Cecil Balmond, OBE is widely considered to be one of the most significant creators of his generation. An internationally renowned artist, architect, writer and engineer, Balmond transcends the conventional boundaries of discipline.
Before setting up Balmond Studio in 2011, Balmond was deputy chairman of the international multi-disciplinary engineering firm Arup. He also chaired Arup’s European Building Division, and ran the critically acclaimed design group, AGU (Advanced Geometry Unit). His pioneering work with the AGU, and collaborations with internationally renowned architects, brought his unique design philosophy to the world.
“Cecil Balmond’s work as a structural engineer is synonymous with new modes of creative collaboration between architects and engineers made possible through advanced computational logics,” said the University of Virginia School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth K. Meyer, Edward Elson Professor and Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture. “His keen appreciation of the affective impact of geometry and rhythm on architectural experience and his expertise in advanced computational design thinking has altered the very boundaries between form-making and structure.
“Cecil Balmond’s selection as the Thomas Jefferson Medalist in Architecture this year is particularly apt as we undertake the first joint faculty search between the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering, a hire that promises to catalyze new collaborative opportunities for our students and faculty.”
Balmond has spent more than 40 years investigating the relationship between form and the very roots of order at the core of life. This groundbreaking approach has won Balmond numerous awards, including: Officer of the Order of the British Empire for Services to Architecture (2015); the IED Gerald Frewer Memorial Trophy (2011); the Sir Banister Fletcher Prize for his book, “informal” (2005); the Riba Charles Jencks Award for Theory and Practice (2003); and the Gengo Matsui Prize for the Serpentine pavilion designed with Toyo Ito (2002), the 2014 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture. Snow Words, a light sculpture created for Anchorage, Alaska, was heralded one of the best public artworks in 2013 by the American for the Arts, Public Art Network Year in Review.
Balmond’s position as a leader in architectural, design and scientific theory is further solidified by his relationship with several of the most influential design and architectural institutions in the world. He currently holds the Paul Philippe Cret Chair at Penn Design as Professor of Architecture, where he founded the Non-Linear Systems Organization, a material and structural research unit at University of Pennsylvania. Balmond has also been Visiting Saarinen Professor at Yale University School of Architecture, 1997-2002; professor at LSE Urban Cities Programme, 2002-2004; and Visiting KenzoTange critic, Harvard Graduate School of Architecture, 2000.
Balmond Studio is an international research-led practice of architects, designers, artists and theoreticians. Its current architecture projects include: Cinnamon Life, a new $850 million Icon for Sri Lanka; Landmark, a luxury mixed-use development that is the most ambitious Myanmar has ever seen; a world-class luxury boutique hotel in Asia; and several residential development schemes in South East Asia, among others. Ongoing public art commissions include: a sculpture for the $203 million Wilson Station reconstruction in Chicago; a shade sculpture for Mesa Arts Centre in Arizona; the Lens sculpture in Black Hawk Ped Mall in Iowa City, Iowa; Spectrum in the 88 Scott development, Toronto; and a work for Perseverance Park, an urban park redevelopment in Syracuse, New York.
Balmond will give a public talk at the University of Virginia at 3 p.m. on April 13 in the Ruth Caplin Theatre in the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds, followed by a reception and book signing.
On the anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13 (known locally as Founder’s Day), the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation join together to present the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals to recognize achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president, excelled and held in high regard. These medals are the highest external honors bestowed by the University of Virginia, which grants no honorary degrees. For more information on Founder’s Day, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals, and the recipients, click here.