Announcing the 2017 Professional Excellence & Distinguished Service Award Honorees


AIA Chicago and the AIA Chicago Foundation are pleased to announce the 2017 winners of the Professional Excellence & Distinguished Service Awards.

These individuals and organizations will be recognized at the Annual Meeting & Holiday Party, taking place December 6, 2017 at the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall. Purchase your tickets today!

2017 Firm of the Year: Architecture is Fun, Inc.

Peter Exley, FAIA, RIBA, and educator/designer Sharon Exley, MAAE, ASID, cofounded the Architecture Is Fun as a multidisciplinary studio in 1994. Their firm devotes itself to the architecture of play and driving the process of participation to engage stakeholders of all ages in this constructive foundational activity. Elevating this area of practice from the trivialized to the transformative recognizes the power play has as a catalyst for learning, socialization, community and culture. FUN is an important part of the firm name and a critical part of their trademark educative design process. This ideology—design that makes education fun and design that is fundamentally educated—is fulfilled through its participatory nature. 
As an architectural think-tank for play and learning, the studio stands apart in their willingness to continuously innovate and evolve. They design the way they lead, manage, source, create, and collaborate. Multiple perspectives are valued. Education, experience and design inform each other. The firm’s team of multidisciplinary professionals has included architects, art therapists, educators, scientists, historians, medical professionals, graphic, industrial designers and more. The inventive, broad-minded attitude of the studio extends outward to clients. 
Its collective process—inclusive, focused and committed—brings everyone to the design table, values multiple perspectives and shapes stories through an architecture of complexity, familiarity, beauty and richness.


2017 Dubin Family Young Architect: Anthony Viola, AIA

Anthony Viola, Senior Designer and Team Leader at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), works on high-performance projects that focus on the design, development, and use of parametric computational tools that push the boundaries of integrated performance-based design. During his 12+ years of experience, Anthony has designed many structures through this integrated design process. He seeks to find new ways to realize a project using low-tech methods—such as 3D physical models—and high-tech processes like advanced computer simulations. By developing a clear idea of how each project fits into its site parameters and user conditions he is able to sculpt the building to its most efficient form. Anthony’s methods have garnered attention in the architectural community, particularly in the younger generation, through dozens of workshops and other well-attended design events. His design process is both creative and analytical, bridging the gaps often associated with technical design. 

Anthony has also been highly involved in mentoring the next generation of architects. Beginning in 2012 Anthony started a series of quarterly “hack-a-thons” to accelerate and organize research and development at AS+GG. The hack-a-thon’s after-hours format has become a vital, vibrant, and necessary program.

Anthony has also been active in AIA Chicago as co-chair of the AIA Chicago Design Knowledge Community. From 2009 to 2014, Anthony organized discussions and presentations with some of the leading designers practicing in Chicago along with their multidisciplinary teams. This idea later formed the basis for the creation of the Chicago Computation Group in 2014.

Throughout his work experience, Anthony has sought to link the feedback that he receives from various sources and methods to form truly integrated design solutions. He understands that the more data you can obtain about a project throughout the design process, the more critical design choices can be explored, negotiated, and implemented. His process and integrated performance-based design methodology lead to forward-thinking projects that challenge the role of the profession in the creation of a sustainable built environment that embodies the notion “form follows performance.”


2017 Distinguished Service Award: Steve Weiss, FAIA

Steve Weiss, FAIA, is receiving the Distinguished Service Award to recognize his 30+ years of service to the National AIA Contract Documents Committee. He is the principal and founder of Weiss Architects. He established WA in 1998 after 28 years of experience in two of Chicago's premier architecture firms. Steve serves as principal designer of all of WA's projects and provides oversight management for all of our endeavors. Steve's designs incorporate functional pragmatism with a particular emphasis on structure and materiality.

Steve was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1995. He served as the president of AIA Chicago in 1990 and as a member of the National AIA Contract Documents Committee from 1988 to 2008, during which tenure he was involved in drafting A201-1997 and A201-2007 and all of the digital practice documents, among others. He was Chair of the Documents Committee in 1992 and 1993 and Chair of the Digital Practice Committee and Electronic Documents Task Force at various times.

Steve speaks regularly around the country on the practice of architecture and the workings of the construction industry. He serves as a construction arbitrator under auspices of the American Arbitration Association and is an AIA representative on the AAA National Construction Dispute Resolution Committee.

2017 Distinguished Service award: ace mentor program chicago

Will there be enough architects, construction managers and engineers to fill the industry’s needs ten years from now?

The ACE Mentor Program is working hard to make sure there will be. The national program was founded in 1995 as an innovative way of attracting students, particularly minorities, women and low-income populations into careers in the architecture, construction and engineering industry. ACE’s mission is to inform and excite high school students about career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering; encourage students to pursue secondary and post-secondary education that will prepare them for careers in the integrated construction industry; and support the development of basic and technical skills through mentoring relationships.

The ACE Mentor Affiliate of Chicago was established in 2000 and has a fourteen-year partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Since their founding, they have touched the lives of more than 1,700 high school juniors and seniors from 36 Chicago public schools. ACE Chicago places a special focus on recruiting minority and female students; groups that are significantly under-represented in the construction and design industry, and in professional occupations overall. 93% of participants are minority and 30% are female.