2020 AIA|LA Presidential Honorees
Announced by American Institute of Architects Los Angeles
Recipients demonstrate how architecture may contribute to the region’s wellbeing.

July 23, 2020 (Los Angeles, CA)—The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIALA) announced the 2020 AIALA Presidential Honorees today. The recipients are architects and professionals active in the built environment who have meaningfully influenced architecture, the urban design of the area, and the practice of the profession.

At the forefront of this prestigious group is Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, named the 2020 AIALA Gold Medal recipient. The AIALA Gold Medal is the highest honor the organization bestows on an individual. Lehrer’s belief that “beauty is a rudiment of human dignity” has been a foundation of his practice since 1985 when he founded his Los Angeles based-office, Lehrer Architects.

“To Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, the practice of architecture includes the rigorous investigation of strategies that deliver the benefits of design excellence to some of the region’s most vulnerable: individuals with mental illness, and those with little financial means to access housing. His devotion to fellow humans is matched by his mastery of craft,” stated 2020 AIALA President Greg Verabian, AIA. “He is an architect fully engaged in architecture as a means to contribute to society as a whole.”

Lehrer embodies the high level of achievement loosely covering four areas that characterize this year’s AIALA Presidential Honorees class: design excellence, service to the region and country, the fostering of next generation designers, and support of the field. The twelve recipients were chosen by the Chapter’s Board of Directors in its entirety, with the president selecting the Gold Medal recipient.

The complete class of 2020 AIALA Presidential Honorees is:

Gold Medal: Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA
Building Team: Santa Monica City Hall East*
Emerging Practice: Andre Herrero, AIA and Adam Charlap Hyman – Charlap Hyman & Herrero
25-Year Award: UCLA Chiller Plant/Cogeneration Facility
Citizen Architect: Angie Brooks, FAIA
Robert Kennard, FAIA, Award for Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity:  R. Steven Lewis, FAIA, NOMAC
Educator Award: Dana Cuff, Ph.D. – Director, cityLAB & Professor of Architecture/Urban Design and Urban Planning, UCLA
Merry Norris Design Advocate, Developer: Wayne Ratkovich, The Ratkovich Company
Merry Norris Design Advocate, Builder: Clark Construction
Community Contribution: USC Architecture Operation PPE
Honorary AIALA: Dafna Kaplan, Hon. AIALA
Honorary AIALA: Craig Shimahara, Hon. AIALA

The Building Team for the Santa Monica City Hall East* is responsible for a groundbreaking civic project that will demonstrate that society has the capability to live off the grid. Designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners to meet the sustainability protocols of the Living Building Challenge, the project paves the way to the future, literally. Emerging Firm recipients, Andre Herrero, AIA and Adam Charlap Hyman, Charlap Hyman & Herrero, jointly lead a firm whose spare, carefully considered spaces, reinvigorate the midcentury modern aesthetic. The unabashed presentation of functionality embodied in 25-Year Award recipient UCLA Chiller Plant/Cogeneration Facility, designed by Holt Hinshaw Pfau Jones and Jones, Partners: Architecture, has withstood the test of time.

Throughout the Los Angeles landscape are beautifully preserved and renovated buildings from previous eras that today thrive as office and commercial space. These iconic renovations are, more than not, the work of the Merry Norris Design Advocate Award, Developer recipient Wayne Ratkovich, who has been engaged in city building since 1977. Clark Construction, the recipient of the Merry Norris Design Advocate Award, Builder, award, realizes the vision of architects designing some of the most complex and challenging projects today: large-scale civic, cultural, and institutional projects. The company consistently delivers these important spaces at the highest quality.

For Citizen Architect Angie Brooks, FAIA, practice extends beyond the realization of award-winning buildings to advocacy for policies that sustain the environment and advance housing as a human right. She matches her advocacy with productive tactics that implement these core values nationally, regionally, and within design, and have earned her recognition across the country. The recipient of the Robert Kennard, FAIA, Award for Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity, R. Steven Lewis, FAIA, NOMAC, is a national leader and effective voice on behalf of greater opportunities for Black architects and people of the color in the field. His experience and guidance benefits individuals, firms, clients, and communities throughout the region. His is an essential voice in the profession.

This year’s Community Contribution recipient demonstrated unique ways that architecture can serve the region, and practitioners’ commitment to their neighbors. As the scope of COVID-19 became clear, USC Architecture Operation PPE galvanized hundreds of architects to print pseudo-N95 masks and other devices in support of the medical community. The initiative was led by Alvin Huang, AIA, who, almost overnight, created a manufacturing entity, connected three USC schools, and oversaw production and distribution.

The recipient of the Educator of the Year award is the nationally acclaimed theorist, author, teacher and policy influencer, Dana Cuff, Ph.D. As Director of cityLAB, and Professor of Architecture/Urban Design and Urban Planning, UCLA, Cuff significantly influences the built environment by imparting her expertise to next-generation designers and urban planners.

While achieving strategic goals on behalf of firms and companies in the A/E/C industries, 2020 Honorary AIALA recipient Dafna Kaplan, Hon. AIALA has also always identified means to support the field at large and the Chapter. Today, as the founder of her own company, Cassette, she manufactures modular housing to address the housing crisis. For over twenty years, Craig Shimahara, Hon. AIALA has served architects through architectural visualization services of Shimahara Visual. His passion for design and commitment to the field and the Chapter runs much deeper. Shimahara quietly found avenues that support both consistently. In doing so, he facilitates expanded outcomes for architects.

*This building was originally identified as Santa Monica City Services Building. This announcement has been updated to reflect the name change prior to the 2020 AIALA Design Awards ceremony.

* * * *
In 2020, the “AIALA Design Advocate, Developer” and “Design Advocate, Builder” awards were renamed to recognize Merry Norris, Hon AIALA, who died early in the year. A fixture on the design scene for decades and former AIALA Board of Directors member, Norris, who was a widely admired art consultant, connected the worlds of architecture and art. In 2011, it was Norris who was named the first Design Advocate award recipient.

The AIA|LA Presidential Honorees are bestowed in conjunction with the Chapter’s annual Design Awards ceremony, during which recipients are honored along with winners of juried design awards. Three categories of the latter are recognized: built projects, as yet unbuilt or uncompleted architecture, and in 2020, only, the Millennium Awards. This year’s Design Awards Ceremony will be held virtually in October.

Recognizing excellence in design, the AIALA Design Awards, Next LA Awards and Millennium Awards (the latter presented in 2020 only) are a suite of design awards bestowed by the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles. Submissions are reviewed by a jury of formed from architects, fellows, critics, professors and theorists who represent the best in the design field.

The AIA|LA wishes to thank 2020 AIALA Design Awards Ceremony Presenting Sponsor: Sharpe Interior Systems.


Tibby Rothman, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Marketing and Public Relations
t: 213.639.0763
e: tibby@aialosangeles.org