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2023 AIA Brooklyn Design Awards Program Recap

2023 AIA Brooklyn Design Awards Program Recap

Welcome to a glimpse into the vibrant world of architectural innovation and design excellence – the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards. In this blog, we delve into the heart of this program, exploring its evolution, unique aspects, and role in promoting Brooklyn as a creative hub.

Discover the highlights of the recent awards, featuring memorable moments from Endirichard Jolalpa and Jason Boutin. As devoted Partners and Allied Members of the chapter, we are closely connected to the AIA Brooklyn community, making meaningful contributions to its thriving design industry. 


Highlights of the Awards

This year, our team attended the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards, showcasing our active participation and commitment to the chapter. It was great to see familiar faces and attend the chapter’s largest event of the year. Lindsay Smillow, the former Executive Director, was among the familiar faces we recognized.

Jason and Lindsay

Jason and Lindsay on stage during the awards ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Anastasiia Davydova)


Our Most Memorable Moments

Endirichard Jolalpa, our Senior Project Manager and Drone Captain shared his memorable moments from the event. A standout moment during the awards ceremony was the recognition of the urban design project Passive House, where a group of Pratt Institute students and architect In Cho received an award for climate action. This recognition stood out as the most memorable, showcasing the organization's commitment to involve and recognize young talents.

2023 AIA Brooklyn Design Awards Program Recap (3)

In Cho and Architecture students from Pratt Institute pictured receiving their award for the Passive House project. (Photo courtesy of Anastasiia Davydova)

Endi also made a valuable connection with Professor Paul King, who teaches at City Tech, a school from which he previously graduated. They had a meaningful conversation about bridges, structural engineering, and the integration of technology into the architectural curriculum, reflecting on Professor King's role in introducing technology to the field.

Visit our Industry Partner Organizations landing page to learn more about our  partnership with AIA Brooklyn!


The Evolution of the Brooklyn Design Awards

I recently interviewed Jason Boutin, who gave us his perspective on the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards' evolution. A key focus has been the integration of performance metrics, an effort to elevate the design landscape. The introduction of a performance statement, mirroring AIA's Framework for Design Excellence with its ten categories, marked a big change.

In the initial year of 2022, the submission of the performance statement was optional, providing a light introduction. However, this year witnessed a shift as it became a mandatory requirement. The goal of this strategy was to gradually familiarize participants with the new process.

Recognizing the diversity of AIA Brooklyn, which includes both large firms with many data resources and smaller firms with limited resources, the program took a thoughtful approach.

Jason introducing the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards program.

Jason introducing the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards program. (Photo courtesy of Anastasiia Davydova)

Looking ahead, the goal is to evolve the integration of performance metrics even further. This process has the goal of fostering meaningful interventions in projects, particularly those aligned with sustainability programs. Jason also has a vision where each step is designed to make the process for participants easier to work with.

Beyond this new integration, the program's format has found a rhythm that works well. Embracing an online presence last year has streamlined the submission process, with lots of positive feedback. ​​Finally, the jury for this year witnessed a big upswing in the quality of submitted projects. Jason expressed confidence and hopes for this positive trend to continue in the coming years.


The Program’s Planning Process

The program's planning process, led by Jason, focused on the foundation established in the previous year. Within this process, Jason’s role revolved around orchestrating and organizing the design awards, ensuring an organized and impactful experience for all participants.

Building on the existing process, Jason and the team worked on the post-design award cycle; immediately following the ceremony, their focus shifted to showcasing and collaborating with the award winners, laying the groundwork for the upcoming program. Pylon magazine, which will be released in the spring, will spotlight all winners (more details are available in a separate section of this blog).

Learn more about the winners of the AIA Brooklyn 2023 Brooklyn Design Awards  here.


Jason’s Memorable Moments

During both awards ceremonies in the last two years, Jason found the jury deliberations to be wonderful to watch. They are all conducted over Zoom since it's online. The jury selection of two representatives from AIA Brooklyn and others from diverse backgrounds, such as Professor Michael Oatman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Janet Fink, Interim Director for the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA), created a dynamic mix. Jason's role as a facilitator allowed the thoughtful conversation to flow among the jurors. And while it was an audience of one, it was still very inspiring for him to witness.

Adding to the memorable experiences was the actual design awards event. Bringing everyone together in a celebration was a highlight. The format, designed to avoid a long sit-down dinner, included the award ceremony in a casual yet engaging way, which resonated well with attendees.


Attendees watching the awards ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Anastasiia Davydova)

Lastly, the release of their digital magazine, Pylon, is an exciting conclusion to the entire process. The Pylon publication launch wraps up the design awards program, highlighting the awarded projects and the spirit of the design community. Its upcoming release adds extra excitement to the event, marking the end of another successful program.


