2018 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture Recipient
As the 11th Architect of the Capitol, a position he was appointed to by President Barack Obama in 2010, Stephen Ayers, FAIA, cares for the nation’s architectural treasures and uses his prominent voice to advance the profession. His leadership has seen him testify before Congress on more than 50 occasions, where his keen insight on matters of historic preservation, long-range master planning, and sustainability has elevated the discourse on good design to the national level.
“In so many ways, Stephen Ayers has used his national leadership role to go well beyond what would normally be expected of a public servant,” wrote Carolyn Sponza, AIA, president of the AIA|DC Board of Directors, in a letter nominating Ayers for the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. “He has made himself a resource for the public, showing how public architects can help make a better world through design excellence.”
A recognized leader in sustainability, Ayers guides more than 2,300 employees and a $600 million budget in the stewardship of some of America’s most important buildings. He oversaw completion of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, a project that was well over budget and behind schedule when he was appointed. When he committed to a completion date and final budget — both of which proved to be accurate — Ayers demonstrated to Congress that the country’s architects can lead and deliver. More recently, his restoration of the Capitol dome and rotunda repaired more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies in the structure.
“Can you imagine an architectural position with heavier demands than the Architect of the Capitol? Yet, Stephen has not only shouldered this heavy load, he has enhanced the status and relevance of the office of the Architect of the Capitol by insisting on the highest standards of historic preservation and sustainable design,” wrote 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA, a principal at Quinn Evans Architects, in a letter supporting Ayers’ nomination. “Stephen has gone to great lengths to tell the stories of architecture, consistently leveraging the inherent interest in the iconic buildings for which he is responsible.”
Ayers has received several design awards from the AIA for his restorations of the Thomas Jefferson Building and U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory, among others, and initiated and oversaw a comprehensive master plan for the U.S. Capitol complex. The plan was developed concurrently with one for the National Mall, and encompassed the House of Representatives, Senate, Library of Congress, and Supreme Court. His widely recognized sustainability initiative for the Capitol Complex has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption across the campus, with a further 20 percent reduction on the horizon.
As the voice of the profession at the highest levels of government, Ayers’ commitment to the past and concern for the future enhance projects nationwide. “When Stephen Ayers speaks,” says 2014 AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, “Congress and industry leaders listen ... and the citizens of our country are the beneficiaries.”