Doug Kelbaugh Honored with the Topaz Medallion, Highest Award in Architectural Education

Doug Kelbaugh Honored with the Topaz Medallion, Highest Award in Architectural Education

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) recently announced that Taubman College professor and Dean Emeritus Douglas S. Kelbaugh, FAIA, is the 2016 recipient of the Topaz Medallion. It is the highest award given to a North American architecture educator for excellence in architectural education. This is the 42nd year of the award, and the first time a University of Michigan faculty member has been awarded the honor.

The AIA/ACSA recognized Kelbaugh as “the quintessential teaching architect who, over the course of four decades, has achieved estimable success in teaching, practice and writing, which he has ably woven together to shape a generation’s thinking about the environmental aspects of architecture.” He has bridged architecture, urban design and sustainability in practice, academic dialogue and the classroom “as much as any academician in his generation.”

Kelbaugh’s pedagogic impact has been apparent as much through the three dozen design charrettes and conferences that he organized, and his countless publications, guest lectures, and writings as through his teaching and mentoring. He has delivered lectures at over 60 architecture schools in the U.S. and abroad, and been a visiting professor at four U.S. universities, as well as in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tokyo, Sydney, and Lund, Sweden.

Kelbaugh completed his undergraduate (Magna Cum Laude) and Master of Architecture degree at Princeton University. Between his undergraduate and graduate degrees, he was a VISTA volunteer for two years where he co-founded a community design center in an inner city neighborhood in Trenton, N.J. He founded his first architecture firm in 1977, which won 15 design awards and competitions. In 1985, he became the architecture department chair at the University of Washington, and invigorated that program, while his firm Kelbaugh, Calthorpe Assoc. won more design awards and competitions.

Kelbaugh came to the University of Michigan in 1998 as the dean and professor of architecture and urban planning. Shortly thereafter, the college received the transformative gift of $30 million from A. Alfred Taubman, the largest gift to a school of architecture and planning, and the school was renamed Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. This gift allowed the college to dramatically increase its faculty-to-student ratio, student financial aid, new initiatives and facility upgrades.

Sustainable design and planning, transit-oriented development and social justice have been foundational throughout Kelbaugh’s academic career. His practice and research in passive solar buildings was broadly influential. His Trombe wall house in Princeton, N.J., featured in some 100 books, periodicals and exhibitions, is among the most famous exemplars of the era. The house used a large, south-facing glass and concrete wall to collect, store and radiate heat to the interior.

In addition to authoring and editing a half dozen books and over a dozen book chapters, he is an engaged faculty member, teaching graduate architecture, urban design, and sustainability courses at UM. His course “Architecture, Sustainability and the City” is one of the most popular and the largest elective course offered by the college.

Dean Monica Ponce de Leon, faculty, staff and students stand alongside the AIA/ACSA in congratulating Professor Kelbaugh on his lifetime achievements and accomplishments on behalf of architectural education. 

Professor Kelbaugh will deliver a lecture in recognition of receiving the Topaz Medallion on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 6pm in the Art & Architecture Building Auditorium, with a reception immediately following in the college gallery.

Kelbaugh shares the honor with two U-M architecture alumni:

For a complete list of Topaz Medallion recipients, visit

To read more:

AIA/ACSA December 3, 2015 news announcement:

Architect Magazine:

AIA Free Credit Opportunity: “Topaz Medallion Symposium: Architecture Education and the Profession” Lecture by Doug Kelbaugh