2014 Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture

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Robert G. Shibley, FAIA | Category Three

This year’s Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture honors Robert Shibley, FAIA, a prolific scholar and active practitioner whose urban planning work has helped shape the future of western New York and Buffalo. Shibley, the Category Three recipient, and the other 2014 Thomas Jefferson Award recipients are celebrated for their commitment to public architecture as an integral part of the nation’s cultural heritage.

Shibley earned bachelor’s degrees in architecture and psychology from the University of Oregon, and later earned an M.Arch. in urban design from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Currently in his third year as dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York (UB), he started his career in 1970 as project architect with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He later served as architect and branch chief with the U.S. Department of Energy until 1982, when he joined UB’s School of Architecture and Planning.

Shibley served as chair of the architecture school from 1982 until 1990, teaching in both the architecture and planning departments. In 1990 he founded the Urban Design Project (UDP), and for 23 years has led the group in re-envisioning Buffalo’s downtown, a plan known as the Queen City Hub; its waterfront; and its Frederick Law Olmsted–designed park system.

“It is now 10 years since we published the Queen City Hub, and we see the fruits of its logic with cranes in the air, new residential life downtown, and the emergent fulfillment of the plan’s aspirations for both the waterfront and our medical campus,” wrote Anthony Masiello, former mayor Buffalo, in a letter supporting Shibley’s nomination. “There is still a lot to do, but we are clearly on the way that Bob charted in the early 2000s. Lift the hood on the game plan for the city, and you will find Bob and his teams. He teaches us all about the making and remaking of great places and cities.”

In 2010 Shibley became UB’s first campus architect, a position he still occupies. In this role, he recently led an effort to create the university’s first three-campus comprehensive master plan since the 1970s. His efforts tied into a long-term strategic plan, known as UB 2020, to enhance the university’s competitiveness. He also led the development of UB’s Climate Action Plan, and as chairman of the University’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, continues to oversee its implementation.

In a letter supporting his nomination, Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer, praises Shibley’s performance as architectural educator and campus architect. “Most of us might readily accept the idea that we should use our campus environments as sites of deep learning and innovation,” McPherson wrote. “Bob, however, utilizes the built environment as part of this creative learning, and includes the process of deliberation with the campus and community to make it happen.”

Also in 2010, UB awarded Shibley the President’s Medal for scholarship and service to the university, the region, and the architecture and planning professions. In 2012 he received the Robert and Louise Bethune Award, a lifetime achievement award and the highest honor bestowed by the AIA Buffalo/Western New York chapter. His work has also been recognized by the American Planning Association, the Congress for the New Urbanism, the International Economic Development Council, the Preservation League of New York State, and Progressive Architecture.

In addition to being an active practitioner, Shibley is a prolific scholar. He has lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad, and has authored, co-authored, or edited 11 books, 12 book chapters, and more than 100 articles on urban design, placemaking, and design research. In a letter supporting Shibley’s nomination, Frederick Bland, FAIA, describes Time-Saver Standards for Urban Design, which Shibley co-edited with Donald Watson, FAIA, and Alan Plattus, as “the definitive reference, combining both ‘how-to’ as well as philosophy and history.”

Go to the Feb. 21, 2014 issue of AIArchitect
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Photo Credit

© Robert G. Shibley; The University of Buffalo, The State University of New York

Robert G. Shibley, FAIA

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.

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2014 Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture Jury

  • William Bates, AIA, Chair
  • Eat'n Park Hospitality Group
  • Homestead, Pennsylvania
  • Amanda Palasik, Assoc. AIA
  • GWWO, Inc.
  • Baltimore
  • Rona Rothenberg, FAIA
  • Administrative Office of the Courts
  • Alameda, California
  • Benjamin Vargas, FAIA
  • Bartizan Group Architects & Project Managers, PSC
  • Hato Rey, Puerto Rico
  • Jennifer Workman, AIA
  • Good Fulton & Farrell, Inc.
  • Dallas

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