The three winners of the highest individual honors bestowed annually by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion, and Edward C. Kemper Award, were revealed today as part of the organization’s 2024 Awards program.
The group was led by this year's Topaz Medalist, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of the University of Miami. The former Dean of UM’s School of Architecture was honored for the role she has played in helping the school develop after its formal inception in 1981. Plater-Zyberk is credited with raising more than $10 million over her 18-year tenure as dean and was responsible for the construction of new facilities and the development of several post-professional programs while at the same time cultivating a “culture of intellectual exchange, encouraging faculty to engage in research, and share their work in publications,” according to her citation.
“Lizz was clearly a hands-on dean, who seemed to know most students by name, and who worked quietly behind the scenes to create a strong support network for all students,” Marleen Kay Davis, former dean at the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, wrote in a nominating letter. “A commitment to community/place started before students came to campus: Incoming freshmen were asked to create a black-and-white formatted layout regarding where they grew up for display during the first month of class. This has been a long tradition, helping to create community among the students and sending the message that every background is valued.”
Outside of academia, Plater-Zyberk has made an impact as the co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Her work as an architect in the office of DPZ CoDesign, which she co-founded with Andrés Duany in 1980, has likewise been praised around the industry. Plater-Zyberk also instructs students from the university's Miller School of Medicine on the impacts of the built environment on public health, and she has presented more than 100 lectures worldwide in the past decade alone.
Following Plater-Zyberk was the 2024 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award winner Douglas Ito of Seattle’s SMR Architects. Ito is a graduate of the University of Washington and has earned distinction for his salutary designs for affordable housing. The firm has a reputation for working proactively on behalf of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities in the region and boasts a 39-person staff comprised of 50% women and 30% people of color. Through his leadership, SMR has delivered 2,400 units of affordable housing to the area. Ito has also supplemented these efforts with his participation in Tacoma’s Affordable Housing Technical Advisory Group and the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board.
“Douglas shows that architecture and architects have come a long way from Whitney M. Young Jr.’s speech on the matter of affordable housing,” Tammie Sueirro, the executive director of AIA Washington Council, wrote in her nominating letter. “Dedicating his career to eradicating homelessness by advocating for and designing affordable housing for those most vulnerable in our communities, he exhibits the activist, idealist nature of Whitney M. Young Jr.”
Finally, the 2024 Edward C. Kemper Award was given posthumously to Sho-Ping Chin, a former principal in Payette’s Boston office for many years.
Chin was known as an influential figurehead who espoused the roles of women in architecture throughout her career. She worked to help the firm become a nationwide leader in healthcare design. Chin was responsible for organizing the first Women’s Leadership Summit, the first national AIA-sponsored meeting of women leaders that was held in Chicago in 2009, and pursued similar efforts locally as the founder of the Boston Society of Architect’s Women Principals Group. Her designs for the Children’s Hospital at Hershey Medical Center transformation and St. Boniface Hospital in Haiti were praised as well.
“Sho-Ping’s contributions to the BSA and the Boston community were significant and varied. Whether she was giving her time as a guest critic for many of the area architecture schools, working with the Boston Chinatown Main Street program, or serving within the BSA’s committee structure, Sho-Ping gave selflessly of her time and energy, and we all benefited from her time with us,” Andrea Love, Principal and Director of Building Science at Payette, wrote of Chin finally.
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