. The award honors architects who have had a major impact on public buildings.
Feil, who played an instrumental role in the redesign of Reagan National Airport between 1986 and 2004, now serves as executive architect of the planned Eisenhower Memorial (to be built on a plot south of Independence Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets SW).
It’s a major honor, and it comes as plans for the Eisenhower Memorial are subject to increasing public awareness, scrutiny and, from some quarters, suspicion. Although the designer of the memorial is Frank Gehry, Feil is in charge of realizing the plan in concrete terms, including dealing with the regulatory, oversight, technical and construction challenges. Anything that redounds to the general credibility and stature of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission will help things go smoothly as memorial advocates face opposition.
I reviewed the Frank Gehry-designed memorial in this week’s Sunday Arts section, noting that Gehry has “ ‘re-gendered’ the vocabulary of memorialization, giving it new life and vitality just at the moment when the old, exhausted ‘masculine’ memorial threatened to make the entire project of remembering great people in the public square seem obsolete.” A full review can be found here.
Also among the honorees is Robert Peck, Commissioner of Public Buildings at the U.S. General Services Administration. In 1994, Peck launched the GSA’s Design Excellence Program. The GSA is the government’s landlord, and it has a huge impact on what government buildings look like. The Design Excellence Program is widely credited with improving everything about public buildings, from their basic look to their efficiency and livability. It connected important architects with major government projects, often with exciting results. The public isn’t necessarily familiar with the program, but it’s been one of the most important and positive things in the architecture world for more than 15 years.
A biography of both men, and the third winner, Alexander Cooper, can be found at the AIA Web site.