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 April 9, 2019, Architectural League President Paul Lewis presented the 2019 President’s Medal to Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. The Architectural League honored Darren Walker as a patron, client, and visionary, for his commitment to social justice, to the arts, and to the public good.
The Medal was presented at a gala dinner in New York. Architect and planner Vishaan Chakrabarti; Maurice Cox, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Detroit; Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem; along with Lewis and Rosalie Genevro, League Executive Director, celebrated Walker with remarks. Arts patron Agnes Gund served as the dinner’s honorary chair.
As part of his remarks, Vishaan Chakrabarti said:
Darren reminds us that there is no aesthetic, no theory, no trend we can hide behind when confronting our responsibilities as designers. He reminds us that we are what we build, what we leave behind, what communities and ecologies we keep and strengthen.
Maurice Cox stated:
Darren Walker believes that all citizens have a basic democratic right to live in a socially, economically, and environmentally healthy community, a beloved city, where all feel a deep, deep sense of belonging. He inspires, he aspires, to construct the just city.
Thelma Golden said:
He believes in architecture, but not just in buildings. He understands that the built environment is deeply connected to equity, and that sense of equity is what guides his vision for the world. He can envision a better future, and then works to actualize it.
In his presentation of the Medal, Paul Lewis read the following citation:
Darren Walker leads by giving forceful voice to our highest aspiration: for a just society, in which inequality is challenged at every turn and equity, opportunity and hope prevail over greed and exclusion. The Architectural League awards its President’s Medal to Darren Walker with deep admiration for his clarity, his conviction, his optimism, and the manifold manifestations of his ideas in action in New York and around the world. We celebrate and are inspired by his embrace of the power of architecture and place to communicate values, nurture the soul, excite the spirit, and give form to the empathy that will drive our collective progress.
In accepting the Medal, Darren Walker remarked:
The highest compliment, I believe, about architecture, [is that] what architecture can do, and buildings can do, is to give people who inhabit those buildings dignity.