The 2015 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture was presented to Herman Hertzberger, Hon. AIA, an internationally acclaimed Dutch architect, at ceremonies held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Founders Day, April 13, the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. Hertzberger, recipient of the 2012 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal, established his firm, Architectuurstudio HH, in 1960 and since has made significant contributions to the world of modern architecture. His practice is known for its many schools, housing complexes and cultural centers, both in the Netherlands and in other countries. Among the most famous buildings designed by the firm are the headquarters of Centraal Beheer insurance company in Apeldoorn, the Vredenburg Music Centre (pictured) in Utrecht, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in The Hague.
Hertzberger is acclaimed as a “sociological architect” and creator of innovative common spaces. In his writings and buildings, he challenged the early modernist belief that ‘form follows function’ – that the shape of the building was defined by its purpose. His celebrated Montessori School in Delft rethought classroom design acknowledging that the school operates on two levels, addressing the needs of both the community and the child, and developing architectural forms that maximized interactivity and equity between the educational program and the individual’s needs. Additionally, his use of an open field of repetitive geometry in the design of the Centraal Beheer headquarters offices expressed the equality of all employees. Hertzberger’s elongated atrium in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment was one of the first successful developments of the concept of the internal street.
Hertzberger’s projects have been published and exhibited all over the world. He was one of the editors of FORUM, an influential Dutch magazine, and he published the books Lessons for Students in Architecture (1991), Space and the Architect (2000) and Herman Hertzberger: Space and Learning (2008). In addition to the many books written about him, his work has been featured in two documentaries, the 2010 Searching for Space by director Kees Hin and The School as City by Moniek van de Vall and Gustaaf Vos in 2012. His latest book, Architecture and Structuralism: The Ordering of Space, will be available in May 2015.
“Herman Hertzberger is the rare architect who excels as a designer, a theorist and an educator. For fifty years, he has pursued a set of enduring concerns that are timeless, resonating across decades and generations,” said Beth Meyer, dean of the School of Architecture, in announcing the award. “(His) architecture revels in the everyday, creates spatial frameworks that are adaptable and responsive, and exploits the affective qualities of architectural form and space.”
“I am especially pleased that Hertzberger is our 2015 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalist.” Meyer continued, “He has substantial expertise in designing buildings that shape the public realm at all scales, from a stoop to an interior courtyard atrium to a street, and that emphasize the gradient or threshold between public and private. This is one of the architect’s most important tasks. This preoccupation with the “in-between” of architecture is part of what differentiates our university’s historic grounds from many campuses; it is also a characteristic of the School of Architecture’s cross-disciplinary ethos”
Hertzberger was born in Amsterdam in 1932 and graduated from the Technical University in Delft in 1958. He has lectured and taught around the world, including at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam, the Technical University of Delft and the University of Geneva in Switzerland. He also served as dean of the post-graduate architecture program at the Berlage Institute.
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals, presented by University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, recognize the exemplary contributions of recipients to the endeavors in which Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president, excelled and held in high regard.
The medals presented annually on the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, April 13th, are the highest external honors bestowed by the University, which grants no honorary degrees. The awards are presented annually on Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, by the president of the University of Virginia, and by the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that owns and operates his home, Monticello. April 13 is known locally as Founders Day, celebrating Jefferson’s founding of U.Va. in Charlottesville in 1819.
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