2015 Honor Awards

This year's Illinois Honor Awards celebrate the 2015 recipients in the very buildings and communities in which they've made such a powerful difference, bringing the public more fully into awareness of their stories. In lieu of its traditional formal dinner in Springfield, AIA Illinois is heading out into the field over the period of several months, to recognize each award recipient in a unique location relevant to their award. Check back often as we unveil each winner and celebrate the profession!

Thank you to our distinguished juries:

Design: Jane Frederick, FAIA, AIA South Atlantic Regional Director; Ivenue Love-Stanley, FAIA, AIA 2014 Whitney Young Award Winner; Tom Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota

Service: Corda Murphy, former Exec. Dir. of AIA Northeast Illinois; David Bradley, AIA, Past President of AIA Illinois, Tom Jaeger, AIA Emeritus, 2014 Illinois Gold Medal Recipient

The 2015 Honor Award recipients:

Alex Block, AIA - John Wellborn Root Award for Emerging Professionals

NCARB - President's Award for An Organization That Lifts Up Architecture and the Profession

Smith Group JJR & Studio Gang Architects - Sullivan Prize, Illinois' Top Design Award

Wheeler Kearns Architects - Frank Lloyd Wright Award for New Design or Renovation

Michael Dixon, FAIA - Charles W. Nothnagel Award for Public Service

Perkins + Will - Mies Van Der Rohe Award for Innovation

Weese Langley Weese - Crombie Taylor Award for Preservation

CannonDesign & Bailey Edward - Citation of Merit in Frank Lloyd Wright Category

Field Notes - Buckminster Fuller Award for Social Good

Carol Ross Barney, FAIA - Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement

Ross Barney Architects - Daniel Burnham Award for Master Planning

Nate White - Illinois Student Design Award



For Architects Licensed 10 Years or Less


Block, Senior Architect with Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, was presented with the award at a Springfield Pecha Kucha evening, on August 27 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. Block is a co-founder of Springfield’s version of the international event, which gives people the opportunity to share unique information using 20 slides in six minutes, forty seconds. 


The jury of architects and community members chose Block, the current president of the AIA Central Chapter, for “community work that makes him stand out among his peers—bringing architecture out into the world at large and engaging others in creating a better world.” Block has been active in the AIA for more than 14 years, starting as an associate.


As a volunteer, Block used his architectural skills to plan and design the Forever Home Feline Ranch. “Because of Alex’s vision and dedication, our feline sanctuary is a great place to call home,” said Cheryl Johnston, Vice President and co-founder of the Forever Home Feline Ranch. Other volunteer activities include serving as a workgroup chair of the Sustainable Design Assessment Team Planning Committee, which brought the SDAT Team to Springfield in May 2012; chairing the Upper Story Tour for Downtown Springfield, Inc.; and serving as an assistant scout master for a local troop. Block is an Eagle Scout.


“Alex represents the best of what emerging professionals have to offer. His community service roles provide opportunities to utilize his strengths as an architect, including problem-solving and storytelling, both of which are so important to community-building. He brilliantly shares, through his leadership as well as his professional skills, the impact and importance architects and the profession of architecture does have to better people’s lives,” said Mike Elliott, AIA, 2015 AIA Illinois President.


Photos of the presentation on August 27 can be found on our Facebook page. Thanks to our sponsor of this recognition ceremony:




For an Organization that Lifts Up Architecture and the Profession



AIA Illinois presented NCARB with their 2015 Honor Award at a ceremony in Chicago in early August. From left to right. Representing NCARB, Second Vice President Gregory L. Erny, NCARB, AIA; NCARB First Vice President/President-elect Kristine A. Harding, NCARB, AIA; NCARB CEO Michael J. Armstrong and NCARB President/Chair of the Board Dennis S. Ward, NCARB, AIA. Representing AIA Illinois, 2015 President Mike Elliott, AIA and Mike Waldinger, Executive Vice President. 

