Recently we've seen, in print and online, a reprise of old debates about starchitects. The critic Witold Rybczynski complained that big-name architects don't design their best work in cities that are foreign to them, because they don't understand the context. He proposed turning to local architects, whom he called “locatects.” Not long afterward, the architect and Yale professor Peggy Deamer wrote to The New York Times, arguing that several high-profile architects, through news coverage of various controversies, were giving architecture a bad name. (She called out Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and SHoP.)
She also decried the “Howard Roarkian image” of the starchitect as the lone genius “that makes most of us architects cringe,” but noted that the culture of architecture is shifting away from that stereotype toward “models of practice that do away with the egos and the glamorous buildings they are associated with.” Today's ideal is one of “collaboration, open-source networking, non-hierarchical practices, entrepreneurialism, streamlined production, and profit-sharing” instead of the singular author, Deamer wrote. She's right about the trend toward a more collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to architecture, especially among younger firms.
And her point about the collaborative nature of design has been central, as well, to all the discussions about women in architecture— especially where their contributions alongside those of famous men have been overlooked, as in the case of Denise Scott Brown with Robert Venturi or Natalie de Blois with Gordon Bunshaft. We explored this territory of gender in our special issue, “Women in Architecture Now” (June 2013), charting the gains made by women in the field as well as reporting on the vast gaps that still remain.
As part of our commitment to this ongoing concern, RECORD announced last month that the magazine was launching its first Women in Architecture awards. The annual honors are intended to acknowledge the increasingly visible role of women in the profession, to actively encourage firms to promote women and their work, and to celebrate women who are design leaders.
In its selection process, RECORD first sought nominations from a wide range of professionals; then we asked an independent jury to consider architects from all over the country and make the final selection. The judges were Blair Kamin, architecture critic, Chicago Tribune; Rosalie Genevro, executive director, The Architectural League of New York; Sarah Williams Goldhagen, architecture critic, The New Republic; Jill Lerner, principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox; Mary McLeod, professor, Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; and Mark Regulinksi, managing director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

RECORD is pleased to announce the award winners:

DESIGN LEADER, for an architect with significant built work and influence: Merrill Elam, of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta.

NEW GENERATION LEADER, for an architect who is rising in the profession: Jeanne Gang, of Studio Gang, Chicago.

INNOVATOR, for an architect who has made a mark in innovative design, materials, or building type: Sheila Kennedy, of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Boston.

ACTIVIST, for an architect who has used her skills to design for social change, affect the public realm, or perform pro bono work: Erinn McGurn, of SCALEAfrica, New York.

EDUCATOR, for a professional who has helped the advancement of women: Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, former dean of the University of Miami's School of Architecture, Miami, Florida.

We don't mean to imply, with these awards, that any single architect is a lone genius, but rather that these architects are leaders, in partnerships and on teams, whose example and whose work is inspiring.

Congratulations to each of them.