AIA Gold Medal to Brooks + Scarpa, Firm Award to MASS Design Group

John Hill
10. December 2021
Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa (Photo: Jeff Durkin)

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced that Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa of California's Brooks + Scarpa Architects are winners of the 2022 Gold Medal, while Boston's MASS Design Group wins the 2022 Architecture Firm Award.

Brooks and Scarpa are the second duo to win the Gold Medal, which normally goes to an individual architect, following Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi in 2016. The AIA decided in 2013 to open up the Gold Medal to collaborations, subsequently giving the medal to an architect, Scott Brown, snubbed by the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1991. Yesterday's announcement from the AIA does not mention this earlier medal, though like Venturi and Scott Brown, Brooks and Scarpa are married, having tied the knot in 1987 after meeting at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

After moving to California, Scarpa started Pugh + Scarpa with Gwynne Pugh in 1991, and Brooks continued her studies at SCI-Arc. By the end of the decade, after working for a nonprofit housing developer, Brooks joined Pugh + Scarpa as a firm principal. While her name was not on the door, the announcement asserts that Brooks "played a pivotal role in work that garnered the firm" the 2010 Architecture Firm Award, including the energy-neutral Colorado Court Apartments and Step Up on 5th, which provides a home, support services and rehabilitation for the homeless and mentally disabled population. One year after the firm award, Pugh left to start his own studio and the firm was renamed Brooks + Scarpa Architects

In a letter nominating Brooks and Scarpa for the Gold Medal, architects Steve Dumez and Douglas A. Benson wrote: "Aside from being outstanding, award-winning design architects, Angie and Larry are also exceptional activists, community leaders, and civic collaborators. They are motivated by a social responsibility and environmental stewardship that seeks to find ways to improve the livability of cities and ennoble the daily lives of its citizens. Actively engaged citizen-architects, their efforts have fundamentally reshaped public policy initiatives that address critical issues and reforms that serve the public good, increase housing equity, and improve the built environment."

MASS Design Group (Photo: Chris Schwagga)

Equally considered in terms of serving the public good, MASS Design Group is the 2022 recipient of the Architecture Firm Award, which "recognizes one firm that has produced notable architecture for at least a decade." MASS has been around for a little over a decade, having been founded in 2008, but in that time the "nonprofit interdisciplinary collaborative" has grown to more than 200 architects and engineers, as well as researchers and filmmakers. Furthermore, the company employs more than 2,000 people in MASS.Made, a furniture design and fabrication team, and MASS.Build, a construction company.

MASS stands for Model of Architecture Serving Society but also signals their home base in Boston, Massachusetts. MASS was founded by Alan Ricks and Michael Murphy when they were working on the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, a project that brought a lot of attention to the firm and led them to design additional medical facilities in and beyond Rwanda, including the GHESKIO Cholera Treatment Center in Haiti. The firm's portfolio is diverse regardless of a strong expertise in creating "dignified" hospitals, most notably the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, as highlighted in yesterday's announcement from the AIA.

Architect Rahul Mehrotra wrote a letter supporting MASS's nomination, saying: "I admire MASS's commitment to equate justice and beauty in our built environment. Too often we experience the opposite in the architecture profession, where beauty in design is privatized for a select population. MASS proves through each project, however, that this assumption is neither equitable nor empowering. In fact, their team displays that a mission-driven design process guided by communities themselves is both attainable and necessary."

The jury for both the Gold Medal and Architecture Firm Award:
  • Lisa Matthiessen (Chair), Amazon, Pasadena, CA
  • Brenna Costello, SmithGroup, Denver, CO
  • Nathaniel Hudson, FormGrey Studio, Reno, NV
  • Candace Jackson, CJAM Consulting, New York, NY
  • Renauld Mitchell, Moody Nolan, Chicago, IL
  • Wendy Ornelas, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
  • Anand Sheth, Studio Anand Sheth, San Francisco, CA

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