For countless years, NCARB and the AIA always seemed to be at odds. However, just as AIA found itself in need of Repositioning, so did NCARB. In making the award, 2015 AIA Illinois President Mike Elliott, AIA, said, "NCARB has made great strides in streamlining the IDP process, modifying the ARE guidelines, and increasing its support of NCARB members and candidates. NCARB CEO Mike Armstrong has done a remarkable job in collaborating with the AIA like never before. I have been fortunate to have met Mike on several occasions, hearing his passion for the success of the profession first hand. It is with great pleasure that I award NCARB the 2015 AIA Illinois President Award in recognition of their efforts and collaboration."

NCARB President Dennis S. Ward, NCARB, AIA had this to say in response: “We are honored by the recognition and would like to thank President Mike Elliot and AIA Illinois for the 2015 President Award. Two of NCARB’s goals are to facilitate licensure and foster collaboration among our partner stakeholders, including AIA and its state components. The efforts we have made over the last few years to streamline the licensure process, while maintaining the rigor necessary to ensure the next generation is competent to practice architecture, couldn’t have been achieved without the work of our hundreds of volunteers and state member boards. It also couldn’t have been achieved without the valuable feedback and engagement from other partners within the profession like AIA Illinois.”


Illinois' Top Design Award for 2015

On September 4, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel officially opened Northerly Island and recognized two Chicago firms for their plans for a dynamic hybrid: a green urban destination built by man and nature. The Plan, developed by Smith Group JJR and Studio Gang Architects, forecasts an urban future where nature and city blur for mutual and maximum benefit, while establishing a new identity for the lakefront, one of Chicago’s greatest natural resources. The esteemed members of the Honor Awards jury called the plan "fabulous" and "an excellent example of the Ten Principles for Livable Communities--especially since it is creating a wonderful space for the entire city from an old airport."


In his 1909 Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham proposed a stretch of islands off of Chicago's shoreline. Only the northernmost island was built, though technically it is linked to the mainland, recently explained Blair Kamin, Tribune architecture critic. In 1947, it became Meigs Field, a tiny airport serving mostly private and government planes, which Mayor Daley famously bulldozed in the dead of night in 2003.

The vibrant, inclusive 91-acre site was designed on a human scale to be an immersive outdoor experience, connecting visitors to recreation, shopping, and the arts while providing a direct link to Museum Campus. The Plan calls for restoration efforts that enhance the ecology of the lakefront, not only sustaining the landscape for public enjoyment now and into the future, but also offering people multiple ways to engage directly with nature without ever leaving the city.


On the southern half of the island, a wetland and savannah provide an attractive habitat for birds, while a lagoon formed by a constructed reef provides a fish-spawning habitat for currently displaced native species. The northern portion of the site includes an outdoor music amphitheater integrated into the landscape, expanding Northerly Island’s cultural offerings while generating revenue for the Chicago Park District (CPD).


Balancing a range of ecosystems, public spaces, and amenities, the design creates a seamless transition between land and water, urban and natural, and promotes a range of visitor experiences including kayaking, scuba diving, group camping, bird watching, beach combing, and hiking.


For New Design or Renovation

“Not many educators would look at a shuttered lumber yard on Chicago’s northwest side and declare it the perfect place for a new school,” says Larry Kearns, Principal with Wheeler Kearns Architects. Intrinsic Schools, a public charter school with an enrollment boundary that includes the entire City of Chicago, considered the lumberyard to be a choice location because of its easy access by multiple modes of transportation. 

The Chicago architectural firm ultimately preserved 75% of the existing buildings, some over 100 years old, leaving them exposed within the new envelope. The combination of new and old reflects Intrinsic’s educational tactics, where adaptive online learning is blended with traditional teaching in small groups to personalize education.

The nationally esteemed jury called the Intrinsic Schools building “a national model for new education.” There are no 30-student classrooms, hallway lockers, or double-loaded corridors.  Instead, up to 180 students and eight teachers rotate within interconnected pods dedicated to each grade level, from 7th to 12th.  The right-hand pod focuses on the Humanities, while the left-hand pod concentrates on STEM.  Each pod is comprised of a large open area adjacent to a traditional acoustically-isolated classroom.

