The Francis Gassner Award

The Francis Gassner Award was established in 1977 to commemorate an extraordinary architect, Francis P. Gassner, FAIA, who practiced in Memphis from 1950′s until his death in 1977. To continue his legacy of design excellence, of service to the profession, and of leadership to our community, AIA Memphis honors each year an architect or member of a related profession for outstanding contributions to the quality of the built environment in Memphis.

“Architecture is a reflection of the attitude of the community – a physical manifestation of what we think is the good life. It can be a vehicle to enhance man’s dignity. If it doesn’t do that, it is a failure.” - Francis P. Gassner, FAIA

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2017 Francis Gassner Award Recipient

AIA Memphis announces James F. Williamson, FAIA as the 2017 Francis Gassner Award recipient.

James F. Williamson, FAIA will be recognized for his outstanding contributions to the architectural fabric of the Memphis community at the AIA Memphis Celebration of Architecture Honors and Awards Gala on Saturday March 18, 2017 at the FedEx Event Center in Shelby Farms Park.

ABOUT THE FRANCIS GASSNER AWARD

The Francis Gassner Award was established in 1977 to commemorate an extraordinary architect,  Francis P. Gassner,  who practiced in Memphis from the Fifties until his death in 1977. To continue his legacy of design excellence, of service to the profession, and of leadership to our community, AIA Memphis honors each year an architect or member of a related profession for outstanding contributions to the quality of the built environment in Memphis. Candidates are proposed by members of AIA Memphis in any of the following categories: Architectural Practice,  Design,  Education,  Government,  Industry,  Historical Preservation,  Literature, Public Service, Research, Science of Construction, Service to the Profession, and Urban Design.

2017 FRANCIS GASSNER RECIPIENT

Following an award-winning career in architectural practice as a principal in his own design firm, James F. Williamson is currently a tenured full Professor of Architecture at the University of Memphis. A native of Memphis, TN, he graduated from Rhodes College. After service as a naval officer, he received two Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a student of Louis Kahn and received a fellowship for European travel.

In recognition of his design of both new and preservation projects, his teaching, and his many awards and publications, in 2005 Williamson was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. He was the recipient of the 2014 Edward S. Frey Award for career contributions to religious architecture and support of the allied arts, a national honor given by the AIA to an architect who has demonstrated "a passion for and dedication to quality worship and sacred spaces," for "fostering spiritual values," and for "promoting a cross-denominational community focused on religious arts and architecture."

For more than 40 years, Williamson’s career has combined practice, teaching, and community service. Working with former partners Louis Pounders, Reb Haizlip and Carl Awsumb, projects for which he was the principal designer received over 30 national, regional, state and local design awards. Projects include Ballet Memphis, restoration of the historic Orpheum Theatre, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, restoration of the Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception, and the law offices of Burch, Porter and Johnson. Williamson also designed churches in Rochester, NY; Fairbanks, AK; Paducah, KY; and Johnson City, TN. As an Associate of renowned architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, he collaborated on a plan for downtown Memphis, a laboratory at UCLA, and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.

In addition to the University of Memphis, Williamson has taught design at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, the University of Tennessee, and Rhodes College. His academic and professional work has been published internationally, including Kahn at Penn: Transformational Teacher of Architecture, currently being translated into Chinese. He is also the author of two novels, The Architect and The Ravine.

Williamson has conducted seminars at State and National Conventions of the American Institute of Architects and served on the national AIA Religious Art and Architecture Design Awards jury, as well as juries at a variety of schools of architecture. He was Chairman of both the AIA Tennessee and AIA Memphis Design Awards programs.

He has long been an advocate for the value of design and historic preservation through his writing, public lectures and on public television. He successfully nominated more than 10 Memphis landmarks to the National Register of Historic Places, including Overton Park, which the Memphis Commercial Appeal called “the final nail in the coffin” of efforts to extend Interstate 40 through the park.

Williamson’s record of community service is long. An Eagle Scout, he served as district advancement chairman for the Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts. A graduate of Leadership Memphis, he was the first president of Concerts International and has served on the vestry of Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the boards of Midtown Mental Health Center, Memphis Heritage Inc., and the Central Gardens Association.


Previous Gassner Award Recipients

2016 - Louis R. Pounders, FAIA
2015 - Heather B. Koury, Hon. AIA
2014 – Todd Walker, FAIA
2013 – Keith Kays, AIA
2012 - Shirley C. Raines
2011 - Michael Hagge & Sherry Bryan
2010 - Joseph P. Hagan, AIA
2009 - Martin Gorman Jr, AIA
2008 - Jim Lutz, AIA
2007 - Joseph “Pitt” Hyde, III
2006 – Henry Frank Ricks, Jr., FAIA
2003 – Robert Browne
2002 – Eugene E. Burr, AIA
2001 – Jack A. Belz
2000 – Robert J. Fleming, AIA
1999 – Kirk Bobo, FAIA
1998 – J. Granville Taylor, AIA
1997 – Mertie Buckman
1996 – Lee Askew, III, FAIA
1994 – Antonio Bologna, FAIA
1993 – Jack R. Tucker, Jr., FAIA
1992 – William Roberts Eissler
1991 – Gregory O. Hnedak, FAIA
1990 – William H. Gaskill, AIA
1988 – Dr. J. Richard Gruber
1987 – Morrie Moss
1986 – Henry M. Turley, Jr.
1985 – Francis Mah, AIA
1984 – Eleanor Hughes
1982 – Roy P. Harrover, FAIA
1981 – Thomas Nathan, FAIA
1980 – Edward (Ted) Rust
1979 – Clayton Dekle, FAIA
1978 – Zeno Yeates, FAIA
1977 – William P. Cox, FAIA