Unique Aspects of the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards Program

Brooklyn is a vibrant epicenter for architectural creativity, with a wealth of architects who contribute to the dynamic fabric of the borough. Many professionals, though working in Manhattan, call Brooklyn home. Small firms thrive in Brooklyn's dynamic landscape, and the borough has become an attractive location for larger firms moving into its vibrant architectural scene. The influx of both small and large firms to Brooklyn further confirms its position as a hub for innovative design.

What sets Brooklyn apart is its architects and the sustainable and intricate tapestry of its neighborhoods. The historic masonry fabric from the 19th century is knitted into the urban landscape, creating a walkable and interconnected environment. This distinctive urban design creates a living and working space that reflects Brooklyn's character.

Brooklyn's diverse creative industries, coupled with its walkable neighborhoods and historic charm, present an interesting petri dish to explore successful living and working environments. As Brooklyn's work and living dynamics evolve, it becomes an interesting case study. The borough's architecture reflects the ongoing changes and challenges, offering valuable lessons for architects and designers.

The AIA Brooklyn Design Awards play an important role in highlighting and celebrating this uniqueness. By recognizing and honoring projects within this dynamic context, the awards not only uplift the local design community but also provide insights and inspiration for architectural projects beyond Brooklyn.


Contributions to Fostering Innovation

As a result of the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards program, Brooklyn's essence is showcased, and innovation is fostered throughout the design community. This year, there was a shift in project types, breaking away from the typical focus on residential projects by smaller firms. While residential work still holds a significant place, the awards also recognized projects such as schools and projects outside of the city completed by Brooklyn architects. This diverse array of projects highlighted the adaptability and innovative spirit of Brooklyn architects. It also showcased their ability to bring fresh perspectives to different environments, emphasizing the program's role in fostering innovation.

Tom Sterling, Architect + Landscape Architect, and Rachely Rotem, Founding Director of MODU

Tom Sterling, Architect + Landscape Architect, and Rachely Rotem, Founding Director of MODU pictured accepting their merit award for their Promenade Office and Retail project. This project is located in Houston, Texas. Identity Architects, the local architect, was also awarded. (Photo courtesy of Anastasiia Davydova)


Promoting Brooklyn as a Creative Hub

The AIA Brooklyn Design Awards program highlights the work of its members and promotes Brooklyn as a vibrant creative hub in various ways. One key avenue is the upcoming Pylon magazine, where the awarded projects will be featured, allowing a broader audience to witness the exceptional work. Additionally, the program organizes panel discussions and talks throughout the year, providing a platform for members to share insights not only about their award-winning projects but also about their firm methodologies.

These discussions are designed to cover a range of themes, shedding light on both the collective achievements of the firm and the individual efforts that led to winning awards. An emphasis on multifamily and diverse project types adds depth to these conversations, showcasing the versatility of Brooklyn architects beyond single-family residential projects. These initiatives collectively contribute to building a strong foundation for ongoing efforts to spotlight the creativity and innovation thriving within the Brooklyn design community.

Arthur Liu, Design Director of Studio Gang Architects

Arthur Liu, Design Director of Studio Gang Architects pictured accepting the excellence award and best in competition for their 11 Hoyt project, a 57-story condominium tower located in Brooklyn New York. Hill West, architect of record, was also awarded. (Photo courtesy of Anastasiia Davydova)


Planning Ahead

In preparation for the 2024 AIA Brooklyn Design Awards Program, Jason has a forward-thinking mindset, brainstorming innovative ideas and driving continuous improvement. He plans to form another advisory committee in late spring and early summer, with a focus on enhancing the performance statement to align with the chapter's goal of integrating it more.

From there, Jason will work through the entire program and conclude by planning the entire event. With his dedicated leadership, strategic planning, and organization, Jason lays the groundwork for a successful and impactful design awards program—a grand celebration of design excellence and innovation.


Our Partnership with AIA Brooklyn

In the words of our President, Jared Curtis, “As proud partner sponsors of AIA Brooklyn, we are deeply engaged in a community where architecture and industry converge, sparking transformative ideas and connections. Our involvement goes beyond sponsorship; we actively participate in events, fostering meaningful interactions and sharing insights on the evolving landscape of existing conditions in the built environment. AIA Brooklyn is more than a professional hub—it’s a dynamic platform for growth, learning, and community building, where every member’s development is supported with the best the industry has to offer.”

Are you interested in getting involved with AIA Brooklyn? Connect with the chapter’s President, Sarah Drake at

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