AIA Chicago has announced that Cynthia Weese, FAIA, principal of Weese Langley Weese Architects, will receive the 2023 AIA Chicago Lifetime Achievement Award. The ceremony will take place at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago’s Millennium Park on September 28, 2023.
Throughout her five-decade career, Weese has established herself as a leading force for gender equity within the architectural profession, including as a founding member of the Chicago Women in Architecture (CWA) in 1974. Four years later, after two major architectural exhibitions in Chicago opened with no women architects represented, she organized the exhibit “Chicago Women Architects: Contemporary Directions” under the aegis of CWA and with support from the Graham Foundation.
“Cynthia has been a trailblazer for women in the field of architecture,” said Mindy Viamontes, 2023 AIA Chicago President. “Her influence will continue to inspire female leaders for generations to come.”
In addition to her contributions to gender equality, Weese is a champion of design innovation in affordable housing, adaptive reuse, and educational facilities, and an academic visionary. Her passion for architecture was ignited in her childhood in Iowa, inspired by iconic structures like Eliel Saarinen’s Art Center and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Research Tower, as well as her family home in Des Moines.
Following this early inspiration, Weese earned a B.S. in Architectural Sciences and a B.Arch at Washington University in St. Louis.
Weese emerged as a pivotal figure in Chicago's architectural landscape. Her subsequent professional career saw her join the Chicago Seven, challenging the prevailing architectural norms of mid-century modernism through design work and exhibitions. Between 1993 and 2005, Weese served her alma mater as dean of the School of Architecture, becoming the first woman to serve as dean of a college at Washington University.
In 1977, Weese established her studio Weese Langley Weese Architects, which became known for its creative designs for adaptive reuse, affordable housing, academic buildings, and museum galleries. Among Weese’s most significant works are Harris Hall at Northwestern University and the Gallery House for an artist in Empire, Michigan.
In awarding the Lifetime Achievement Award, the AIA Chicago Board of Directors noted that Weese is “a true pioneer and vanguard for the profession, city, and women architects. Her portfolio, experiences and dedication to the profession is a fantastic example of true leadership. Cynthia has been an unwavering advocate for women in the professions and continues to inspire younger generations.”
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