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Professor Robert Dunay receives AIA’s highest award for impact on Virginia architecture

Professor Robert Dunay of Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies will receive the architecture profession’s highest award from American Institute of Architects (AIA) Virginia on Friday, Nov. 4, in Richmond.

Dunay, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Design Research, will be honored with the William C. Noland Medal in a gala event at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The annual awards ceremony honors Virginians for their life commitment to creating, preserving, and enhancing Virginia’s communities. The William C. Noland Medal is the organization’s most prestigious award, presented to one member architect who has made a profound and lasting impact on the profession.

In a career connecting academia and architectural practice, Dunay has influenced thousands of architects, created projects that captured international acclaim, and helped establish Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design as one of the nation’s top-ranked. Active in both domains, he is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the only professor to be recognized four times with the Most Admired Educator Award from DesignIntelligence, the definitive ranking of U.S. architectural schools and educators.

“As an architect who has spent most of my life in academia, it’s a great honor to receive this recognition from the profession,” Dunay said. “At Virginia Tech, we link the university, industry, and practice through integrative teaching, research, and outreach, encouraging our students to apply their own internal strengths and vision to national and international issues and questions impacting design. This award validates that our graduates are making a difference in architecture.”

A graduate of Virginia Tech’s Master of Architecture (’79) and Bachelor of Architecture (’71) programs, Dunay worked as a licensed architect in Colorado before joining academia. Ever since, he has taught students at every level and developed innovative cross-disciplinary projects connecting the university with international architectural practice.

The first director of Industrial Design at Virginia Tech, Dunay now heads the Center for Design Research, where he pilots projects that partner students, faculty, business, and industry leaders in cutting-edge research merging design, technology, sustainability, and societal needs. Dunay has co-led students in three Solar Decathlon Competitions sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. LumenHAUS, Virginia Tech’s most recent entry, won the 2010 competition in Spain, and was recognized with an AIA Honor Award and cited as one of the nation’s best works of architecture in 2012.

Dunay also has teamed with colleagues and students to exhibit work worldwide. Students have showcased work at six International Contemporary Furniture Fairs in New York, brought exhibitions to Germany’s Cologne Furniture Fair and the Salon de Mobile at the Milan Furniture Fair, mounted LumenHAUS in Times Square and Millennium Park in Chicago, and helped design and build a home in four days for “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” Currently, the Center for Design Research is working with Prince William County on a sponsored project to transform their landfill into a sustainability model. The proposed PWC Eco Park Learning Center will serve as an extension of the public school system and a resource for the general public.

Dunay lectures and exhibits internationally and has testified before Congress regarding national energy policy. Along with his wife, G. T. Ward Professor of Architecture Donna Dunay, he co-founded Inside Architecture + Design, an immersive summer camp exposing high school students to the world of design thinking and innovation. More than 1,000 students have benefited from the program, many pursing education and careers in architecture and related disciplines.

“He is the consummate architect/educator, advancing Virginia architecture through celebrating student achievements while simultaneously contributing to the professional knowledge base of architecture and design,” said Jack Davis, Reynolds Metals Professor and Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Dunay’s accomplishments have earned him the right to teach new students in first year design studio at 8 am. three days a week. When the design studio concludes at noon, it has been a morning of invigorated design thinking in action.

“Activating the intellectual infrastructure of the student in that first year is crucial,” he said. “It’s a critical time and a unique moment when curiosity can be awakened and discipline invited into the formation of a value system. Guiding students to realize their inner world and individual abilities allows them to situate their interests in relation to a greater world view, furthering the field of architecture.”

That student-centered focus has earned Dunay a lifelong fan base of Virginia Tech architecture alums.

“The rigor and ethic in which he has approached his craft has influenced me in some way almost every day of my career,” said Kevin Sullivan (B.Arch. ’87) president of Payette, a leading architectural firm in Boston. “His voice has been ever-present and is part of my conscience as an architect.”

“I can honestly and proudly say Bob Dunay changed my life,” said Allan Kehrt (M.Arch. ‘79), co-founder of KSS Architects. “His studios are places of work and places of pain and places of joy, but they are always interesting, focused and intense and educational. His teaching, mentoring, lecturing, consulting, advising, criticizing, and a hundred other activities have had a profound effect on thousands of architects who were lucky enough to have encountered him in a professional context. Bob is indirectly responsible for more good Virginia architecture than probably anyone.”