Question: Can you name a leading American architectural design firm where every partner is a Rome Prize Fellow?
Answer: Perhaps uniquely, Philadelphia’s award-winning KieranTimberlake.
Founded in 1984 by Stephen Kieran (FAAR’81), FAIA, and James Timberlake (FAAR’83), FAIA, the firm is now comprised of more than fifty design professionals. One of its hallmarks is an unusually deep commitment to research into new materials, processes, assemblies, and products.
Over the past quarter century KieranTimberlake has been conducting studies and planning or restoring buildings and interiors for a wide range of clients, with pathbreaking work for cultural and educational institutions, industries and corporations, and private residences—all with a focus on sustainable design.
The American Academy in Rome community got an up-close look at KieranTimberlake and its many ambitious projects on 9 January 2009, when the firm hosted a Philadelphia regional event for the Society of Fellows. The reception coincided with the annual meetings of the American Philological Association and American Institute of Archaeology.
There the family of T.R.S. Broughton (1900-1993, RAAR’60) was honored by a presentation of the newly published Autobiography of this noted Roman historian and former Academy Professor-in-Charge. Then SOF president T. Corey Brennan, AAR Mellon Professor Thomas A.J. McGinn, and Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake all spoke on the centrality of permessi to the Academy experience (on which see much more below).
One recent KieranTimberlake project that received particular critical acclaim was its Cellophane House. The Museum of Modern Art commissioned this five-story, offsite fabricated dwelling for its exhibition Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, that ran in NYC from 20 July to 20 October 2008. You can see a video featuring Cellophane House here.
Now that their firm has reached the quarter-century mark, there’s a lot to celebrate about Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake. They were inaugural recipients of the prestigious Benjamin Latrobe Fellowship for architectural design research from the AIA College of Fellows in 2001—and then went on to co-author three architecture books in the subsequent seven years. And just last year (2008) KieranTimberlake received the highest honor bestowed on a firm by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture Firm Award.
For the Academy community, well worth celebrating is the fact that they recently have made a major challenge gift to the Academy to help endow the staff position of Permissions Assistant.
A word of explanation.
Access to Rome is a central promise of the Rome Prize experience and membership in the Academy community. But many important sites for study, in Rome and further afield in Italy, are private. These include certain libraries, collections, residences, gardens, and (especially) archaeological sites. They are opened to artists and scholars, as individuals or in groups, by permission only, a privilege obtained through position—and familiarity with the often complicated processes.
That is why many Academy alumni/ae and visitors, as well as participants in AAR summer programs, consider the Permissions Assistant to be the key to the Academy experience—and why endowing this staff position for all time (which will cost a total of $850,000) is such an important part of the current comprehensive capital campaign for the Academy.
The entire Academy community is most grateful to Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake for taking the lead in this effort. And one hopes that many will join them with gifts of whatever size is possible, including pledges over a couple of years. Thanks also to a NEH Challenge Grant, the AAR is just $250,000 shy of reaching its goal. The importance in this final stretch of endowing the Permissions Assistant position is not only the money given but also the demonstration of commitment to the Academy, and to those programs that have particular meaning to those who benefit from them the most.