Students are immersed in a much larger social network than their counterparts in traditional schools.  These larger networks promote encounters between students of different abilities and backgrounds, enriching their experience.

And unlike most urban schools, Intrinsic’s campus is not fenced off from the community.  In fact, Intrinsic intentionally segregated its academic areas so the balance of the campus could be frequently shared with the community.  The multipurpose room, locker rooms, kitchen, and practice field are entered separately from the main entry vestibule. 

See the photos from the Nov. 2 presentation>





in the Frank Lloyd Wright/Renovation Category


When college students rearrange their class schedule to spend more time in the building you've just renovated, you know you've done something right. Cannon Design, with Associate Architect Bailey Edward, achieved LEED platinum on the century-old building housing the Liberal Arts and Sciences program, successfully reconfiguring every square inch to meet the needs of today's students and professors. 


While retaining historic continuity, two three-story glass gallery additions were added to the building's two courtyards, providing every floor with sun-exposed study lounges. Classrooms and fixed core elements were constructed with masonry and plaster for permanence, while departmental offices were fitted out with drywall partitions to facilitate future programmatic and infrastructural changes.


Key historic interior public spaces were painstakingly restored, including the theater and foyer, the quad entrance lobby, stairs and public corridors. Surfaces were accurately restored to the historic paint colors and gilding. Thousands of lineal feet of original woodwork and trim were removed, refinished and reinstalled. The firm replaced building systems, including HVAC, lighting and flooring, to meet LEED Platinum standards with minimal disturbance to the building's historic character.


See photos from the presentation on October 29>

For Public Service

Dixon, Principal of Dixon Associates/Architects in suburban St. Charles for 32 years, will be presented with the award at the 75th anniversary celebration of the St. Charles Municipal Building on September 12 from 1-3 p.m. Dixon was instrumental in this architectural gem, one of AIA Illinois' 150 Great Places, being named to the National Register of Historic Places and was the principal architect on the atrium annex connecting the 1940s Municipal Building with the original 1890s City Building.

Dixon’s 30-year span and deep portfolio of public service activities were recognized by the jury including local community service engagement, pro-bono work for Habitat for Humanity, work in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, a more than 25-year membership on the National Historic Resources Committee, and service as a citizen ambassador for the Peace Corps, where he has assisted the Podolian Agency for Regional Development in the Ukraine with projects involving restorative architecture. 

Throughout a career focused on historic preservation, Mike Dixon has always found a variety of ways to share his knowledge and architectural expertise with individuals and communities.


“I applaud Mike’s commitment to advancing the principles of good design concerning place, culture and heritage,” said Mike Elliott, AIA, 2015 AIA Illinois President. “His efforts to preserve Ukrainian culture through architecture are a terrific example of a non-traditional, but effective path to making a difference as an architect—in his case, on a global stage.” 


For pictures of the event, visit our Facebook page.



For Innovation

The 2013 opening of the William Jones College Preparatory High School in downtown Chicago, designed by Perkins+Will, signaled a new era for students and new possibilities for urban school design. Jones College Prep masters the complexity of design in a tight urban space (100' x 400') in Chicago’s South Loop, with a seven-story building filled with light and open spaces for learning and congregating. Together with the renovation of the existing school next door, the new building nearly doubles the capacity of this high-performing public school. The design team provided full architectural and planning services for the project, which is currently pursuing LEED Gold certification. The Public Building Commission developed the project on behalf of Chicago Public Schools.


As the national Honor Awards jury noted, "There is a nice connection between the school and the city. It was obviously carefully conceived and articulated, inside and out, to take maximum advantage of a very tight site." In response to this space challenge, Perkins + Will vertically dispersed a 278,000 gross square foot program over eight occupied floors, rather than a typically horizontal configuration. Classroom spaces are located at the center of the school, on Levels 4 and 5, to provide optimum proximity to the shared curriculum spaces above and below.


