Roberta Feldman Architecture for Social Justice Award


View all the 2021 submissions and Award Recipients.  

The Roberta Feldman Architecture for Social Justice Award was established in 2020 to honor excellence in built projects and design programs guided by the conviction that access to high quality architecture is not a privilege, it is a human right. Architecture for Social Justice is defined by the following objectives: first, to engage a broader cross-section of society, especially those not typically able to access architectural services and, second, to create innovative design solutions that address complex social and economic inequities that impact these communities

This yearly award celebrates the commitment of designers who work on behalf of the public good while receiving no or below *market rate compensation.

A monetary award of $2,500 will be given by the AIA Chicago Foundation for built projects and/or design programs that exemplify socially just design practices and impact. Non-monetary honorable mentions may also be awarded.

There is no cost to enter.

*Market rate compensation is based on conventional fee structures.



Entries may be submitted by and are limited to architecture firms, registered architects, architecture interns, architecture faculty and/or students and must be located in the Chicago metropolitan area -- Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will in Illinois, and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.

Architecture for Social Justice Projects

Architecture for Social Justice projects that will be honored include built projects at various scales of the environment, and design programs such as exhibits, research projects, websites, mentoring programs, advocacy projects, and other design projects that foster socially and economically equitable objectives.

Project and Program Location

The built projects and design programs may be located anywhere in the world.

Uncompensated and undercompensated Design Fees

While it is appreciated that all architectural and design services should be fully compensated, this award is intended for built projects and programs designed and implemented without conventional compensation; for instance, pro-bono or low-bono, or through grants from non-development funding sources such as foundations, universities, government arts and design agencies, and others.

Additional Entry Criteria

Entries are required to meet the following additional criteria:

  • Entries must have been completed within the last 5 years.
  • Individuals and firms are permitted to re-enter built projects and programs that did not win this award or honorable mention in previous years.
  • A submission that has received other AIA Chicago awards is eligible to apply
  • Any project or program that includes a jury member or a jury members affiliation as architect, associate architect, consultant, or client—in any stage of the process—is ineligible and will be disqualified if submitted.

All of the design team member(s), consultant(s), and partner(s), should be acknowledged in the entry:

  • Submitting design team member(s) and, if relevant consultants, and their affiliations shall be included.
  • If the work was completed as an employee under the supervision of an architect(s), consultant(s), or architect or firm of record, this individual(s) and/or firm(s) shall be noted in the submission.
  • Similarly, if the work of a student(s) is completed under the supervision of their faculty, the faculty supervisor(s) and affiliation(s) shall be noted.
  • Key partners, for instance, organizations and individuals from the impacted community, funders, public agencies, and other key stakeholders shall be listed.
  • Individuals’ names will be withheld from publication upon request.


  • Maurice D. Cox is the Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) for the city of Chicago. 
  • Katherine Darnstadt, AIA is the founder of Latent Design.
  • Professor Sergio Palleroni is a faculty member and director of the Center for Public Interest Design in the School of Architecture at Portland State University and co-founder of PSU's Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative. 
  • Helen Slade is a founding member and executive director of Territory NFP. 
  • Ernest C Wong, fASLA is the founding Principal and President of site design.
  • Mary Woolever, AIA Chicago Foundation Board Member
  • Walter Street III, AIA, NOMA, AIA Chicago Foundation Board Member

The following criteria will guide jurors in their decisions:

  • Equity: The contribution(s) of the built project and/or program to equitable social and economic consequences.
  • Engagement: Meaningful and inclusive community and/or other stakeholder(s)’ participation and collaboration.
  • Problem solving: Constructive strategies that leverage designer(s)’ and partner(s)’ assets to address built project and programmatic challenges such as cost constraints, difficult and/or conflicting objectives, political obstacles, ethical dilemmas, and others.
  • Design excellence: High standards of design evident in built projects and programmatic materials.
  • Innovation: Effective, new methods and/or design solutions that address socially just design.
  • Replicability: Applicability and affordability of a project’s or program’s method(s) and design to meet the needs of other design practices.
  • Other qualities, described by the applicant, that are particularly relevant to the submitted built project and/or program.


Submitters must provide basic information about the project, including firm or team names—school or individual names, if applicable, client names, and all relevant contact information. They will also be required to provide basic project information, including project completion dates, location (if applicable), and optional project/program costs. Submitters will also be required to sign a final acknowledgment, certifying that all parties involved were properly credited within the submission.


The project submission shall include a narrative and images such as diagrams, tables, renderings, and photographs of the built project and/or program, and partner support statements.


Submit a single narative, with a maximum of 1000 words, addressing all the topics below.

  • A project abstract, summarizing the project;
  • Statement of process describing needs and objectives, methods, and the final built project and/or program;
  • Statement of funding describing the non-conventional development funding sources, if any;
  • Impact statement (providing an assessment of the project’s and/or program’s impacts with regards to the above review criteria. Whenever possible, evidence shall be given for assertions about satisfying the review criteria.


  • A maximum of 10 images shall be submitted.
  • The maximum size per file should be 10 MB; JPGs or JPEGS only.
  • Images may be edited to improve contrast ratio, color balance, and composition through cropping. Images may not be edited to add, remove, or alter any aspect or element of the project.
  • Provide photo credit information upon uploading images. You will find detailed instructions on how to input photo credits and captions at the end of this document. Do not insert credits or captions on the image.
  • Accurate credits should be listed as they would appear in print and online. Note that by uploading images, you are agreeing that you, or if relevant, your firm, school or organization, has prior licensing approval to use the images and allow AIA Chicago to display them for promotional and marketing purposes with proper attribution.

Partner Statements

Statements from two key representatives of partner organization(s), impacted community(s), and/or other built project or program stakeholder(s) should be submitted. Statements should include:

  • The individual’s affiliation and their role in the built project and/or program.
  • The individual’s experiences with the design, implementation and/or use of the built project and/or program.


Submissions are accepted online via Award Force, AIA Chicago’s awards platform. They will not be accepted in any other format.


The AIA Chicago Foundation will notify winners and non-winners by email. Public announcements and presentations will be made on the evening of Designight (late-October each year). Winners are asked not to make their own announcement prior to this date.


The award recipients’ will be honored, and their key partners will be acknowledged at Designight, the annual event celebrating the Design Excellence Awards. The recipient’s names, affiliations and award-winning work will be published in Chicago Architect magazine and on AIA Chicago’s website. The AIA Chicago Foundation also will publicize the award-winning work to the larger architecture professional and educational communities and the public.

The submission site will open soon.  Questions should be directed to Allison Garwood Freedland.

Begin Submission Here