2012 Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture

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Robert Peck, Hon. AIA | Notes of Interest

By Sara Fernández Cendón, AIArchitect

This year’s Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture honors Robert Peck, Hon. AIA, who has twice served as the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service Commissioner and was an early and vital advocate of the GSA’s Design Excellence Program. Peck 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 Three: Robert Peck, Hon. AIA

Robert Peck, Hon. AIA, is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award’s third category, which recognizes the role of elected officials, public administrators, and institutional leaders who through laws, policies, or advocacy encourage the production of high-quality architecture. As the GSA’s Public Buildings Service Commissioner, Peck is one of the country’s most prolific architectural clients, overseeing more than 370 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees.

Peck began his career in the military and retired in 1989 as a major. A parallel career began when he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Pennsylvania, and later a law degree from Yale. He went on to become chief of staff for U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an early federal design excellence advocate, and later vice president for public affairs at the AIA. In 1996, during the Clinton administration, Peck became the GSA’s Public Buildings Service Commissioner, where he remained until 2001. Peck was an early and crucial supporter of the agency’s Design Excellence Program, which the GSA launched in 1994 as a way to attract and select the best architecture firms for capital construction projects.

“Mr. Peck organizes competitions and selection processes that are highly specific to each particular client, context, and project type, and are thus highly effective in creating positive effects in the public realm,” wrote Thom Mayne, FAIA, in a letter of recommendation. Under Peck, Mayne’s firm Morphosis was awarded the San Francisco Federal Building commission in 2000, a Design Excellence project completed in 2007.

As testament to the program’s pervasive influence, in April the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, which builds and operates U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide, adopted its own version of the GSA’s Design Excellence Program, due in part to Peck’s successful implementation.

“The agency’s renowned Design Excellence [Program] would not have national impact without Bob’s unflagging support and vigilance,” wrote Arthur Gensler, FAIA, founder of the global architecture firm Gensler, in his recommendation letter. “Through it, he has made sure that America’s best architects are creating federal buildings. He is challenging these talents to do their best work.”

After several years working as managing director at the global real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, in 2009 Peck was tapped by the Obama administration for a second term as commissioner of public buildings for the GSA. As part of his current tenure, Peck has been responsible for designing and implementing sustainability initiatives, including drafting a significant portion of Executive Order 13514, which President Barack Obama signed in 2009, and requires federal agencies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. With Peck’s guidance, the agency also is undertaking the Green Proving Ground project, which tests the viability of cutting-edge green technologies, thereby reducing the risk of adoption for other public agencies and the private commercial building industry.

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  • All images courtesy of the U.S. General Services Administration.

Robert Peck, Hon. AIA

Category Three

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

Public officials or individuals who by his or her role and advocacy have furthered the public’s awareness and/or appreciation of design excellence in public architecture are eligible to be nominated in this category.

The candidate may be a nonarchitect who by his or her support and actions has significantly influenced or contributed to the promotion of quality design in the public sector.

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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