University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA


Winners of Inaugural Kanter Tritsch Awards Announced

By Weitzman
Nov 15, '18 9:50 AM EST
Alexandra Mae Adamski
Alexandra Mae Adamski

PennDesign has selected Tod Williams and Billie Tsien to receive the inaugural Kanter Tritsch Medal for Excellence in Architecture and Environmental Design. The Medal was presented at a benefit in New York City on October 15, 2018, along with the $50,000 Kanter Tritsch Prize for an exceptional second-year graduate architecture student, which has been awarded to Alexandra Mae Adamski.

“Making the world a better place is personal for Tod and Billie. You can see it in their work,” said designer and alumna Lori Kanter Tritsch (MArch’85), who initiated the Medal and Prize with a $1.25 million gift to PennDesign on behalf of herself and her partner William Lauder (W’83), a Wharton alumnus and Penn Trustee.

 “The design of the built environment is absolutely central to our urban and ecological challenges,” said PennDesign Dean and Paley Professor Frederick Steiner, who helped establish the Sustainable SITES Initiative, the first program of its kind to offer a comprehensive rating system for sustainable land development and management. “We want to elevate beauty and efficiency in their highest form.”

“Tod and Billie have been incredible role models,” said Winka Dubbeldam, Miller Professor and Chair in the Department of Architecture. “But more than that, they’ve been committed to teaching the next generation of architects.”

Williams and Tsien’s built projects include the American Folk Art Museum (2001), New York; the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center (2009), New York, and the LeFrak Center at Lakeside (2013), Brooklyn, both of which earned LEED Gold status. In Philadelphia, they designed the Barnes Foundation (2012), the first major art and education institution in the country to achieve the highest level of environmental certification from the U.S. Green Building Council; and Skirkanich Hall (2006), which houses the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Penn. Their firm is currently designing the Barack Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien began working together in 1977 and founded their architectural practice in 1986 in New York City. Over the past three decades, they have crafted a body of work varied in scale, type, program and location. With a range of civic, institutional, educational, and private clients in the United States and abroad, the firm is best known for its institutional projects—in particular, museums, schools and non-profit organizations. In parallel with their practice, Williams and Tsien have lectured widely and taught at the Cooper Union, Harvard, Cornell, and Yale; they were visiting professors in the Department of Architecture at Penn in 1986.

Along with Lori Kanter Tritsch, the jury for the professional medalist was comprised of Dean Steiner; Winka Dubbeldam, Miller Professor and Chair in the Department of Architecture, PennDesign; alumnus A. Eugene Kohn (AR’53, GAR’57), co-founder and chairman, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, and a member of PennDesign’s Board of Overseers; and Marion Weiss, Graham Chair Professor of Architecture, PennDesign, and co-founder, WEISS/MANFREDI.

The Kanter Tritsch Prize in Energy and Architectural Innovation, which carries a $50,000 fellowship, has been awarded to Alexandra Mae Adamski. Adamski was selected by a committee that included Kanter Tristch, Steiner, and Dubbeldam, in addition to Ali Rahim, professor of architecture, director of the MSD-AAD program; Catherine Broth, partner, MGA Partners; and Carrie Norman, partner, Norman Kelly, LLC. The Prize will be awarded annually to a second-year student pursuing a Master of Architecture degree at PennDesign who demonstrates transformational thinking on the built environment and innovation in his or her approach to energy, ecology, and/or social equity.

Adamski, a first-generation student from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, recalls being completely surprised when she found out she’d won: “I thought, ‘That’s not right, that can’t be it,” she says, laughing. “I was so overwhelmed.”

Noting it as a “life-changing” award, Adamski says it won’t only impact
her financial situation, but also her creativity and professional plans
upon graduation this upcoming May.

Adamski also hopes to land at a firm that’s focused on sustainable architecture and innovative design—aspects she’s had significant exposure to while at Penn.

“What stood out to me the most at Penn was its really innovative program,” Adamski says. “They are pushing the boundaries of design, and teaching us to be leaders and to think critically about how our architecture and our designs will affect the world when we graduate.”