Adjunct Professor awarded Australian architecture’s highest honour

Adjunct Professor awarded Australian architecture’s highest honour

RMIT Architecture alumna, Adjunct Professor and design studio leader, Kerstin Thompson AM, has been awarded the 2023 Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal.

The award is the AIA’s highest honour, recognising distinguished service by architects who have designed or executed buildings of high merit, and produced work of great distinction that has advanced architecture or endowed the profession in a distinguished manner.

Dean of the School of Architecture & Urban Design, Professor Vivian Mitsogianni, congratulated Thompson and said she had played a significant role in building the local architecture culture in Melbourne and inspiring future practitioners.

Kerstin Thomson smiling and standing in front of a light filled window Kerstin Thompson AM won the 2023 AIA Gold Medal. Photograph: Jessica Lindsay

“Kerstin has a large following among the current generation of architecture students, as the concerns of her practice resonate strongly – including the importance of local conditions, landscape and community and the way that they are deployed and realised through architectural design projects,” she said.

In addition to the directorship of her thriving practice, Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA), Thompson has maintained a close association with the University’s School of Architecture & Urban Design as an alumna, a practitioner-academic and Adjunct Professor.

In accepting the award, Thompson said her training at RMIT has had a big impact on her career and her approach to running KTA.

“As a critical practitioner, much of that stems from my education at RMIT and then in turn teaching as well,” she said.

“The challenge we always had was to have a position – to take a position on things.

“That was a very early and important foundation to the practice, then bringing that thinking and clarity to the making of buildings every day, and in turn to the making of it as a business and a workplace.”

Thompson said she sees the AIA Gold Medal as both an acknowledgement of past achievements and a future challenge to stay true to the purpose of her practice: to design buildings that meaningfully connect people with place, to foster a stimulating and supportive workplace culture and to contribute to the education of and advocacy for architecture.

“It would be a mistake to consider this a point of completion, rather the gold medal is a reminder, a prompt to not rest,” she said.

“It is encouragement to keep up the good fight – the valuing of architecture –especially in light of our industry’s pressures.”

As winner of the Gold Medal, Thompson will embark on a national tour from August to September this year, delivering an address about her work, experiences and architecture.

Since 2016, five of the annual AIA Gold Medal awards have gone to RMIT staff or alumni of the design-practice research masters program which is now a PhD offering.

These recipients include Thompson (2023), Sean Godsell (2022), John Wardle (2020), Peter Elliot (2017) and joint winners Howard Raggatt and Ian McDougall (2016).

RMIT takes out Student Prize

At the same ceremony, current RMIT Architecture student Blake Hillebrand was awarded the 2023 Student Prize for the Advancement of Architecture.

The prize is for the most outstanding contribution by an individual member of the Student Organized Network for Architecture (SONA) towards the advancement of architecture in the areas of leadership, publication, community engagement or education. 

Hillebrand was recognised for his breadth of initiatives that have enabled social engagement and connection for architecture students across Victoria in the wake of the pandemic. 

Blake Hillebrand standing in front of a body of water with trees in the distance RMIT Student Blake Hillebrand won the 2023 Student Prize for the Advancement of Architecture at the AIA National Awards Ceremony.

In accepting the award, Hillebrand acknowledged the time and generosity of peers and mentors who have contributed to his events and highlighted the importance of building a social and sustainable community.

“The need for constant discourse among our students, academics and professionals is essential in propelling our industry forward, bit by bit, towards a profession that is connected and informed,” he said.

Mitsogianni commended Hillebrand for his active role in fostering a connected student experience at RMIT and throughout Victoria.

“Blake is a dedicated student who demonstrates a deep understanding of the importance that culture and discourse play in the development of ideas in architecture,” she said.

“We are immensely proud the AIA has recognised Blake’s work to build the culture of architecture for students and the profession, including through his work with SONA as well as RASCol – the RMIT Architecture Student Collective.”

Learn more about RMIT’s School of Architecture & Urban Design.

Story: Rosie Shepherdson-Cullen 


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.