2018 Edward S. Frey Award

Joan Soranno, FAIA, is an award-winning architect specializing in cultural, religious and higher education projects at HGA in Minneapolis. Joan’s passion for design is evident in every facet of her work.


With partner John Cook, FAIA, she has created a small in-house design studio that serves as an incubator for innovative design, producing aesthetically-driven and technically challenging work. The pair’s drive for understanding and in-depth research process results in projects that are uniquely suited to meet both the aesthetic and programmatic goals of each client. Emerging from this insight, their work is contemporary in style but responsive to surrounding context. They believe in the power of design to create memorable spaces and work with clients whose project goals mirror their own aspirations for creating beautiful, enduring architecture.

“Faith-based design should above all else strive to inspire; this architect consistently accomplishes that through her masterful integration of form, material and light.” ~ Jury statement

Joan’s notable projects include the Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum, which received the 2014 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture, the 2013 ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Award of Excellence, and the 2012 Faith & Form/IFRAA Honor Award for Religious Architecture; Bigelow Chapel for the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, which received the 2006 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture; the education and lobby expansion for Temple Israel in Minneapolis; the new entry pavilion for Walker Art Center; and five musician cottages for the renowned Marlboro Music Festival.

"The results of the thoughtful and intentional design incorporated into her religious works are inspirational. Her work evokes an intuitive sense to pause and contemplate both the meaning of the space and its simple serenity." ~ Jury statement

Soranno serves as a juror for national design awards programs and has presented programs at major forums, including “Constructing the Ineffable: Contemporary Sacred Architecture” at Yale University, “Innovative Uses of Wood to Evoke a Sense of Spirituality at Religious Facilities” at MIT, “The Here and the Hereafter” at The Catholic University of America, and “On the Waterfront: Renaissance Through Design Excellence” for the AIA Committee on Design.

Joan has a BS in Architecture from the University of Notre Dame and is a member of the GSA Design Excellence Program. She has been published in Faith & Form Magazine, the New York Times, WSJ, Architectural Record, AIArchitect and ARCHITECT.


Michael L. Janaskie, AIA, Novus Architects, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Thomas L. Kerns, FAIA,  Kerns Group Architects, P.C., Falls Church, Virginia

Stephen C. Pickard, AIA, GFF Architects, Dallas

James E. Theimer, AIA, Trilogy Architecture, Redding, California

James F. Williamson, FAIA, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee

Image credits

IMG_4937_joan sorrano


Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum - outside

Paul Crosby Photography

Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum - inside

Paul Crosby Photography

Bigelow Chapel at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities - outside

Paul Warchol Photography

Bigelow Chapel at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities - inside

Paul Warchol Photography

Temple Israel - inside

Paul Crosby Photography