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APLA Alum Recognized at AIA Memphis Award Gala

Keith S. Kays,  AIA, was recognized for his outstanding contribution to the architectural fabric of the Memphis community at the AIA Memphis Celebration of Architecture Awards Gala on April 6, 2013 at the Pink Palace Museum with the Francis Gassner Award.

During his far-reaching career as an architect, Keith has focused his attention on urban revitalization, designing and managing hotel and entertainment projects, and the curation of Memphis’ historic legacy. His projects include the Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth Synagogue (1970), the Fogelman College of Business at the University of Memphis (1971),  NE Community Mental Health Center / Youth Villages (1975),  The Pier Restaurant (1976),  Number One Beale Street (1977),  and the Mississippi Main Street Association (1993/2007). A graduate of Auburn University,  Keith was awarded a Travel Scholarship in 1965 and spent four months visiting Europe. “That experience gave me a glimpse of the importance of preservation. I have always been a proponent of Downtown,  and breathing new life into abandoned buildings and neighborhoods was a significant part of my practice during the 1970’s, ” he says. He joined the firm of Walk Jones and Francis Mah in 1967,  became a partner in 1970,  and established his own eponymous practice in 1971.

Keith was an early advocate of Downtown redevelopment and was responsible for the design of a number of adaptive re-use projects,  including the 1979 Master Planning of Beale Street which re-established the historic street pattern that had been destroyed under urban renewal. Keith currently serves as the Chairperson of the Memphis Landmarks Commission and has served on the Board of Memphis Heritage. During the 1990’s,  Keith worked with the Mississippi Main Street Association re-visioning 40 communities throughout the state. Keith recalls,  “The Main Street experience provided tangible evidence of the importance of preservation to the heart and soul of community.” The threat of demolition of Francis Gassner’s architecturally significant C&I Bank building sparked Keith’s interest in creating a written record of the architectural history of Memphis. With the help of Marty Gorman,  AIA,  Lee Askew,  FAIA,  and Louis Pounders,  FAIA,  Keith created two comprehensive surveys of architecture in Memphis: the residential compendium A Survey of Modern Houses in Memphis,  Tennessee,  from 1940 To 1980,  and the non-residential A Survey of Modern Public Buildings in Memphis,  Tennessee,  from 1940 To 1980.

Keith S. Kays has had a profound impact on the built environment and architectural legacy of our city, and we are proud to recognize him for his outstanding contributions.

The Francis Gassner Award was established in 1977 to commemorate an extraordinary architect,  Francis P. Gassner,  who practiced in Memphis from the Fifties until his death in 1977. To continue his legacy of design excellence, of service to the profession, and of leadership to our community, AIA Memphis honors each year an architect or member of a related profession for outstanding contributions to the quality of the built environment in Memphis. Candidates are proposed by members of AIA Memphis in any of the following categories: Architectural Practice,  Design,  Education,  Government,  Industry,  Historical Preservation,  Literature,  Public Service,  Research,  Science of Construction,  Service to the Profession,  and Urban Design.

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