2019 Young Architect Award Recipient

Emerging talent deserves recognition. The AIA Young Architects Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.

With unwavering dedication to social equity and beauty in every corner of the built environment, Allison Méndez, AIA, epitomizes the best qualities of today’s emerging professionals. Heavily involved in improving the profession and her community, her impact has been felt on the local, regional, and national levels, where she has positioned herself among the next generation of leaders.

Méndez is a senior associate in CannonDesign’s St. Louis office, where she sets, supports, and visualizes the conceptual direction and design intention for projects from pre-design through construction administration. Her work is marked by rich texture and thoughtful utility, and she is outspoken in her belief that everyone—especially populations typically underserved by high-end design—is entitled to quality architecture. That commitment is evident in projects such as the behavioral health center she designed for a confidential client. Echoing Frederick Law Olmsted’s principles, the center provides a place of respite and healing connection with nature for those afflicted with behavioral health issues, from anxiety to severe psychoses.

Recognizing that the profession needs to continue taking strides to embrace minority voices, Méndez has championed change as a member of CannonDesign’s NEXT Council and AIA Central States. Working closely with firm leadership and her fellow council members, she helped reform the firm’s family leave policy and advance the ideas of the firm’s frontline designers, advocating for its next generation of leaders.

While Chair of the Central States Emerging Professionals Committee, Méndez oversaw the modernization of the judging criteria for its Emerging Professionals Friendly Firm Award, calling for progressive firms to be held to higher standards on numerous social equity metrics. This broadened the award’s consideration of gender equity, exam support, and comprehensive harassment policies, a process that is being widely examined at chapters nationwide.

In her own community, Méndez is generous with her time through Open Hand Studio, an incubator for public interest design projects within CannonDesign that also offers pro bono services. As studio coordinator, she has led the design and community engagement of 10 Habitat for Humanity homes in St. Louis and the visualization of a daycare facility and restaurant for St. Patrick Center, a nonprofit focused on helping the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. Méndez also helped organize St. Louis Meet & Match, an annual firm event that helps develop stronger bonds between design professionals and nonprofit organizations.

With her keen ability to create positive change, Méndez has proven herself a cultural champion and natural leader. As the profession continues to address global issues, passionate and principled design leaders like her will be critical for ensuring a bright future for architecture.

Jury

Raymond "Skipper" Post, FAIA (Chair), Post Architects, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Edward Vance, FAIA, EV&A Architects, Inc., Las Vegas, Nevada

Peter Kuttner, FAIA, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

John Castellana, FAIA, TMP Architecture, Inc., Bloomfield Hill, Michigan

Roger Schluntz, FAIA, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

Lora Teagarden, AIA, RATIO Architects, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana

Image credits

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Gayle Babcock