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The year 2018 marked the first time for an architect to receive the prestigious Polk Award. The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, which confers the award, announced that the American Institute of Architects CEO and EVP Robert Ivy would receive the Noel Polk Award during an MIAL event on June 2nd.
The lifetime achievement award recognizes extraordinary work from Mississippi-based architects and patrons, who have dedicated their lives to any form of supporting or creating arts. With this award, Ivy now joins a small group of Mississippians Polk Award honorees. The group has famous names in the Mississippi art industry such as Walter Anderson for his artistic works, Morgan Freeman as an actor, Eudora Welty as a prolific writer, singer Leontyne Price, and writer Shelby Foote.
Ivy’s work touches a broad genre of art including authorship and a global architecture commentating figure. According to Nancy LaForge – the president of Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters – Robert Ivy has been honored due to his efforts in easing the accessibility of architecture to the public. She added that honoring Ivy with the Noel Polk Award was a rightful lifetime achievement for the architect.
On its side, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) welcomed the move by MIAL. Carl Elefante – the President of AIA – congratulated the institute’s executive vice president for the lifetime honor. Elefante FAIA on his statement recognized the work of Robert Ivy since resuming top administrative roles at AIA in 2011. Since then, Elefante acknowledges that Ivy has been the architecture profession worthy ambassador as a practicing architect, author, and editor of architecture materials. His ambassador roles of the profession are evident through the improved global presence of AIA in his tenure as the CEO and EVP – currently, the 160-years-old organization is more influential globally than ever before, with the highest number of members throughout its history.
Robert Ivy is a BA (English) graduate from Sewanee. His also earned a Masters in Architecture from the Tulane University. His profession began in 1996 with the Architectural Record as the Chief Editor. Since then, he has worked with various organizations such as the McGraw-Hill Construction Media. Apart from the Polk Award, he was voted the 2010 Master Architect and holds the 2009 Crain Award honoree.
Appointed CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2011, Robert Ivy is innovative and passionate about more than just architecture. He has a belief that architects should look beyond building, design, and construction, that they should cross-pollinate with people in software. Ivy is also big on how architecture can enhance public health in a multitude of ways.
The American Institute of Architects has always had a mission closely associated with improving the lives of the American public since the formation of the trade group in 1857 in New York. Robert Ivy is now the CEO of the group and has been expanding the overall goals of the group in recent years after the AIA was created initially to standardize the work of architects and tradespeople in New York and across the Northeast of the U.S. Now a professional group with more than 90,000 members and over 200 chapters, the American Institute of Architects is one of the most influential lobbying groups in the U.S. capital of Washington D.C.
For starters when it comes to Ivy’s belief that architects should cross-pollinate he comes from the perspective of wanting more tangible ways of how buildings are affecting productivity or well-being. For example, AIA is looking to collaborate with software programmers by hosting hackathons to aid in the creation of phone apps and other software projects. The goal is to engage the public in ways like never before and to foster the competitive nature of the architectural field to encourage innovations.
When it comes to public health, Ivy believes that architecture can do more to promote the well-being of the public. The health, safety, and welfare of people are not always something architects have in mind when designing a space. Traditionally they tend to be more concerned about materials and lighting, but this is changing. Ivy notes that many young architectures are intrigued with how buildings can affect public health. They are also more engaged socially and are health-focused.
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Ivy considers these ideas important because a weak system has the potential to affect a large number of people. A focus on materials and lighting is not enough anymore, instead, how much sunlight, fresh air, and clean water a building has access too must be considered. They should not just exist either if a structure can enhance the environment around it.
It is interesting to remark that Ivy is big on public health. It comes as no surprise that everything he is passionate has this single thread in common. Taking a step back, when it comes to some of the app ideas he has in mind he mentioned the existence of apps that measure calories. What implications would an app that measures the calories of a building have?
Ivy wants more evidence that buildings are making an impact on public health. Reiterating that most studies done my architects only focus on lighting, which to say the least is interesting, these sorts of studies are not able to give a detailed picture of a buildings correlation with public health.
With the innovations that are to come, Ivy hopes that architects will be more capable of identifying buildings that are not enhancing the productivity or well-being of the public so that they can be fixed. Something that just wasn’t possible in the past. With technology, architects have an opportunity to change lives like never before.