Robert Campbell, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Architecture Criticism, to receive Lifetime Achievement Award

| July 19, 2017

Boston – The Boston Preservation Alliance announced the 2017 recipient of the Codman Award for Lifetime Achievement, Robert Campbell, FAIA.

As architecture critic of The Boston Globe since 1973, Campbell has written criticism, opinion pieces, and features that deepen our appreciation of the built environment and continue to invigorate the preservation community today.

Both an architect and a writer, Campbell revisits the question of what makes Boston Boston. Great neighborhoods, he once wrote, are “the ones where we love to stroll.” Less concerned than some with architectural trends and styles, Campbell has insisted that human scale and diversity are the components that matter most to the architectural character of a city.

“As you approach a building, you should be able to notice more and more detail as you get closer,” he once mused, drawing the reader in, just as he would wish a city to do. “The architecture in this sense is ever changing, ever adapting to your presence.” Captivated by details (he once concluded “the best-loved neighborhoods are the ones with the most doorknobs”), to this day his criticism impacts our impressions of the historic fabric of our city.

In 1996 Campbell won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, an annual award that may go to a critic in any field.   In “Small Wonders,” one of the pieces for which he won the award, Campbell describes Boston’s Old State House as being akin to “a tiny jewel or exquisite ivory carving.” This new charm, he would add, was only “new” precisely because it stayed, gaining its distinctness over time.

Campbell is perhaps best known for his Boston Globe “Cityscape” articles. He and photographer (and Boston Preservation Alliance Board member) Peter Vanderwarker ran this series of “then and now” images from 1983-2004, highlighting hundreds of examples of transformation and evolution in the city. Their collaboration led to a book, Cityscapes of Boston: An American City Through Time, of which the Chicago Tribune wrote that it “belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the fate of the American city.”

He earned a BA in English literature at Harvard, a master’s in journalism at Columbia, and a master’s in architecture from Harvard.  A practicing architect, he served as a consultant on a number of Boston projects, including the 2012 expansion of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  He has been an Artist in Residence at the American Academy in Rome and received a Design Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Medal for Criticism from the American Institute of Architects, and the Award of Honor of the Boston Society of Architects.

Campbell will be presented with this honor at the Boston Preservation Alliance Annual Preservation Achievement Awards, to be held at Fenway Park the evening of September 19. Ten preservation-sensitive projects throughout the city will also be recognized that night, an event for which Mayor Walsh is Honorary Chairman. The Boston Red Sox will receive the Alliance’s President’s Award, recognizing their major contribution to the vibrancy of the city, and perhaps the ultimate demonstration that preservation of an important historic icon like Fenway Park can be catalytic for an entire neighborhood, if not the entire city. Ticket and sponsorship opportunities are still available for this important Alliance fundraising event.

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