Martin Puryear

2024 President’s Medal honoree

May 14, 2024

The President’s Medal is The Architectural League’s highest honor and is bestowed, at the discretion of the League’s President and Board of Directors, on individuals to recognize extraordinary achievements in architecture, urbanism, art, design, and the environment.

On May 14, 2024, Architectural League president Mario Gooden presented the 2024 President’s Medal to artist Martin Puryear’s in recognition of his impact on the professions of architecture, landscape, and urbanism. The Medal was presented at a gala dinner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in  New York.  Puryear was celebrated with the President’s Medal citation and remarks by League president Mario Gooden of Mario Gooden Studio: Architecture + Design and professor at Columbia GSAPP; Kellie Jones, Chair of the Department African American and African Diaspora Studies and Hans Hofmann Professor of Modern Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University; Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Artistic Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator at Madison Square Park Conservancy; and Billie Tsien, founding principal of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The event was co-chaired by Gooden, Rashid Johnson, Joseph Mizzi, Calvin Tsao, and Tsien.


In his presentation of the Medal, League President Mario Gooden read the following citation:

Over the last five decades, Martin Puryear has created a body of work based on abstract organic forms rich with psychological, cultural, and historical references. From his Pylons at Battery Park City and his Ladder for Booker T. Washington, a work in wood with impractical, curving sides and a dramatically narrowing form featured in his 2007–08 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art; to his 40-foot-tall Madison Square Park installation Big Bling in 2016 and his representation of the United States at the 2019 Venice Biennale in the complex narratives of Martin Puryear: Liberty/Libertà that explored issues of democracy, identity, liberty, and entanglements with freedom, moral justice, and responsibility; and now to Lookout, perhaps his most technologically and culturally complex work, referencing African construction and the making of shelter—Martin’s impact on public space, and the public imagination, resonates strongly with the League’s mission. The way his practice weaves together political, material, and poetic threads to such meaningful effect is a lesson for more carefully observing, reflecting on, and changing the world around us.


Kellie Jones’ remarks contained an excerpt of the curatorial statement she wrote in 1989 as U.S. Commissioner to the 20th Sao Paulo Bienal. The quoted text is below:

Most of all, Puryear’s pieces elicit a wealth of sensations—they are vaguely familiar but unknown; could possibly function but don’t; embody contradiction and dichotomy. And so they allude, finally, to the conflict and tension in human existence, and are containers for life’s fullness and diversity.

Brooke Kamin Rapaport stated:

Through his sculpture—some of it public in architectural scale reaching to the sky, some of it private—in human scale that burrows into our souls—Martin has asked us to look up—and also to look in.

In her remarks, Billie Tsien said of Puryear:

There is a quieting that happens in the presence of [Martin’s] work. Perhaps it is because you can sense his commitment to defining a vision and his commitment to its physical definition, to the making of it. I think this is why we as architects so respect, admire—and I believe—understand his work. We too are committed to a vision and to the making.


The League is grateful to the following sponsors for their generous donations and in-kind services:

Wine by Brooklyn Winery
Spirits by Fort Hamilton Distillery
Flowers by Ora La Casa de Las Flores


Explore past President's Medal events

July 21, 2021

Walter Hood

On July 21, 2021, the League presented its President's Medal to Walter Hood.

June 1, 2020

Andrew Freear

On June 1, 2020, the League presented its President's Medal to Andrew Freear.