Spirn, Oxman win Cooper Hewitt design awards

School of Architecture and Planning professors receive national recognition for excellence, innovation, and impact through design.

Two School of Architecture and Planning professors are among 10 honorees for the 2018 National Design Awards from Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum. The awards recognize excellence, innovation, and public impact in design across multiple categories.

Professor Anne Whiston Spirn of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning received the Design Mind award. Neri Oxman, associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, was recognized with the Interaction Design award.

“We are thrilled to have two faculty members represented in the 2018 National Design Awards,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “That the recognition is for two innovators in different departments and at different stages of their careers is a testament to the overall depth of our faculty’s expertise and to the breadth of their influence and innovation in the field of design.”

Spirn’s Design Mind award recognizes innovation and visionary individuals who have had a profound impact on design theory, practice, and public awareness. The Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, Spirn is an author, landscape architect, and photographer. Her first book, “The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design” (Basic Books, 1984) is listed as one of the 100 most influential and important books in the 20th century by the American Planning Association and credited with launching the ecological urbanism movement.

“We could not be more proud of Anne and the National Design Award’s recognition of her level of influence in integrating urban and natural environments, not only for designers and planners, but for the general public,” said Eran Ben-Joseph, head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. “Anne’s work has been transformative for how we all see, act, and value our surroundings, which is a profound contribution to design theory and practice.”

Oxman’s expertise in the design of interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services was recognized with the Interaction Design award. The Sony Corporation Career Development Professor, Oxman is the founder of the Mediated Matter research group, which combines design rooted in the natural world with science and technological innovation. The integration of computationally derived form and biological inspired fabrication is known as the field of material ecology — a term and field pioneered by Oxman.

“All 10 of this year’s winners present a powerful design perspective and body of work that is at once inclusive and deeply personal, accompanied by great achievement, humanity and social impact,” Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann said in a prepared statement.

The other award winners included: Gail Anderson for Lifetime Achievement, Design for America for Corporate and Institutional Achievement, WEISS/MANFREDI for Architecture Design, Civilization for Communication Design, Christina Kim for Fashion Design, Oppenheim Architecture + Design for Interior Design, Mikyoung Kim Design for Landscape Architecture, and Blu Dot for Product Design.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is one of 19 museums that comprise the Smithsonian Institution and the only museum in the United States dedicated to historical and contemporary design. Founded in 1896, Cooper Hewitt began the National Design Award in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council. The annual awards celebrate design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world and seek to increase national awareness of the impact of design.

A gala to celebrate the winners will be held at the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at Cooper Hewitt in New York City on Oct. 18.

Story originally published May 30, 2018 by MIT School of Architecture and Planning for MIT News.