Wallace E. Cunningham
1954 –  Class of 2010  Visual Arts
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Wallace E. Cunningham of San Diego is an architectural designer par excellence.  Wally, as family and friends call him, was born on October 18, 1954, in White Township, Pennsylvania.  For a several years, he lived and worked in the Fox Valley, first helping to preserve the CB&Q Roundhouse in Aurora, then as resident caretaker for the Snow sisters’ Frank Lloyd Wright house in Batavia, a house that always fascinated him.

Mary Snow introduced him to Virgil Gilman of the Fox Valley Park District.  As a result of that relationship, Wally served as curator for the Fox Valley Park District’s Blackberry Farm (then Pioneer Park) Americana Collection.  His design work originated in 1975, when he conceived and built the first observation deck overlooking the Fox River at the park district’s Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora.

Early on, Wally said he became aware that his “life was an amazing journey, all about the people I’ve met.”  Though largely self-taught and a free spirit, Wally attended Northern Illinois University, and studied at both the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.  When she was Director/President of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Ruth Van Sickle Ford, a 2002 inductee in the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame, built the Round House in Aurora.  Wally was greatly influenced by the designer of this house, Bruce Goff.  When he was at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Wally was honored to work on projects for two palaces and a government center for the country of Iran.

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His first major architectural design work was in Rancho Santa Fe, California.  Some of the most breath-taking homes in this country define the man himself as a work of art. Wally prides himself on designs that change with the changing moods of nature, seasons, light, and time.  Like an artist titling his paintings, he likes to give his buildings names.  Among his major works to date are the spectacular Razor Bluff, Harmony, and Wing House.  His Razor Bluff house on the bluff near the hang gliding port in La Jolla/San Diego was the featured backdrop for the recent filming of a VISA Black Card television commercial.

Wally’s accomplishments in the built environment are extensive and impressive.  Articles about his work are published in several languages and appear in a wide range of professional publications from countries as diverse as Italy, Russia, India, and Japan.  A beautifully illustrated book written about him by Joseph Giovannini, entitled Materializing the Immaterial, The Architecture of Wallace Cunningham, was published in 2006 by the Yale Press.

Wallace Cunningham’s buildings are truly interactive works of art that create an original response for all who see and experience them.  He describes his mission in Giovannini’s book with the following words, “I do one of a kind sculptures for people to live in.” While comparisons to the modern school of architecture and Wright’s influences can be argued, Wally’s designs show an originality that seldom arises in art and design, and have proven to be a body of artwork and inspiration for countless young architects and designers.

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Wallace Cunningham received a design award in 2003 from the International Academy of Architecture, and in 2009, was named an Honorary Professor.  In 2004 and 2007, and again in 2010, he was named by Architectural Digest to the prestigious AD100, as one of the top 100 designers.  In 2007, he was named to the Robb Report list of Top Thirty Designers.  On March 24, 2010, he was presented with the Star of Design Award for Architecture from the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.

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Wally is currently a board member of the Taliesin Fellows and board president of his own Wallace E. Cunningham Foundation for Art, Architecture and Design.  Whether speaking at design symposiums, universities, or sponsoring scholarly research in the arts, concerts, musical residencies, or cultural tours, Wallace Cunningham has freely shared his vision of the arts in general, and art and architecture.  Through his foundation, he has sponsored events for the enrichment and advancement of artists and the preservation of art and artifacts from a design perspective.

When he was inducted into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame on April 22, 2010, Wally emphasized the importance of the arts when he told the audience, “Arts are the greatest hope we have in the world, because they are an international language.”

Visit www.wallacecunningham.com to see his designs and learn more.
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