In a gallery of the Century Association in midtown Manhattan, Architectural Record’s 2022 Women in Architecture award winners accepted prizes for their work in the field of architecture and beyond. Design Leader: Carol Ross Barney; Next Generation Leader: Jing Liu; Innovators: Jonsara Ruth and Alison Mears; Educator: Hazel Edwards; and Activist: Monica Rhodes gave brief video presentations highlighting their backgrounds, inspirations, and goals as well as current projects. Afterwards, each recipient received her award from RECORD’s editor-in-chief Cathleen McGuigan and made brief remarks.
Design Leader: Carol Ross Barney (right) with RECORD's editor-in-chief Cathleen McGuigan (left). Photo © Kristen Blush
Carol Ross Barney, also a speaker at RECORD’s Innovation conference the night prior, discussed the climate crisis and creative problem-solving for the challenges of urban living, such as noise and light pollution. Ross Barney, who leads the Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects, advocated for creative design solutions to the destruction wrought by climate change, by showing her office’s work, from designing acoustically-sensitive public transit stations to enabling access to that city’s miles of underutilized waterways, such as the Chicago Riverwalk. “If we take the basic operating premise that design matters,” she said, we must push “beyond just net-zero” buildings. “Design is the superpower of architects,” she told the audience of 100 architects, “use it.”
New Generation Leader: Jing Liu with partner Florian Idenburg in the audience. Photo © Kristen Blush
Jing Liu of Brooklyn-based practice SO – IL, co-founded with her partner Florian Idenburg, spoke of her upbringing in China in the 1980s and early 1990s, amidst rapid urbanization and the rise of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Neoliberal economic policies coupled with political unrest not only had an impact on building—including large commercial and residential development in urban China—but also underpinned coinciding movements around the world. “We had Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the fall of the Berlin wall in the same year,” she said. When she arrived at school in the U.S. at Tulane University in New Orleans, she was shocked by the urban decay, blight, and widespread poverty—a viewpoint in contrast to what she expected American cities to look like. To the surprise of her professors and classmates, she focused her student thesis on the urban issues in her college town. Having both a local and global mindset, she said, has shaped her architectural career since and determined the type of social issues she continues to address through SO – IL. “I hope for humanity to be kind, and to do better,” she concluded.
Cathleen McGuigan (left) with Innovators: Alison Mears (middle) and Jonsara Ruth (right). Photo © Kristen Blush
Jonsara Ruth and Alison Mears, who founded Parsons School of Design’s Healthy Materials Lab, took turns thanking each other for their decades of work on and commitment to sustainable methods of design and building with healthy materials. “We’re designing for a post-petroleum world,” Ruth said. To help reduce carbon emissions and eliminate harmful chemicals in building products, the collaborators argued that we must “design with new nature-based practices in mind.” Ruth and Mears envision a world of community-based labor as part of a green economy that “renovates existing buildings with healthy materials,” like HempLime retrofits and other alternatives. “My mother was a chemist, and I grew up with her trying to teach me all these principles that I never thought I would use,” admitted Mears, “but here we are, it all came together.”
Educator: Hazel Edwards in the audience. Photo © Kristen Blush
An alumna of Howard University with a master’s from Harvard’s GSD and a PhD from the University of Illinois, Hazel Edwards began her speech by saying “there were few women who looked like me across all of those degrees.” She emphasized “the importance of young people also being exposed to people who look, think, and feel as they do,”—one many reasons she ventured into education, despite her initial opposition, having come from an academic family. A professor at Howard, where until recently she was chair of architecture, she values mentoring, bringing greater representation to the mix, and focusing on what she calls “empathetic human-centered design.” On the subject of forging your own unique path, Edwards closed with a Judy Garland quote: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of than second-rate version of someone else.”
Activist: Monica Rhodes (right) with Cathleen McGuigan (left). Photo © Kristen Blush
Also an advocate for underrepresented voices, Monica Rhodes discussed her groundbreaking work in historic preservation. Working to amplify voices of women, Black and Latinx folks in preservation and conservation, Rhodes led the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s HOPE (Hands-On Preservation Experience) Crew, which expands preservation work to younger, more diverse groups. The Loeb fellow and Rome Prize recipient also helped pass the Great American Outdoors Act, landmark legislation to conserve and restore the nation’s parks. Rhodes cited her undergraduate education at the University of Tulsa, where as a history major, she learned the activist traditions of fighting cultural erasure, through the work of those such as W.E.B DuBois, who organized marches to protest lynchings around the U.S., and the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, who fought to memorialize what was lost). Rhodes noted, “Preservation is participatory... It tells the generation 50 years from now about not only what, but who we value in 2022.” She ended with a core belief, “Through preservation, we use the past to create the future we all want to see.”
The evening was capped with a reception that included previous award winners Billie Tsien of Tod Williams Billie Tsien, Toshiko Mori of Toshiko Mori Architect, and Stella Betts of LEVENBETTS, alongside students, mentors, and aspiring young architects.