The American Institute of Architects has awarded the 2023 AIA Gold Medal to Carol Ross Barney. Presented each year to an individual whose body of work has had a “lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture,” the 2023 edition honors Barney’s “pursuit of architecture that betters the daily life of all who interact with it.”
Barney’s five-decade career began with Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following her bachelor’s degree, Barney enlisted in the U.S. Peace Corps, where she was deployed to Costa Rica to work with the Costa Rica National Park Service.
Following her return to Chicago, Barney established Ross Barney Architects in 1981. Sixteen years later, in 1997, she was chosen to lead the design of the new Oklahoma City Federal Building following its fatal bombing — the first woman architect to lead such a commission. The resulting 185,000-square-foot building, completed in 2005, balanced security measures with a respect for pedestrians and its surrounding context.
Barney’s other significant contributions to the built environment include the 1.25-mile Chicago Riverwalk stretching from Lake Michigan to several of the river’s confluences. Revitalizing existing infrastructure to create “discreet rooms” between the bridges spanning the river, the project was described by the Gold Medal jury as bringing “positive energy to Chicago’s urban realm and stands as a model for cities rethinking their water resources.”
Barney’s work in practice is complimented by engagements in academia. For almost 30 years she has served as an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology where she has led courses on topics from water transportation to mixed use development.
“An unrivaled architect for the people, Barney exudes design excellence, social responsibility, and generosity,” the Gold Medal jury said. “Throughout all of her work, she has endeavored to make the world a better place, and, in doing so, made an indelible mark on the profession. Her pioneering approach and ethics are clear examples of the highest aspirations of architecture.”
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