The Harleston Parker Medal was established in 1921 by J. Harleston Parker to recognize “such architects as shall have, in the opinion of the Boston Society of Architects, completed the… most beautiful piece of architecture, building, monument, or structure within… the City of Boston or the Metropolitan Parks District.” Projects built in the past 10 years by any architect are eligible. Each year, a jury of architects is invited by the BSA to review nominees and recommend a winner. The BSA has elected not to make an award in some years; it also made two awards in one year.
Jury comments reveal shifting and changing criteria for evaluation, and in many cases the recommendations are not unanimous. One recent jury observed: “Though the profession itself remains committed to excellence in the appearance and effect of buildings in the environment, its values no longer lie solely with the aesthetic expression. For the Harleston Parker Medal to limit the definition of “beauty” may render it increasingly anachronistic and difficult to award.” Subsequent juries have expanded their review to consider other factors including sustainability, community engagement, the design process, and even the purpose of the building.
The Harleston Parker Medal winners illustrate changing conceptions of “beautiful” architecture over the past century, while also highlighting the evolving priorities of the profession. It's as interesting to notice what notable projects were overlooked as to see which now-forgotten ones were recognized.
The winners are presented in reverse chronological order, with the most recent shown first.