The building’s design features numerous terraces that break down the mass and help distinguish the major program elements.  The majority of the eastern facade is composed of a random pattern of alternating window and colored insulated metal panel modules spanning between expressed floor slabs. North, South and Western facades, which are less visible, are intended to be simpler. Vertical and horizontal ribbon windows punctuate the simple massing, which is clad in insulated precast concrete panels, relating to the solidity of the masonry facades of the neighboring historic Dearborn Station and Printers Row area. This aspect of the design creates continuity with the surrounding buildings and reinforces a sense of neighborhood identity.


The Award presentation took place on Saturday, October 3. Colleagues from the Harvard Graduate School of Design: Chicago conference toured the facility before attending the ceremony.  


Photos from the ceremony are on our Facebook page, courtesy of Harvard GSD and Chicago photographer Jennifer Girard.

For Preservation

This isn't the first time that Weese Langley Weese's careful preservation and restoration of the original design by Detroit architect Albert Kahn has received attention. In February, Tribune critic Blair Kamin called their effort to transform a former auto dealership in Oak Park into affordable apartments a "winning renovation." Our nationally esteemed Honor Awards jury called the project an “extraordinary restoration and renovation that creates a dignified and well-designed housing development. Developed with care and an intuitive sense of preservation, this project is lovingly executed in a location that can appreciate it.”

The Albert Kahn historic facade, which consisted of paneled Indiana limestone base, articulated/patterned brick panels, bold vertical cast concrete piers, and decorative cast concrete lintels and copings, was partially demolished in order to completely cover the building with a synthetic stucco system by a later owner.


In 2008, Interfaith Housing Development Corporation pursued the property for possible adaptation into housing. This vision was accomplished by creating an ‘L’ shaped building by removing a portion of the non-historic rear and side elevations to allow for the needed light and ventilation.  Coupled with the addition of two floors, a 4-story building with 51 units was created.


The original 2 floors of the building, on the street and corner elevations, were restored to the original Kahn design, and then repeated on the new floors by continuing the historic facade elements through the upper new floors. The building was then capped with precast copings to match the original. All of the remaining non historic and newly created facades were covered with brick masonry that matched the historic Albert Kahn brick.


This LEED-certified project installed a Geo Thermal heating and cooling system, reduced energy by 26%, and planted a Green Roof. Additionally the project provided close proximity to public transportation, water use reduction, reduced parking, permeable paving, low emitting materials, construction waste management, thermal comfort, and sustainable landscaping. 


See pictures from the October 21 presentation on our Facebook page as we added a statewide Honor Award to this renovation's resume.

For Social Good

What does it mean to be an architect today? Do nouns like "storyteller" and "inventor" or "pathfinder" help explain the role of the architect to the public, and to ourselves? Field Notes was developed in 2013 as a series of exchanges between Chicago-area architecture students and established design professionals who would share their valuable experiences and critical paths as a way to broaden perceptions of the professional architect in current culture.

 Field Notes founders Katie Soven and Nora Ames

AIA Illinois developed this category of service award to recognize Illinois architects involved in humanitarian, social impact or community endeavors.  Field Notes founders Katie Soven, Assoc. AIA, and Nora Ames, Assoc. AIA, stood out for what the jury of architects and community members said was “fresh vision, innovation and creativity,” in the creation of the program.

"Field Notes really struck a chord with emerging professionals and practicing architects alike, and was ahead of the curve in addressing a student's need to make concrete connections between their academic studies and the vast range of architectural practices," says Mike Elliott, AIA, 2015 AIA Illinois President. 

See pictures from the event>

For Lifetime Achievement

Throughout her career spanning more than forty years, Carol has stood by the belief that architecture should capture a contemporary vision of today’s society, emphasizing that design excellence is a right, not a privilege. As the founder and Design Principal of Ross Barney Architects, she has developed an international reputation for the creation and impact of public and civic spaces.  Her designs have received numerous honors including four Institute Honor Awards, two AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project Awards, the Evergreen Award from EcoStructure magazine, and more than 35 AIA Chicago Design Awards.


