Nader Tehrani ’81, an award-winning architect and dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York, has been named the 2020-21 Alumni Award recipient, the School’s highest recognition. He will be honored during an All-School Meeting on April 5.
Tehrani’s many accomplishments in the field of architecture and design have been widely recognized. For his many contributions to architecture as an art, he received the 2020 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was also elected as a member of the Academy in 2021, the highest form of recognition of artistic merit in the United States.
To date, he has received 18 Progressive Architecture Awards, four 2018 American Architecture Awards, four 2017 Chicago Athenaeum Awards, and a 2019 AIA Cote Top Ten Award. He was a finalist for the 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize and a nominee for the 2017 Marcus Prize for Architecture. His many other awards include the 2014 Holcim Foundation Sustainability Award, the 2012 Hobson Award, the 2007 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture, the 2007 United States Artists Award, USA Target Fellows AD award, the 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, and the 2002 Harleston Parker Award. Over the past seven years, his Boston-based firm, NADAAA, has consistently ranked as a top design firm in Architect Magazine's Top 50 U.S. Firms List, and ranking as first in three of those years.
After graduating from Hotchkiss, Tehrani attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where he earned a B.F.A. and a B. Arch. in 1985 and 1986, respectively. He continued his studies in London at the Architectural Association, where he attended the postgraduate program in history and theory. After returning to the United States, Tehrani received the M.A.U.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1991.
In 1992, Tehrani began an extensive career in academia, teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he served as the Thomas W. Ventulett III Distinguished Chair in Architectural Design, and the University of Toronto’s Department of Architecture, where he served as the Frank O. Gehry International Visiting Chair in Architectural Design, Landscape and Design. He also recently served as the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome and the inaugural Paul Helmle Fellow at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Prior to his role as dean of the architecture school at Cooper Union, Tehrani was professor of architecture at MIT, where he served as head of the department from 2010-14.
His passion for architecture and design took root at Hotchkiss, where he was inspired by art instructor Blanche Hoar. He has said that he experienced an "aesthetic transformation" during his time at Hotchkiss, which may have started the day he first set foot on campus. During an interview for Hotchkiss Magazine in 2017, Tehrani recalled visiting Hotchkiss in 1978, following one of the worst nor'easters on record. Snow had drifted halfway up Scoville Gate, and Tehrani, who was touring prep schools with his friends, barely made the trip to Lakeville. But what he remembers most about his visit wasn't the record-breaking blizzard, but his impression of Main Building, which, at the time, bore the design of modernist Hugh Stubbins, the architect best known for Citicorp Center's landmark tower in Manhattan.
When he looked out at Main, he remembers thinking to himself: "This is where I want to be.”