Mary Patton Cox, FAIA, has been selected to receive the Society’s highest honor bestowed upon an architect: the William C. Noland Medal. The award recognizes a lifetime of achievement for an individual architect, and 2011 marks the first time a woman is being recognized with the award. Cox will be celebrated during Architecture Exchange East at the Annual Meeting of the Membership on Thursday, Nov. 3, and the Medal will be presented at the Visions for Architecture gala on Friday, Nov. 4, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Cox’s 30-year career in architecture has been marked by notable accomplishments. “Mary Cox’s contribution to architectural practice has transcended the best the profession has to offer,” says one collaborator. “She has effectively extended the reach of thoughtful and responsive architecture to a very large community, both in terms of the substantial number and wide range of projects for which she has been responsible, and for her passionate and effective advocacy of architecture to a very large audience, including those who sponsor and use important public places.”
As University Architect, for the past 15 years Cox has led physical growth at Virginia Commonwealth University, overseeing more than 150 projects valued over $1 billion. A section of the city once described as “derelict and forlorn” has become a vibrant and cohesive urban campus with a distinctive sense of place. “VCU’s two campuses have been transformed under Mary’s sensitive and capable guidance,” said Grace E. Harris, Ph.D. “The University’s constellation of eclectic buildings has been knitted together to form true college campuses,” she continued. Through her leadership, VCU has embraced the historic architectural character of its urban campus as well. “Words are inadequate to articulate all that Mary has done regarding preservation in an urban environment,” says Mary Jane Hogue, Executive Director of the Historic Richmond Foundation. “Mary has strengthened our community,” she continued.
Cox has also worked diligently to support her colleagues in architecture. As the current Director of the Region of the Virginias on the National AIA Board, she serves on the AIA National Advocacy Outreach Committee and is identifying opportunities for architects to partner with mayors through the Mayors’ Institute for City Design. She collaborated on a position paper outlining challenges and opportunities for architects to partner with their mayors as a way to advance excellence in city design and to carve out a role for architects in the policy-making arena. In addition to serving on the Government and Industry Affairs and Honors Committees, she has also served as the Society’s Intern Development Coordinator, Vice President for Government and Industry Affairs, Vice President for Advocacy, and President. In her role as a University Architect, she founded and chaired the Professional Practices Task Force for the Association of University Architects, which was later made a standing committee to provide information on best practices.
In the public arena, she has advocated for architects to ease the burden of state regulations and to advance the quality of the architectural practice environment in Virginia. On multiple occasions, she successfully worked to defend the Virginia Public Procurement Act preserving qualifications-based selection. She improved the state’s review processes by meeting face to face with state agency representatives, and continues to work with the Division of Engineering and Building to make reviews more efficient and effective. “Her insights … allowed for the crafting of an approach that should not only smooth the process but also decrease costs,” said Director of the Department of General Services Rich Sliwoski, P.E., Hon. VSAIA.
For her sustained leadership, commitment to good design, and unwavering support of the profession, the Society awards Mary Patton Cox, FAIA, with the William C. Noland Medal.