McRobbie honored for architecture support
Source: The Republic
A long-running leader in education has been recognized for his contributions to architecture.
Indiana University Chancellor and President Emeritus Michael McRobbie received a President’s Award from the American Institute of Architects’ Indiana chapter (AIA Indiana) at the organization’s 2022 convention. The event was held Friday, with IU’s J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program playing host at the former Republic building.
An AIA Indiana President’s Award marks “dedication to the profession and love of architecture.” In accepting the award, McRobbie said that while he has “no personal talent” for design or architecture, he recognizes the importance of both, particularly in educational settings.
“My appreciation of the vital, central importance of great architecture arises from fundamental principle I have come to recognize from having visited or spent time on the campuses of hundreds of universities, both ancient and modern, over six continents,” he said. “That principle is that the quality of the built environment — its exteriors and interiors and its integration with the natural environment — can have a profound effect on stimulating thought and learning."
McRobbie served as Indiana University’s 18th president for 14 years before retiring in 2021. His appreciation of architecture’s role in educational settings led him to focus on long-term planning. One of his first actions as president, he recalled, was to appoint David King of SmithGroup to develop master plans for IU Bloomington and IUPUI’s campuses. The plans were completed in 2010 and 2012 and have since been updated.
He also noted the importance of choosing skilled architects for campus projects who were committed to the same idea of stimulating education through the built environment.
“Without great architects who can create great architecture, the best master plans in the world are of little value,” said McRobbie. “This thing was the background thinking and principles that led to what Sarah (AIA Indiana President Sarah Schuler) so kindly called the most extensive period of construction, preservation, and adaptive reuse work in the history of the university. It involved, as she indicated, over 200 major projects — construction, renovation and maintenance — as well as thousands of smaller ones that would have a total of nearly $2.7 billion and comprising at least 16 million square feet.”
During McRobbie’s tenure, Indiana University and the Community Education Coalition formed an agreement to establish the IU Center for Art + Design in Columbus, which opened in 2011.
The university later created the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program in Columbus as a facet of the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. The three-year graduate program was established in 2018, with McRobbie and his wife, Laurie, providing $500,000 to endow a professorship in modern architecture.
“I’m just delighted to see that it has been so successful and that it has been able to make such superb use of this building,” he told the Republic. “I remember when we first bought it and were renovating it, we thought at the time that it was almost like it was purpose-built to house a program in architecture.”
“We love when there are are folks in the world who see and feel and promote the importance of architecture, especially on campuses and understand the impact that it has on the world in general,” said Schuler, following McRobbie’s speech.
Other highlights from the AIA Indiana convention included a presentation on “Seven Secrets of Affordable Energy-Positive Architecture” by Bill Brown, who is a Principal at Griffy Creek Studio and an adjunct instructor in the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program. Julie Snow and Karen Lu from Snow Kreilich Architects presented the keynote address on “Design Conversation.”
Attendees were also offered a walking tour, with student guides showcasing the adaptive re-use of the former Republic building.
According to Director T. Kelly Wilson, 34 individuals have graduated from the architecture program so far, and there are currently 25 students enrolled.