2010 HONORARY FELLOWSHIP
The AIA Honorary Fellowship program was developed as the international counterpart to the Fellowship program. Election to honorary fellowship not only recognizes the achievements of the foreign architect as an individual, but also elevates before the international public and the profession a model architect who has made a significant contribution to architecture and society on an international level.
An architect of esteemed character and distinguished achievements who is neither a U.S. citizen nor a resident of the United States and who does not primarily practice architecture within the domain of the Institute may be admitted to honorary fellowship.
Richard Leplastrier, Hon. FAIA, is a seminal figure in Australian architecture and education. He is a charismatic champion, teacher, and maker of architecture born from humane values and acute understanding of place. He has led a life according to his own modest needs and venturing in his work only to do things he believes to be vitally important, without any sideways glances towards superficial matters like style or fame. On his individual trail in architecture he has revered the Australian aboriginal culture base and demonstrated a profound respect for all living matter. He relates to people, the landscape, materials, and nature in the same way, always with a wish to understand, respect, and preserve.
His deeply-rooted minimalistic approach to his work – less is always more – and his belief in simplified spaces that give room for things to happen and for nature to enter, has produced architectural spaces at ease and at rest with themselves and within themselves. They may suddenly open up and become new spaces with new borders, qualities, and contents, yet equally at ease and complete, only to repeatedly open up with additional spaces with all the same qualities. The 2009 AIA Gold Medalist, Glenn Murcutt, Hon. FAIA, expressed in his letter of support that “His work belongs to the ‘place, time, technology, and culture’ of this land; it is modern, challenging, and supremely beautiful.”
In 1973 Richard, along with a truly inspired client, produced a work that informed a new stream of thinking within Australian architecture. The building, The Palm House, explored occupation as an extension of a ‘camp-site’; it integrated a quality of resolution and craft reminiscent of Eastern cultures. Space was reduced to the efficient and essential, the ‘garden beyond’ was employed to characterize scale, and mechanical adjustment systems accommodated climatic change. This iconic building was one of the first to utterly remove the European veil that haunted Australia’s architectural manner.
More recently, Richard’s work has been directed toward the retention of his city’s significant origins, ensuring that the ancient land that hangs as a necklace around Sydney Harbor remains public and a reinforcement of the valuable patterns that give the city form and character. His public concerns and contributions, in particular the conservation and reuse of historic industrial harbor side structures, has led to a revitalized way of thinking in the profession that sets sights on the strands of human endeavor that compose memorable places.
In addition to being an architect, a master craftsperson, and a facilitator, Richard is an educator and inspiration to the next generation of Australian architects. His sensitivity to issues of culture and place and his accumulated wisdom in the design and making of architecture is gently revealed though his tutorial sessions in the design studio. Adrian Carter, associate professor of Aalborg University in Denmark describes him as “one of the truly outstanding and unsung heroes of a poetic, authentic regional approach to architecture, not only in his native Australia, but also internationally. In the Nordic countries he is appreciated particularly for his exquisite use of timber, sensitivity to landscape and for continuing the legacy of Jørn Utzon, with whom Leplastrier worked as a young architect. As with Utzon, the skills that Leplastrier developed through boat-building (as seen in the photo of ‘Dorothy’) came to influence his approach to architecture. He creates buildings from simple honest materials that are beautifully detailed and constructed, as hand-crafted furniture designed to be in harmony with the nature of its context.”
In summarizing his qualifications in her sponsor letter, Anne Schopf, FAIA, noted that “Richard is an extremely thoughtful and resourceful architect, an advocate for respectful design, and a teacher. His architecture draws one into the landscape – or perhaps the landscape into the architecture, one never is quite sure. His sketches show a relationship of form to weather, and incorporate simple moving parts: a kite roof, moveable ceiling panels, canvas walls and roll-back roofs. We are wise to look to his simple innovations for inspiration. There is genuineness to his work; a spareness, an economic elegance.”
Michael Lischer, FAIA