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Cynthia Weese, a prolific Chicago architect and educator whose built work spans from church renovations to museum expansions to affordable housing projects, has been named as the 2023 recipient of AIA Chicago’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Eighty-three year-old Weese, heralded by 2023 AIA Chicago President Mindy Viamontes as a “trailblazer in the field for architecture [whose] influence will continue to inspire female leaders for generations to come,” joins past Lifetime Achievement awardees including Natalie deBlois (2010), Helmut Jahn (2012), Stanley Tigerman (2013), Carol Ross Barney (2017), and her husband and professional partner Ben Weese (2011), with whom she founded Weese Langley Weese Architects in 1977. Early in her career, Cynthia Weese was the sole female member of the (expanded) Chicago Seven movement of which her husband—younger brother of the late Harry Weese—was one of the original members.

“Cynthia’s place in the overall canon of Chicago architecture is a significant one,” noted Jen Masengarb, executive director of AIA Chicago, in the organization’s announcement.


Weese pictured at the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, where she served as dean for over a decade. Photo courtesy Weese Langley Weese Architects

In 1974, Iowa-born Weese co-established the Chicago Women in Architecture forum, going on to serve as founding member and first woman president of the (reborn) Chicago Architectural Club, former vice president and president of the AIA Chicago board, and, from 1993 through 2005, dean of the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Weese, who taught widely before returning to her alma mater as dean, was the first woman to be appointed to a deanship within any school at WashU.

In its announcement, the AIA Chicago board referred to Weese as a “true pioneer and vanguard for the profession, city, and women architects,” noting that her “portfolio, experiences, and dedication to the profession is a fantastic example of true leadership.”

Gallery House for Arists


Chicago City Day School


1211 N. LaSalle Street


Selected works by Cynthia Weese including Gallery House for an Artist in Empire, Michigan (1); Chicago City Day School (2); and Chicago's 1211 North LaSalle, an SRO hotel-to-condo conversion project (3). Photos courtesy Weese Langley Weese Architects

Weese’s formidable reputation as a leader within both the studio and the classroom hasn’t gone unrecognized in Chicago and beyond, with past accolades including the 2018 Award for Excellence in Design, Leadership and Service presented by the Society of Architectural Historians; the Chicago Women in Architecture’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award; the 2007 Washington University Distinguished Alumni Award; the 2004 AIA Chicago Excellence in Education Award; and a 1992 AIA Chicago Honor Award in Interior Architecture for her sensitive renovation of an apartment at the Mies van der Rohe–designed 880 Lake Shore Drive. In 1991, Weese was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Individual projects by Weese Langley Weese, a specialist in adaptive reuse, have won numerous local and national awards in the realms of historic preservation, affordable housing, and neighborhood development. 

Weese will be presented with the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award on September 28 at Designight, AIA Chicago’s annual award event. This year’s celebration will be held at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, designed by fellow Chicago Seven-er Thomas H. Beeby, in Millennium Park.