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Marlon Matthew Blackwell (1956–)

Marlon Matthew Blackwell is a professor of architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and is recognized both nationally and internationally for his architectural design work. He also co-founded and conducts an international architectural program and is the principal architect in an award-winning private design firm.

Marlon Blackwell was born on November 7, 1956, to a military family stationed in Munich, Germany. He was brought up in various locations including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and the Philippines, and was a high school wrestler. Blackwell entered Auburn University in the summer of 1974, studying architecture and being selected as one of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. In 1980, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in architecture and environmental design from Auburn. To put himself through college, he worked for five summers for the Thomas Nelson Publishing Company as a Bible salesman and was one of the company’s top twenty salesmen each year, receiving a sales award in 1976 from then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.

After graduation, he worked at architectural firms in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Boston, Massachusetts. He entered Syracuse University Master’s in Architecture II program in Florence, Italy, in 1990, and, upon receiving his master’s degree in 1991, he traveled extensively in Europe, documenting modern and classic architecture. In the fall of 1991, he accepted a position teaching architecture at Syracuse, and in 1992, he was appointed to the School of Architecture at UA, where he is a tenured professor, serving as chairman since 2009. He also has a private design practice.

Blackwell has received national and international recognition through American Institute of Architects (AIA) design awards and architectural publications including Architecture, Arquine, A+U, Detail, Dwell, Southern Living, and Architectural Record, the last of which featured his Keenan TowerHouse in Fayetteville on the cover of the February 2001 issue. His work was also featured in Architectural Review in 2002 for receiving the publication’s AR + D prize for his Moore HoneyHouse in North Carolina and in The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture in 2004 and 2008. His residential projects are featured in design books including New Country House, Houses of Wood, Private Towers, House: American Houses for the New Century, The New American House 3, The New American Cottage, and 40 Under 40.

Blackwell was selected by a national jury as one of the top forty designers under forty years old in 1995. In 1998, the Architectural League of New York recognized him as an “Emerging Voice” in architecture. He has been invited to give lectures on his work at many institutions, including the Architectural League of New York, Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), Arizona State University, Cornell University, Tulane University, Washington University, and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Blackwell is noted for his style of working outside the architectural mainstream; his architecture is based in design strategies that celebrate vernaculars and draw upon them, seeking to transgress conventional boundaries for architecture. 

In 1994, he co-founded the University of Arkansas Mexico Summer Urban Studio, where he has coordinated and taught at the Casa Luis Barragan in Mexico City since 1996. Blackwell has led several foreign study tours to Guatemala, Peru, and Yemen. Blackwell was a visiting associate professor teaching graduate design at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2001 and 2002, and was the Ruth and Norman Moore visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2003.

Along with the Keenan TowerHouse in Fayetteville, Blackwell’s award-winning work in Arkansas includes the Fulbright Building, L-Stack House, Masons on the Square, 16 West Center Loft-Office, Tyson-Combs Gun Club, Farah Residence-2Square House, Terminella Office Building, Cozart Office Building, and Flynn-Schmitt BarnHouse, all in Fayetteville; the Blessings Golf Clubhouse, Arkansas House, Srygley Office Building, and Razorback Golf Center, all in Johnson (Washington County); and the Gentry Public Library in Gentry (Benton County). in 2011 he won several awards including two for St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Springdale (Washington County). In 2012, he was named a recipient of an Arts & Letters Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the first Arkansan ever so honored. In September 2016, Architect magazine named Marlon Blackwell Architects the top firm in its design category for the year’s Architect 50 awards. 

In 1994, he married architect Meryati Johari in her home country of Malaysia. They have two children and reside in Fayetteville.

For additional information:
Marlon Blackwell: Architect. http://www.marlonblackwell.com/ (accessed May 28, 2014).

Blackwell, M. An Architecture of the Ozarks: The Works of Marlon Blackwell. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.

———. “Faith and Possibility.” In Archipelago: Essays on Architecture, edited by Peter MacKeith. Helsinki, Finland: Rakennustieto Press, 2006.

Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture. London, England: Phaidon Press, 2004.

Stumpe, Joe. “Marlon Matthew Blackwell.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 10, 2016, pp. 1D, 5D.

Nancy Hendricks
Arkansas State University

Last Updated 12/7/2016

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