Marlon Blackwell-Designed Marygrove Education Center Wins 2023 AIA Architecture Award

 The American Institute of Architects has awarded a 2023 Architecture Award to an education center designed by Marlon Blackwell's professional design practice. Marlon Blackwell Architects' Detroit-based Marygrove Early Education Center received one of 16 Honor Awards for Architecture this year.

The AIA Architecture Awards program honors contemporary architecture of all types, sizes, styles, and budgets. The winning projects this year highlight the many ways that buildings and spaces can improve people's lives and demonstrate the variety of work that architects produce. 

In terms of architecture, urban design, and interior architecture, the AIA Honor Awards program is the most prestigious design award program in the country. The 2023 AIA Conference on Architecture and Expo in San Francisco will honor the award-winning projects and other recipients in June.

Blackwell, FAIA, holds the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture and the Distinguished Professorship of Architecture in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Alabama, where he has been teaching since 1992. He will win the AIA Gold Medal in 2020. Fayetteville is home to Marlon Blackwell Architects, his business.

This is Blackwell's second project to win an AIA Honor Award this year. A 2023 AIA Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design was also given to the master plan for Thaden School, a project in Arkansas that was planned and designed by EskewDumezRipple, Marlon Blackwell Architects, and Andropogon Associates.

According to Blackwell's statement, "We are delighted that the Marygrove EEC has been recognized with this most significant design award." As an exceptional facility and provider model for Detroit and the nation, the design and owners' goals for foundational early childhood learning are truly aligned."

The Marygrove Early Education Center is a cutting-edge early childhood education facility in the Livernois-McNichols neighborhood of northwest Detroit. It is on the former Marygrove College campus. It is the first new building on the campus in decades, and it was built specifically to house early childhood programs for the neighborhood, which has struggled with a variety of economic and educational issues as a result of Detroit's decline.

The center serves 150 children as young as five from nearby neighborhoods, demonstrating the community's diversity. The center continues Marygrove College's legacy as an educational beacon and contributes to its ongoing efforts to revitalize the neighborhood.

On the Marygrove College campus, the center is just east of the four-story Tudor Gothic Liberal Arts building, which was built in 1927. Terra cotta covers this brand-new center, which measures 28,871 square feet and has a low but distinct profile. It is both resonant and deferential. The center's facade is a progressive application of a traditional building material in the 21st century, referencing the weight and detail of materials used in neighboring structures and Detroit's historical masonry buildings. A second layer of articulation that reflects the vibrancy of the children inside and the diversity of the community around it is provided by the highlights of color scattered throughout the facade.

Three courtyards highlight the path that leads from the entrance to the classrooms and provide abundant natural light inside. A parent lounge, a community room, and a flex space are resources for families and the neighborhood's caregiver community near the building entrance. An informal gathering space for the community that can be used for school events, meetings, and performances is located in the building's center, next to the central courtyard. The south-facing rooms open directly onto a grove of trees that is now a large natural play area, and each classroom has a view of the landscape.

The Marygrove center serves families and provides a safe, nurturing, and inspiring environment for children to grow socially, physically, and intellectually through careful design and planning. It also gives kids a place to experience the rhythm of the days and seasons, which helps them develop their imaginations and gives them the tools they need to learn through play and creativity. It gives the children, families, and members of the community that the center serves dignity, grace, and joy.

The best practices in early childhood education and behavioral health were used as inspiration for the center's design, as were neighbors, parents, and children in the community.

The Marygrove focus is a basic piece of the P-20 instructive methodology that is changing the grounds of the previous Marygrove School and the instructive scene in Detroit. The P-20 model is based on social justice, equal opportunity, and a commitment to the community. It gives students and families access to high-quality education and all-encompassing support services so that they can decide their own and their neighborhood's futures.

There have been a total of 17 national AIA awards given to Blackwell's company. This is the company's ninth AIA Honor Award in the Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Regional and Urban Design categories.

Chair Ashley Wilson, FAIA, of Ashley Wilson Architect, based in Alexandria, Virginia, served on the 2023 Architecture Awards jury; Assoc. Jose Leo Arango AIA, from EYP in Washington, D.C.; From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Architecture in Champaign, Randall Deutsch, FAIA; DesignBridge in Chicago's Gabriel Ignacio Dziekiewicz, AIA; Teresa Jan, an AIA from San Francisco's Multistudio; Luis Nieves-Ruiz, of the Regional Planning Council of East Central Florida in Orlando; and Zakiya Wiggins, an AIA from LS3P in North Carolina's Raleigh.

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