Architecture Profesor Awarded Prestigious Rome Prize


Architecture Professor Michael McClure has added a prestigious new award to his vitae. The UL Lafayette associate professor and his wife Ursula – also an architect – have been chosen as 2008 Rome Prize recipients by the American Academy in Rome.

The announcement was made last week in New York. The two will take up residence at the American Academy in Rome with other award recipients later this year. The Rome Prize is highly regarded in arts and humanities circles and is given each year to 30 emerging artists.

The announcement was a bit of a surprise for McClure, who in addition to teaching in the School of Architecture and Design at UL Lafayette, owns emerymcclure architecture with his wife. He said it usually takes a few years of applying before being chosen as a recipient.

This is his first year applying. “This is indeed a very distinguished honor. It would be a milestone in any architect, artist, or academics career. The list of architects that have won this award is very short and very distinguished,” he said.

The pair plan to continue working on their terra viscus – “soft soil” – project.

“ For the past eight years, we have been researching, writing and building in the unique environment of Southern Louisiana or as we have defined it, the terra viscus,” McClure explained in his application. He notes that it’s a condition that is never completely solid or liquid and is always in a continuous state of being made and removed, much like Louisiana’s marshes.

“ It’s a way of bringing together traditional and modern ways of thinking,” said McClure. “For instance, Louisiana’s levee system…Right now, we see the levees as functional but why can’t we see these old ideas for more modern uses. If the levees can hold back the Atchafalaya River, why can’t we put a park there or homes?”

He and his wife will be studying among other things in Rome – the aqueducts, which were originally used to fill baths then used for drinking water. McClure said the aqueducts bring art and science together – “a combination of beauty and infrastructure.”

“ We believe to expand our ‘new procedures of thinking and making’ in our primary site of the gulf coastal region, an analysis of Rome through water would prove invaluable,” McClure said.

The Rome Prize is not the first award the couple receives based on terra viscus. The project was one of 12 selected for Venice Biennale 2006. The event was part of the University of Texas at Austin’s Exhibit “Resilient Foundations: The Gulf Coast After Katrina.” Most recently, McClure won a Southern Home Award sponsored by Southern Living Magazine.

“ Michael McClure’s contributions to architecture has international significance,” said Gordon Brooks, dean of UL Lafayette’s College of the Arts. “His inclusion in the 2006 Venice Biennale is truly remarkable and the Rome Prize is one of the most coveted awards in the world, maybe for the arts it is the most sought after.”

The McClures will leave for Rome in September.