Former architecture dean recognized for excellence as educator
Professor Emeritus George Baird, former dean of the University of Toronto's John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, has been awarded the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
The prestigious medallion honours 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.
Baird is often credited with having helped a new generation of architects find a place at the intersection of architectural form and urban function. He did this by engaging disciplines beyond architecture and fearlessly exploring the political implications of city-making to articulate architects’ social responsibilities, said theAmerican Institute of Architect's (AIA) award announcement. The AIA noted that Baird’s deep influence is evident in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, but also through his prolific writing career and the many students inspired by his example who have gone on to teach and practice.
“Many of us have known for many years what a remarkable thinker and dedicated educator he is, but it gratifying to see him continue to be recognized at the highest levels,” said Professor Richard Sommer, current dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, in a letter to faculty, staff and students. “We look forward to celebrating George and this great honour in the New Year.”
The faculty will mount an exhibition of Baird’s work at the Eric Arthur Gallery in March and host a symposium March 9-10 entitled, George Baird: A Question of Influence. The keynote to the symposium will feature a conversation between Baird and Kenneth Frampton, moderated by K. Michael Hays.
It is fitting that U of T celebrate Baird’s teaching award, since the University of Toronto has played a large part in his career. The prominent architect, a partner in Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, earned his architecture degree from the University of Toronto in 1962. He conducted postgraduate research at University College in London, England, where he worked closely with architectural critic Charles Jencks who joined him in editing Baird’s first book, Meaning in Architecture.
Upon his 1967 return to Toronto, he joined the faculty at the University of Toronto and remained there until 1993 when he joined the faculty of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. At Harvard, he taught design studio and architectural theory and served as director of master’s degree programs until 2004, when he returned to the University of Toronto to become dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. Before stepping down in 2009, Baird helped establish the Cities Centre, a multidisciplinary research institute that encourages the study of cities and a wide range of urban policy issues both in Canada and abroad.
Baird’s firm was founded in Toronto in 1972 and earned the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Architectural Firm Award in 2007. Among the firm’s notable projects are Cloud Gardens Park in Toronto; Thomas L. Wells Public School in Toronto, the first LEED certified public school in Canada; the Old Post Office Plaza in St. Louis, and the Mission 2050 Research Centre, a cutting-edge agricultural research center at the University of Guelph.
The respected architect and educator received the Gold Medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 2010. His newest honour, the Topaz Medallion, will be awarded in March at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture convention. He will also be recognized at the AIA convention in May.