The Best American Architecture Firms


Pugh + Scarpa, the winner of the 2010 AIA Architecture Firm Award, will change its name for the New Year, and will be known as Brooks + Scarpa in 2011. Former partner Gwynne Pugh left the firm on September 1st to start up his own enterprise, Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, where he wants to now focus on large scale urban design projects. The split was an amicable one, and partners Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa – who is one of the judges for our 2011 Next Generation Design Competition – will now run the Santa Monica-based studio. The changed name notwithstanding, the firm will continue to produce the truly exploratory, sensitive buildings it has come to be known for.

Brooks + Scarpa’s mantle as the best architecture firm in the United States will pass on to BNIM architects next year. BNIM has been declared the 2011 winner of the AIA Architecture Firm award, for “advancing the design of sustainable architecture from nearly its inception to today when it has become a preeminent force fundamentally re-shaping the built environment.” In 1993 BNIM principal Bob Berkebile laid the foundations for both the U. S. Green Building Council, and the LEED rating system. And just a couple of months ago, The Omega Center for Sustainable Living – a building BNIM designed – not only received a LEED Platinum rating, but also became one of the first buildings to meet the world’s strictest green building certification system: The Living Building Challenge. BNIM will receive its AIA award in May 2011 at the AIA National Convention in New Orleans. 

The four other AIA honor awards will also be presented on the same occasion. Here is a round-up of the awardees:

Maki2011 AIA Gold Medal: Fumihiko Maki

Honored for his lasting influence on theory and practice of architecture, Maki is Japan’s most pre-eminent living architect. Fascinated by flexible, modular structures, he is known for his asymmetrical, often discordant arrangement of spaces that still manage to convey “a quiet and elegant moment of reflection.” Maki lives in Tokyo, but frequently teaches in the United States.
Karrie Jacobs wrote about Maki’s new MIT Media Lab building in May 2010.


SpeckAIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion: Lawrence W. Speck

Lawrence Spec k is a professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin. He was its dean between 1992 and 2001, during which time the school grew immensely and achieved a top-ten ranking among schools of architecture in U.S. News and World Report. Speck is honored for his outstanding contribution to architecture education.



SuttonThe Whitney M. Young Jr. Award: Sharon Egretta Sutton

As one of very few African-American women architects, Sharon Egretta Sutton has produced pioneering research, working with low-income youth and other disenfranchised communities. Sutton is a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the director of the Center for Environment Education and Design Studies (CEEDS). She is honored for reminding architecture of its responsibility toward current social issues.


ChesterAIA Edward C. Kemper Award for Service to the Profession: Chester A. Widom

Founding partner of WWCOT, Chester Widom spent more than 40 years at the helm of his firm before retiring in 2008. He has been closely associated with the AIA throughout his career, demonstrating that architects can be exemplary civic leaders, and understanding how schools, cities, and the entire public sector can empower and uplift communities. He is honored for his contribution to the profession of architecture through service to the AIA.

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