2018 Young Architects 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.

Building upon a foundation of idealism instilled at an early age, Erin Sterling Lewis, AIA, is a resolute advocate for the profession. Inspired by her mother, who as a PTA president in Mississippi fought to improve public school conditions despite numerous death threats, Lewis’ own optimism focuses on making the most of her profession, community, and practice every day.

At in situ studio, the firm she co-founded in 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Lewis operates under the belief that connections developed between communities, clients, and colleagues are essential for a healthy and successful practice. That ethos is reflected in projects such as the Museum of Life and Science Woodland Classroom near Durham, North Carolina. Nestled in a forest, the building provides flexible space for the museum’s science camps and other programming. The project’s tight budget mandated the simplicity of the one-story building, and its storefront window placement capitalizes on views of the surrounding woodland while enhancing ventilation and light.

Recently, the firm was selected to design the Museum Park Visitor Center for the North Carolina Museum of Art. Lewis is leading the design of the 3,500-square-foot building, which will welcome several hundred thousand visitors annually. The museum sits on an interesting site which had previously been Native American land, a Civil War training facility, and, most recently, a juvenile detention center. Lewis and the design team plan to further transform the site into a vibrant place that, thanks to good design, enhances the community.

In 2007, then an architect at Frank Harmon Architect, Lewis was design and project manager for AIA North Carolina’s new headquarters. The nation’s first chapter home built from the ground up, the AIA North Carolina Center for Architecture and Design opened in January 2011, and Lewis has since become a leading force behind its programming and outreach initiatives. As chair of the center’s program committee, which operates on a strict budget, Lewis has had to be creative in envisioning programming that demonstrates the value of architects. ACTIVATE, a public outreach effort that Lewis conceived of and implemented that has grown to encompass the entire state, presents a three-day design conference, housing competitions, charrettes, and a bevy of community events.

Beyond her firm and the AIA, Lewis speaks regularly on design and architecture. She has lectured and been a professor of practice at the North Carolina State University School of Design, and was one of Wake County Library’s Modern Architecture Summer Series speakers.

A brilliant leader and selfless volunteer, Lewis has made a resounding impact on North Carolina and the region at large. Through direct, hands-on facilitation, she is always ready to energize a program or idea, and her commitment to positive change is something all architects should aspire to.


Lenore M. Lucey, FAIA (Chair), LML Consulting, Washington, DC

Raymond "Skipper" Post, FAIA, Post Architects, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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

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

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

Evelyn Lee, AIA, Savills Studley, Oakland, California

Image credits

Erin Sterling Lewis - main image

Keith Isaacs

Erin Sterling Lewis - housing image

Richard Leo Johnson

Erin Sterling Lewis-05_web

Keith Isaacs