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.

With a guiding mantra of “better architecture in our own backyard,” Thomas Hurlbert, AIA, has turned the challenge of practicing in a rural state into an opportunity. Working to enhance his community and advance the AIA, his thoughtful and measured leadership has been an inspiration to the emerging professionals he mentors.

Co-owner and founder of CO-OP Architecture, with offices in Aberdeen, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Hurlbert’s design approach has been shaped by the rural environment he operates in. Committed to beauty, economy, and craft, the firm takes its name from the state’s spirit of collaboration and community partnership. That ethos is clear in projects such as the K.O. Lee Aberdeen Public Library, which came about after eight years of the city’s struggle with a bond vote to replace its 1950s-era library. The civic-based design, which serves as Aberdeen’s living room, replaced a dim, overcrowded, and water-damaged building, and received an AIA South Dakota Honor Award for Architecture and the People’s Choice Award last year. Elsewhere in Aberdeen, the firm’s careful rehabilitation of the decaying Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad Depot captured the spirit of the 1907 structure and gave it new life.

A believer in developing strong downtowns, Hurlbert has been a key figure in supporting the growth of South Dakota’s cities. Appointed by the mayor to Sioux Falls’ Main Street Business Improvement District Board, he oversees property assessments to ensure the city’s vibrancy. In 2016 he helped form and now chairs the Downtown Aberdeen Revitalization Team, which raises funds to purchase and rehabilitate ailing properties.

Hurlbert is an active member of AIA South Dakota and currently the chapter’s vice president, having previously served as its secretary/treasurer. In his role on the chapter’s advocacy committee, he testified before a state senate committee panel regarding a controversial issue surrounding delivery methods for public projects. As the state licensing advisor, he guides emerging professionals on their path to licensure and presents regularly to the AIAS chapter at the South Dakota State University Department of Architecture.

Beyond architecture, Hurlbert is invested in the idea using the creative arts to celebrating one’s culture. He is co-host of Rock Garden Tour, a long-running radio variety show that celebrates the culture of South Dakota through themes of gardening and rock ‘n’ roll. The tour has performed live throughout the state and recently wrapped its fourth special for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A consummate showman, Hurlbert also acts in community theater productions, recently playing the lead in the Aberdeen Community Theater production of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.

A true citizen architect, Hurlbert navigates the world with care as he looks to shape society and build community. With an undeniable passion for good design, he has made—and will continue to make—a considerable impact on the profession.


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

Thomas Hurlbert - main image

Thomas Hurlbert

Thomas Hurlbert - image 1

CO-OP Architecture

Thomas Hurlbert - image 2

CO-OP Architecture