December 21, 2007
  Thomas L. McKittrick, FAIA, Receives Kemper Award

by Tracy Ostroff
Associate Editor

Summary: The AIA Board of Directors on December 13 elected Thomas L. McKittrick, FAIA, practitioner, educator, and leader in emerging professional concerns, as the 2007 recipient of the Edward C. Kemper Award. Named in honor of the AIA’s first executive director, the award recognizes individuals who contribute significantly to the profession of architecture through service to the Institute. In nominating McKittrick for the award, AIA Texas Regional Director Ken L. Ross Jr., FAIA, writes, “Tom was on the leading edge of many emerging industry trends as well as being among the AIA’s leadership dealing with many of the Institute’s emerging issues such as continuing education, globalization, ethics, linking education and practice, improving architectural education, and reinforcing the profession’s design leadership.”

McKittrick is professor emeritus at Texas A&M University. In 1957, he earned his BS in architecture from Rice University. After serving in the Navy and an apprenticeship, he co-founded McKittrick Richardson Wallace Architects in 1963. The firm became well-known for its design of academic and institutional buildings.

In his more than 40 years dedicated to the AIA, McKittrick has served as president of the Houston Chapter of the AIA, president of the Texas Society of Architects, and Board member and vice president of the AIA national component.

Ahead of the curve
“He advocated for and incorporated sustainability and active community planning involvement long before they became de rigueur for the profession, not only encouraging his students to pursue these goals passionately, but setting a personal example first and then ensuring that changes to architectural curricula were included as a result of the 2003 NAAB Validation Conference,” writes TSA Executive Vice President David Lancaster, Hon. AIA, in support of McKittrick’s nomination.

As TSA president in 1984, McKittrick initiated the program, “Let’s Grow … Better!” that linked communities in each of the seventeen AIA Chapters in Texas with a school of architecture to develop ideas about growth issues. The program morphed into a student design charrette concerning an urban issue in TSA’s annual-meeting host city.

In 1990, Texas A&M University’s architecture department asked McKittrick to become its first Mid-Career Fellow. Leaving practice after 28 years, he completed a master’s degree in 1991 at age 57 while teaching, received a tenured faculty appointment, and became coordinator of the master of architecture degree program at A&M. This semester he is co-teaching a fifth-year comprehensive design as a visiting professor at the University of Houston to bring school design and NAAB experience into the studio there.

“Wherever he serves, he leaves permanent gifts that long survive his tenure in office. In addition to his work to make professional education more relevant, he has advanced energy conservation through critically acclaimed and recognized design, especially in the area of public schools, as well as his service as an AIA and TSA committee chair of energy committees, being recognized by the Texas Governor’s Energy office and Houston Lighting & Power,” Lancaster notes. He later taught energy seminars in 10 Texas cities as a member of a team chosen by the governor’s energy office. His early school designs are seen as forerunners of sustainability, with heavy timber roof structures, natural ventilation, and bilateral daylighting.

Defining architectural education and practice
McKittick’s leadership has often focused on emerging concerns in the profession. A recent example is a broader definition of the practice of architecture, adopted by the Texas Legislature in 1995, that he co-authored with former AIA President Jack McGinty, FAIA.

The 2008 Kemper recipient has also:

  • Served on the International Union of Architects (UIA) Working Group on Educational and Cultural Spaces (WGECS), which heightened his awareness that other nations look to the AIA for leadership and professional knowledge
  • Worked on the Continuing Education Task Force providing recommendations and definitions that are still in place today, including the definitions for health, safety, and welfare, which he wrote
  • Participated in the 1982 “Direction 80s Goals Conference,” which proposed that one day members could receive AIA continuing education courses on computer disks or videotapes
  • Served on National Association of Accrediting Boards (NAAB) in 2002, leading the development of an AIA member survey regarding changes needed in architecture education, and ultimately proposed changes to the Student Performance Criteria that were adopted by NAAB. He also has represented the AIA for NAAB on teams visiting schools at every level and in a variety of circumstances. He also served as the team chair for a visit to Istanbul Technical University, NAAB’s first international visit.

Community leader
Ross calls McKittrick “an unwavering example to young people.” Speaking in support of the nomination, AIA Vice President Miguel Rodriguez, AIA, noted “how far ahead of the curve this gentleman is.”

McKittrick practices what he preaches in his community. He has served as alderman and mayor of his village, as a deacon and elder in his church, as president of his Rotary Club, and president of the association of Rice University Alumni. He recently led the Rice Class of ’56 in raising $1.58 million for student scholarships. He became a Fellow of the Institute in 1979. In 1992, he received the Llewellyn W. Pitts Award, the highest honor of the Texas Society of Architects.

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The AIA membership will celebrate McKittrick’s leadership and dedication with him during the 2008 AIA National Convention in Boston in May.