Emilio Ambasz

Architect; Product/Industrial Designer / United States / Emilio Ambasz & Associates, Inc.

Emilio Ambasz, born in 1943 in Argentina, studied at Princeton University. He completed the undergraduate program in one year and earned a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the same institution the next year.

He taught at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, was a visiting professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany, and has lectured at many important American universities. He served as Curator of Design at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (1970–76), where he directed and installed numerous influential exhibitions on architecture and industrial design. Ambasz was a two-term president of the Architectural League (1981–85).

Ambasz’s large number of prestigious projects includes the Mycal Cultural Center at Shin-Sanda, Japan; the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City; and the innovative design of the Lucille Halsell Conservatory at the San Antonio Botanical Center, Texas.

Among his award-winning projects are the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan, winner of the 1976 Progressive Architecture Award, and A House for a Couple, winner of the 1980 Progressive Architecture Award. He was awarded the 1985 Progressive Architecture Award, the 1988 National Glass Association Award for Excellence in Commercial Design, and the highly esteemed 1990 Quaternario Award for high technological achievement in his design of the Lucille Halsell Conservatory at the San Antonio Botanical Center. His interior design for the Banque Bruxelles Lambert in Lausanne, Switzerland, received the 1983 Annual Interiors Award, as well as a Special Commendation from the jury. He won first prize and a gold medal in the closed competition to design the master plan for the Universal Exhibition of 1992 in Seville, Spain, celebrating the 500th anniversary of America’s discovery. This project was also granted the 1986 Architectural Projects Award from the American Institute of Architects. The headquarters he designed for the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company of New York won the grand prize at the 1987 International Interior Design Awards in the United Kingdom, as well as the 1986 IDEA Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). Ambasz won first prize in the 1986 closed competition for the Urban Plan of the Eschenheimer Tower in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1987, Progressive Architecture magazine and the American Institute of Architects both cited awards for the 1986 Mercedes-Benz Showroom design.

Ambasz represented the United States at the 1976 Venice Biennale. He has been the subject of numerous international publications as well as museum and art gallery exhibitions. Principal exhibitions include those at the Leo Castelli Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago. An exhibition entitled “Emilio Ambasz: 10 Years of Architecture, Graphic and Industrial Design” was held in Milan in the fall of 1983 and traveled to Madrid and Zurich in 1984. Axis Design and Architecture Gallery of Tokyo dedicated a special exhibition to his work in April 1985. In 1986, the Institute of Contemporary Art of Geneva, Switzerland, at Halle Sud and in 1987, the Arc-en-Ciel Gallery at the Center of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux, France, presented one-man shows of his work.

In 1989, a retrospective of Ambasz’s building designs, “Emilio Ambasz: Architecture,” was held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a second traveling exhibition, Emilio Ambasz: Architecture, Exhibition, Industrial and Graphic Design” was held in June of 1989 at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art in California. From there it traveled to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Montreal, the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois, and the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis. Another retrospective of Ambasz’s complete works was held in 1993 at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Tokyo Station in Japan. In 1994, the Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City held an exhibition of his work, as did other locations in South America and Europe.

Major international publications, including Domus, ON Diseno, Space and Design, Architectural Record, Architecture + Urbanism and The Korean Architect, have dedicated special issues to his design work. In 1989, Rizzoli produced a monograph of Ambasz’s work to coincide with his exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1993, Rizzoli published a second monograph chronicling Ambasz’s complete works. In 1999, Electa published Architettura Naturale, Emilio Ambasz, Progetti E Oggetti, its third monograph surveying Ambasz’s complete work, including current projects to date.

In 1997, Ambasz received the Vitruvius Award from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, for the innovative quality of his work. Recently, the Mycal Cultural Center in Shin-Sanda, Japan, constructed within close proximity to the epicenter of the devastating Kobe earthquake, received a special award from the Japanese Department of Public Works. Its high quality of construction and structural integrity allowed it to withstand this overwhelming natural disaster.

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