Jeffrey Heller ’64 ’67 FAIA receives the inaugural MITArchA Alumni Achievement Award

Fifty years after completing his Masters in Architecture and Planning at MIT, Jeffrey Heller ’64 ’67 FAIA has been honored with the MITArcha Alumni Achievement Award. Heller received the honor at an event in San Francisco in May, hosted by the MIT Architecture Alumni (MITArchA) group.

Heller is president and founder of Heller Manus Architects. Since its formation in 1984, the firm has established a reputation for influencing architecture and urban design in the San Francisco Bay Area, nationally, and internationally.

“As a leader in the field of sustainable architecture, you have set a high standard for those who will follow you, and ably represent MIT’s guiding principle of mens et manus, and our permeating value of a better world,” said Hashim Sarkis, Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and J. Meejin Yoon, professor and head of the Department of Architecture, in a letter accompanying the award.

Heller is a pioneer in the profession and green movement with some of the first sustainable architecture and large scale urban planning projects in the US and China, including the first LEED Gold office towers in the sister cities of San Francisco and Shanghai; the first LEED Platinum neighborhood development master plan; a sustainable/livable master plan for Guangzhou’s North and South Axes; a sustainable urban plan proposal for Shanghai’s Yangpu Waterfront; and a sustainable urban plan for the city expansion area of Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia. His work in China often now involves high speed rail land use implications.

The initiative to honor distinguished MITArchA alumni was conceived and implemented by Pamela Tang (nee Chang Sing) ’83 ’85, a founding board member of MITArchA and its Vice-President of Programs. The initiative quickly received the support of the MITArchA board, the MIT Alumni Association, and the MIT School of Architecture and Planning.

In her welcome remarks at the ceremony, Tang underscored the importance of an architecture alumni network. “When I graduated from Course IV, I wish there was a network of MIT architecture alumni to guide my professional development. That is why I answered the call to help make MITArchA a reality. That is why I initiated the Alumni Achievement Award and volunteered to sponsor this event and kick-start MITArchA San Francisco,” she said.

The ceremony and reception at the Olympic Club in San Francisco sold out quickly as MIT alumni and the AIA San Francisco community gathered to celebrate this honor bestowed on a fellow alumnus, a Fellow of the AIA, and a dear friend of the community.

John Chisholm ’75 ‘76, MIT Corporation Trustee and immediate Past President of the MIT Alumni Association, presented the Joint Letter of the Award recognition from the Dean Sarkis and Professor Yoon. The original MITArchA Award designed and fabricated by MITArchA President Jacob Kain ’00.

Over a hundred alumni, friends and MIT students were given a rare glimpse into Heller’s photographic diary, a historically significant collection that captures an extraordinary life of travel, service and work. The photos, said Tang, affirmed Heller place as one of the “distinguished role models in our midst”.

The evening was livestreamed by the acoustical engineering firm of Charles Salter ’69 which beamed the event across the evening skies to Architecture students gathered in Building 7’s Long Lounge in Cambridge and Architecture alumni across the country and the world. Not bad for the MIT freshman who came to MIT to be a rocket scientist. As Heller fondly remembered, “We grew up in the time of ‘The Right Stuff.’”

Learn more about MITArchA.

1. (from left to right) John Sheehy MAR ’67 (classmate of Jeffrey Heller), Jeffrey Heller, John Chisholm, and Pamela Tang.
2. Jeffrey Heller shares his photo diary.
3. Pamela Tang welcomes alumni.
4. The event was livestreamed by the Charles Salter’s ’69 acoustical engineering firm, Charles Salter Associates.
5. John Chisholm, Jeffrey Heller with the MITArchA Award prism, and Pamela Tang.

Story originally published May 25, 2017 by MITArchA.