“Carol’s multifaceted contributions to the profession as designer, teacher and citizen certainly set a high bar for anyone who would wish to follow in her footsteps,” remarked members of the service jury, consisting of peers and citizens. “Carol has raised the profile of Illinois architects as major players on the world stage, and at home in Chicago, there is likely no one whose daily urban life hasn’t been impacted in some way by her work.”


An early series of projects by her firm for the Chicago Public schools was characterized by the challenges on which the firm’s growing reputation was based: tough urban sites, communities trying to solve social and cultural problems, and tight, inflexible government budgets.


Ross Barney Architects was chosen as the lead designer for the new Oklahoma City Federal Building. Carol’s design was both a philosophical and practical response to tragedy, with the main design objective to create a space that was secure but open, to reflect our democracy.

Chicago Riverwalk. Photo Credit: Hedrich Blessing Photography

Likewise, Carol's design for the Chicago Riverwalk offers symbolic links to the City’s past, while creating state-of-the-art facilities for citizens, visitors and fans of the River as it flows through the city. Other recent commissions include the CTA Cermak Station, South Campus Central Chiller Plant for Ohio State University, the Illinois Accelerator Research Center at FermiLab, two new schools for Stillwater Oklahoma and a new Consolidated Car Rental Center at O'Hare International Airport.

Carol was a founding member and first president of Chicago Women in Architecture, an organization celebrating its 40th anniversary that has supported the development of women in the design profession. Since 1976, she has combined teaching with practice, with many of her students receiving prestigious recognition themselves.

 OSU South Campus Central Chiller. Photo Credit: Brad Feinknopf 

In 2005, Carol was awarded AIA’s Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. Her firm has been named among the Architect 50 by Architect magazine. 

Carol is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following graduation, she served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, planning national parks. She teaches advanced Design Studio at IIT and serves on their College Board of Overseers. Her drawings have been widely exhibited and collected by the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Historical Society, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the National Building Museum.

Read Mayor Emanuel's letter to Carol.

Read Mike Waldinger's heartfelt presentation of the Gold Medal.

Pictures from the Nov. 4 reception and presentation will be posted soon.


For Master Planning

Our judges said the Bloomingdale Trail Framework Plan was “Well detailed and thought-through” and acknowledged the intensive public outreach process. The team worked with 650 community members at public meetings and for four days during a design charrette.


The work paid off beautifully. As of June 2015, the 140-year-old railroad line called the Bloomingdale Trail is now the centerpiece of The 606. It is a 2.7-mile-long park and bicycle route converted from an abandoned elevated railroad right-of-way. 


The trail runs through four Chicago neighborhoods, from Logan Square and Humboldt Park to the west, through Bucktown and Wicker Park to the east. It connects the Boulevards to the Chicago River, another area where Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, and her team have worked their magic. 


The elevated 606, literally and metaphorically, bridges neighborhoods once separated by trafficked streets.



Nate White, a 2015 graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who is now working as a studio member at bklArchitecture in Chicago, will receive AIA Illinois' inaugural Illinois Student Design Award. 


Like our other Honor Award categories, submitters had to demonstrate that their projects reflected one or more of the 10 Principles of Livable Communities


His winning college project was for a community library for the Garfield Park neighborhood, which leveraged a unique design to create a point of community connection and identity. He designed a space that would not only serve as a library, but function more broadly as a “hub” including a collective community center, media center and cultural arts center. 


Our design jury of nationally-renowned architects and educators noted that White’s project “looks into the future of the library. Its adaptability to the related uses is very timely, especially given the future of e-books.” 


Nate didn't have a personal connection to the Garfield Park neighborhood, but said he proposed that location because, "The strong history of Garfield Park, it's historic presence and physical connection to the city also provides a large opportunity to impact the area on a larger scale." Nate continued, "The blight of the area was the first indication of opportunity. It's a nearly empty block in the middle of a fairly sparse neighborhood that still maintains and supports two schools and a hospital. The opportunity to add to the support of these institutions through an attempt to create a connection or a center point was key."


Middle school students at Leif Erickson Scholastic Academy in the Garfield Park neighborhood will help present the award at an assembly. In addition to being presented with the award, Nate will speak to the students about his design and what it’s like to work in architecture.