2012 Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture

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Daniel J. Feil, FAIA | Notes of Interest

By Sara Fernández Cendón, AIArchitect

This year’s Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture honors Daniel Feil, FAIA, an experienced public-sector architect with a long history of enlisting the finest design talents to produce trendsetting public works. Feil and the other two 2012 Thomas Jefferson Award recipients are celebrated for demonstrating a commitment to quality design that recognizes public buildings and places as part of the nation’s cultural heritage.

The Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture recognize achievements in three categories: private-sector architects with a record of excellence in the design of public facilities, public-sector architects who promote design excellence within their agencies, and public officials or other individuals who have furthered public awareness of design excellence.

Category Two: Daniel Feil, FAIA

Daniel Feil, FAIA, executive architect on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, has been awarded the Thomas Jefferson Award in category two, which recognizes architects employed in the public sector who have consistently produced or fostered high-quality public architecture. As an ardent supporter of good design, Feil has not only helped commission the best architects to create major public works, he has also developed tools to ensure the integrity of design intent and the success of excellent and sometimes unconventional ideas.

Feil began his career in 1971 as a planning architect for the U.S. Navy, where he developed master plans and site studies for facilities and infrastructure valued at more than $2 billion. In 1986, he took on the job of National Airport site design manager with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, a position he held until 2004. In this role he oversaw the redevelopment of the 860-acre Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport campus, including the renovation of its historic 1941 terminal and the design of a new, light-filled and airy 1.1-million-square-foot terminal.

On the airport project, Feil worked with AIA Gold Medalist Cesar Pelli, FAIA, and earned his praise for astute management. “Dan has developed the most sophisticated management process I know of for eliminating all cracks where time, money, or quality are usually lost,” wrote Pelli in his letter of recommendation.

Beyond the formal achievements of the project, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has been recognized for its attention to the user experience and, in particular, its excellent application of universal design. Feil introduced the concept of universal accessibility for the new airport terminal in 1988, two years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The project was awarded the Barrier-Free America Award by the Paralyzed Veterans of America in 2003.

Since 2005, Feil has been the executive architect on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. The General Service Administration’s Design Excellence Program guided the selection process for the memorial, and Gehry Partners was awarded the project, which will occupy a four-acre site near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Neither Cesar Pelli’s firm nor Gehry’s had worked with the federal government before they negotiated contracts with Feil, and neither had in their portfolio a project similar to the one they were awarded. This made their selection somewhat unconventional, and Feil is credited with having opened up the field of eligibility by recognizing operational and aesthetic achievements as equivalent to experience with a particular building type.

In a recommendation letter, AIA Gold Medalist Frank Gehry, FAIA, praised Feil’s support of his firm’s intricate design process for the memorial, which included an 18-month research and development phase to create a woven metal tapestry. Gehry also appreciated Feil’s well-versed expertise in architectural federal contracting. “This is Gehry Partners’ first federal job, and he has helped us navigate the contract proceedings and has worked with us so that we better understand the federal system,” he wrote.

Feil’s support for public architecture has not been limited to his role in public service. As a member of the AIA Committee on Public Architecture from 1986–1996, he led a campaign that resulted in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management revising its job classification standards to allow architects to qualify for federal managerial positions, while previously they had been restricted to production roles. Quite fittingly, Feil also helped develop the AIA’s Thomas Jefferson Awards, the very one he is now receiving, which was first granted in 1992.

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Photo Credits

  • All images courtesy of Daniel J. Feil, FAIA.

Daniel J. Feil, FAIA

Category Two

Any AIA member, group of members, component, or knowledge community may nominate candidates for category two of the Thomas Jefferson Awards.

Licensed architects employed in the United States public sector or governmental agencies who manage or produce quality public architecture within their jurisdiction are eligible to be nominated in this category.

Governmental agencies who, by their successful contribution as a whole have fostered quality in the public environment, may be nominated in this category.

2012 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture Jury


Kevin J. Flynn, FAIA, Chair
Kiku Obata & Company, Saint Louis

James Logan Abell, FAIA
Abell & Associates Architects, Ltd., Tempe, Arizona

David Burney, FAIA
NYC Department of Design & Construction, Long Island City, New York

Vergel Lee Gay Jr., AIA
Texas A & M, College Station, Texas

Curtis J. Moody, FAIA
Moody Nolan, Inc., Columbus, Ohio

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