Chatfield-Taylor Wins Scully Prize

By William Richards

American Academy in Rome President and CEO Adele Chatfield-Taylor was awarded the 2010 Vincent Scully Prize at a ceremony at the National Building Museum in Washington on Monday, November 8th.

Adele Chatfield-Taylor. Courtesy of the American Academy in Rome.

“We believe that our conversation about the built environment is one of the most important ones we can have, but too few people act as stewards,” said prize jury chair David Schwartz, FAIA. “Not only does Adele Chatfield-Taylor consider these things, but she is a great advocate.”

Named for the architectural historian Vincent Scully, the prize was established in 1999 by the National Building Museum to recognize exemplary practice, scholarship or criticism in architecture, historic preservation and urban design. Past recipients have included Jane Jacobs (2000), Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (2001), Witold Rybczynski (2007), Robert A.M. Stern (2008), and Christopher Alexander (2009).

Jurors for the 2010 Scully Prize included David Schwartz, FAIA, Gary Haney, AIA, Deborah Berke, FAIA, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, and Ned Cramer.

In her acceptance speech, Chatfield-Taylor, a native Virginian, traced her interest in historic preservation to early childhood experiences on Nantucket and in Loudon County, where “1950s developments destroyed innocent old barns” in what represented “incredibly careless deaths.” She also noted that mid-century urban renewal—the federally funded, local development model employed by cities between 1950 and 1975 to great economic, social, and racial ends—contributed to her later work in historic architecture and preservation.

“The urban renewal policies had tremendous momentum,” she said, “and we watched it begin in the cities near us, but it wasn’t followed with improvements. It was utterly memorable because it seemed downright insane.”

While working towards her M.S. in Historic Preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Historic Preservation, Chatfield-Taylor joined other student protesters in Columbia University’s architecture program to start the design collective Urban Deadline in the early-1970s. The firm completed a number of projects for Columbia’s historic campus, for Patterson, New Jersey, and a community park on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

In 1973, Chatfield-Taylor joined the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and  became the Executive Director of its foundation in 1980. From 1976 until 1984, she served as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia and, in 1984, began a four year term as Director of the Design Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1988, she assumed the presidency of the American Academy in Rome.

“Most preservationists were concerned with saving the biggest and the best, but the Academy has been interested in keeping the built environment intact,” said Chatfield-Taylor, speaking about her tenure at the American Academy. “Today, the problems of our time are not Classicism,” she continued, “but better city planning, infill, energy sources, and sustainability.”

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