R. Larry Medlin

Professor Emeritus


  • Architecture


Larry Medlin is an architect and educator with over forty years of experience-- if there was an award for patience and longevity, it should go to him.  Larry has not only served this University and his students admirably, but he is also a model to many young faculty members as they begin building careers on the foundation established by his life and work.  Striking the right balance of practice, teaching, and research is an elusive and precarious operation that Larry mastered with care and determination and this experience became the raw material for outstanding teaching in architecture.  For those of us who have had the honor of working with him, it is clear that Larry is not only a force of nature, but also a lovingly decent human being. 

Larry is a pioneer.  He was there at the inception of the Institute for Light Weight Structures in Stuttgart and was an architect with Frei Otto of the German Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal.  His work in the development of a technological humanism provides a model for desert practice along with influencing some of the most progressive international work of the past few decades.  It is hard to imagine the work of Shigeru Ban and his generation without the leadership and technological innovation provided by Larry Medlin in 1967—a year of profound change for the scope of architecture and the birth of a socially and environmentally activist impulse in our profession.  Thankfully, Larry was not lured into politics, the social sciences, or policy development, but focused his efforts on the role that the physical fact of architecture could play in changing the world and our place in it.    

Because Larry plays such a central position in the architecture community, he knows everyone, and through his practice, has forged meaningful collaborations across disciplines with scientists, politicians and cultural leaders from many countries.  Given the opportunity, he is even game for the challenge of dancing with Janis Joplin or advising the President of Peru.  It is testament to Larry’s ingenuity as a teacher that he is able to establish lessens and educational moments out of these experiences and bring them into the classroom.  Teaching by example and living one’s convictions are probably the best tools available for an educator.  Larry’s altruistic impulses and a sincere interest in developing lasting relationships distinguish him in academia and also among his architect peers.   

Before sustainability became a mainstream movement, Larry provided leadership for Arizona in energy efficient design strategies and a mandate that architects should design with nature instead of against it.  Through his teaching of design studios and seminars he educated generations of architects, instilling in them the idea that core principles matter and that we as architects are stewards of our local biome.  Larry does not mind fighting an uphill battle and will dedicate his time to issues that are close to his heart with stalwart determination.  Recent history is clearly on Larry’s side with the issues and design strategies that he has championed for decades are now at the forefront of the profession. His teaching and research are more relevant today than ever.  We hope that he will return often in order to infuse this place with his enthusiasm and commitment to making the world a more beautiful place. 

Larry Medlin Ensemble Photo

Image caption 
Institute of Lightweight Structures, Stuttgart.  
Frei Otto, Sami Angari, Konrad Wachsman, 
Larry Medlin and Wolf Hilbritz, front row
Edward and Mary Allen, behind 
Peter Stromeyer, at the top