Getting to know the Young Architects Award recipients

What makes architecture's future stars tick? We spoke with some of AIA's recent Young Architects Award recipients about what fulfills them, their dream projects, and more.

Each year, the Young Architects Award recognizes AIA members in the early stage of their architectural career who have shown exceptional leadership in design, planning, education, and service to the profession.

In the first part of the new series about getting to know the 2024 Young Architect Award recipients, you’ll learn about what makes each one tick, why they were drawn to architecture, and what their dream projects are.

Highlighted in this installment are Erin Reilly-Sanders, Ph.D., AIA; Vicky Chan, AIA; Ryan Kurlbaum, AIA; Darguin Fortuna, AIA; Gabriella Bermea, AIA; and Erin Peavey, AIA.


What first drew you to architecture?

Reilly-Sanders: It might have been my dad reading me The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater as a child. In this picture book, Mr. Plumbean shapes his house to be "where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams." I love this idea of people influencing their environment to support their individual needs and interests.

Chan: I was making public art for my high school with my art teacher. I learned the joy of creating pleasant public spaces to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness.

Kurlbaum: I found architecture in a high school drafting class. Mr. DePriest taught us how to hand draw plan, section, and elevations of mechanical parts. I knew I was on to something when I never wanted class to end.

Fortuna: Initially, it was because a friend decided to go to architecture school. Then I noticed the impact we have and could not think of any other career that literally can shape the world and make it more inclusive, diverse, and equitable.

Bermea: Growing up in a small South Texas border town, San Antonio was where I was exposed to the impact design could have on a community. In high school, I was a part of an inaugural STEM Program in Texarkana and completed my independent study in the architecture and drafting program - to be able to connect communities through the built environment felt like a dream come true.

Peavey: Originally, I wanted to be a social worker, and was drawn to architecture through environmental psychology, the study of how people and place interact with one another, and the idea that I could use the built environment to care for others.


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