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, to recognize extraordinary achievements in architecture, urbanism, art, design, and the environment.
At a free, public celebration on July 21 at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, Architectural League President Paul Lewis awarded the League’s 2021 President’s Medal to Walter Hood, at the first in-person event held by The Architectural League since March 2020.
The festivities at Marcus Garvey Park included a procession from the Acropolis in the park to the lower level. The event featured performances by Mfouambila Kongo Dance Company, The Marching Cobras of New York, and saxophonist Jason Marshall; a poetry reading by Tonya M. Foster; and remarks in tribute to Mr. Hood by Mario Gooden, Mabel Wilson, and Sara Zewde.
The event took place in a production and installation design by Harlem-based architecture studio BRANDT : HAFERD, Jerome W. Haferd and K. Brandt Knapp, with Coleman Downing. Fabric panels designed by BRANDT : HAFERD functioned first as heraldic banners during the procession; then as backdrop for speakers and performers; and finally as canopies over specially-designed tables offering refreshments, plants, and printed matter about Walter Hood and Hood Design Studio.
Professor of Architecture and Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University Mabel O. Wilson said:
“Great migrations. Border crossings. Diaspora. These are the sites where Walter Hood makes work. Over the past three decades Walter has crafted everyday, commemorative, socially relevant landscapes through a creative process that takes measure of where are people are going? From where have they come? Who has been here before? Who and what is here now and in the future?”
Mario Gooden, founding principal of Huff + Gooden Architects and professor of professional practice at Columbia University, stated:
“This imagination of landscape as a site for liberation is not only reflected in Walter’s brilliance as a landscape architect and artist, but also as a teacher, scholar, and writer… It’s been my pleasure to work with Walter over the past two decades but more importantly to learn from Walter and to see liberation in the landscapes that he imagines.”
Sara Zewde, founding principal of Studio Zewde, said:
“While his practice has been around for over 25 years, Walter’s legacy is ushering in an entirely new generation of landscape architects, as his work is ahead of its time. Though he has already accomplished so much, tonight’s award is only a sign that much more is to come.”
In his presentation of the Medal, League President Paul Lewis read the following citation:
“As artist and designer, as deeply engaged observer, listener, educator, and theorist, Walter Hood has transformed understanding of how to see and create meaning in landscapes and public spaces. He shows and teaches how to unearth suppressed histories and make connections visible, to see value in the unremarkable and create beauty in the mundane. Particulars, specifics and idiosyncrasies guide his creative process. Walter and his studio shape bold, inventive places, responding to imperatives of memory, community, and ecology, combining poetry and science, embracing difference.
Through his research, writing, and design, Walter has compelled attention to the centrality of Black landscapes in our collective culture. He has radically reshaped the agency of and expectations for landscape architecture. With deep admiration, The Architectural League awards its President’s Medal to the contemporary prophet of landscape and public space Walter Hood.”
Walter Hood is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio, which works across art, fabrication, design, landscape, research, and urbanism. Among the studio’s many projects since its founding in 1992 are Splash Pad Park and Lafayette Square Park in Oakland; the Solar Strand in Buffalo; Macon Yards in Macon, GA; Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in Jacksonville; the Broad Museum Plaza in Los Angeles; the Rosa Parks Neighborhood Master Plan in Detroit; “Black Towers/Black Power,” in the recent Museum of Modern Art exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America; new gardens and public spaces for the Oakland Museum of California; and the landscape of the forthcoming International African American Museum in Charleston, SC.