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Harrison Fraker Assoc. AIA, Awarded 2014 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion

Distinguished educator known for his pioneering vision and research in building sciences

    Contact: Matt Tinder

For immediate release:
Washington, D.C. – December 17, 2013 -
The Board of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) named Harrison Fraker. Assoc. AIA, as the 2014 recipient of the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. Fraker, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, pushed the academic study of energy use in buildings to the forefront of the sustainability movement through decades of dedicated research.

Throughout his career, Fraker has made significant contributions to the educational mission of the AIA and ACSA, working to build the knowledgebase of practice and emphasizing the importance of practice within the academic sphere. The AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion honors an individual who has been intensely involved in architecture education for more than a decade and whose teaching has influenced a broad range of students.  Fraker will be honored at the annual ACSA convention in Miami in April, and in June at the AIA National Convention in Chicago.

In 1968, shortly after earning an M.F.A. in architecture, Fraker became a studio lecturer at Princeton University, his alma mater. In 1972, with engineering colleagues, Fraker established the Center for Environmental Studies (now part of the Princeton Environmental Institute), an interdisciplinary center focused on understanding how buildings interact with the environment funded through an initial grant from the National Science Foundation.

To apply knowledge gained through this research, Fraker launched two professional-practice partnerships in 1973: Harrison Fraker Architects (HFA), to design environmentally responsible buildings; and the Princeton Energy Group (PEG), to conduct applied research and provide energy design assistance to other architects. While PEG developed energy monitoring tools, HFA created more than a dozen passive solar houses, as well as passive solar and naturally cooled offices and libraries. An early sign of success, the firm’s very first project, the Princeton Blairstown Education Center, won an Owens Corning Energy Design Award in 1974.

As a result of his innovative work during the mid-1970s and early 1980s, Fraker was called upon to teach energy design courses at institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Pennsylvania. During this period, he co-chaired passive solar and daylighting conferences with Stephen Selkowitz of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Also during this period, Fraker collaborated with University of Pennsylvania architecture professor Don Prowler to guide 11 schools of architecture in the development of curriculum addressing energy-conserving, climate-responsive design. The work, funded by the largest curriculum-development grant ever awarded by the Department of Energy, won a Progressive Architecture Research Award in 1984.

In 1984, Fraker was recruited to head the architecture school at the University of Minnesota. In his first year on the job, his fundraising efforts were so successful (he helped raise $8.5 million) and his vision so compelling that he gained administration support for the creation of a new College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, established in 1989. The College included the new Design Center for the American Urban Landscape (DCAUL), which brought together faculty, practitioners, and the community in an interdisciplinary academic setting that was a more engaged and civically active urban planning resource than the previous program. Fraker’s success as an academic administrator led to numerous requests to consult and advise other institutions, which he accommodated while still finding time to teach (six design studios during his tenure as dean) and serve as a thesis advisor to students.

“Through all these efforts, and at times when architecture seemed tempted to retreat into more limited and self-referential concerns, Harrison stood out for his clear vision of how the university and its design resources could and must actively participate in shaping the city which hosted it, with mutually beneficial pedagogical and real world benefits,” wrote AIA Thomas Jefferson Award recipient and principal of Greenberg Consultants Ken Greenberg, AIA, in a letter supporting Fraker’s nomination.

In 1996, Fraker joined UC Berkeley as dean of its College of Environmental Design. During his 12-year tenure as dean, Fraker also raised over $30 million in endowments for CED. He was actively involved in the development of the UC Berkeley campus, serving as chair of the campus design review. Also at UC Berkeley, Fraker continued teaching. His studios, focused on sustainable systems and urban design principles for transit oriented neighborhoods. The Tianjin studio in 2006, was not only a model of international interdisciplinary collaboration, it also was a catalyst for the development of Fraker’s EcoBlock concept of whole-systems, zero-carbon neighborhood design.

After stepping down as dean in 2008, Fraker went on a year-long sabbatical to document performance data from first-generation sustainable neighborhoods, work that became the subject of his book The Hidden Potential of Sustainable Neighborhoods: Lessons from Low-Carbon Communities (Island Press), published in September. He continues to teach undergraduate and graduate studios in the United States and abroad. Last year, Fraker was appointed chair of the UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group, an interdisciplinary program established in 1973, where he continues to explore the relationship between energy, resources, and the environment.

You can see images and learn more about Fraker here:

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