The Catholic University of America

March 3, 2010

CUA Architecture Professor Wins Prestigious Gabriel Prize


George J. Martin
Associate Professor of Architecture and Planning


George J. Martin, associate professor of architecture and planning at Catholic University, has been awarded the Gabriel Prize by the Western European Architecture Foundation.

As the winner of the national portfolio competition, Martin receives a crystal trophy and a $20,000 grant for a three-month study in France.

“This kind of recognition to members of our faculty not only honors them but raises CUA’s profile in the broader academic and professional community,” says Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of CUA.  “It speaks to the high caliber of our faculty, and George Martin of CUA’s School of Architecture and Planning is certainly outstanding in so many ways.”

Given annually, the award encourages an appreciation of European contributions to classical architecture.

During a sabbatical in France that begins after CUA’s commencement in May, Martin will complete a comparative study of the major cemeteries of Paris, examining the relationship between the cemetery and its surrounding urban area and the roles of landscape, art, color and material.

Martin’s studies will culminate in three watercolor illustrations of Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris’ largest cemetery.

“Being involved in the graduate concentration in cultural studies and sacred space, my research and teaching center around an exploration of the ritual-spatial syntax of sacred space,” Martin says. “Cemeteries are exceptional subject matter for investigating the manner in which a society relates to those members of their citizenry who are physically departed.  In this regard, it is as important to examine the physical layout of the cemetery as it is to examine how it is used or activated by the living,” he adds.

During his time in France, he will work closely with a Parisian architect who represents the foundation.

Martin, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from CUA, competed in two juries during the selection process. Both included reviews of his portfolio and study proposal. The second jury included a personal interview.  The juries were composed of architects, educators and previous Gabriel Prize winners.

The Gabriel Prize was founded and endowed by the late George Parker Jr., a Texas oil executive and lawyer who traveled frequently to France and had a strong appreciation for French architecture.

“Nothing is more rewarding than travel sketching, and for me, no drawing type more beautiful than those which came from the 19th and early 20th century Ecole des Beaux Arts,” Martin says. “I am looking forward to dedicating time to a more exacting study of this drawing type, as well as the beauty of Père Lachaise.”