2017 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.

A natural mentor and driven volunteer, Shannon Christensen, AIA, leads by example. Her guidance and encouragement of her colleagues has been spread across 13 different outlets at the local, state, and national levels. Her efforts to grow and advance the profession are tenacious, and she’s worked ceaselessly to increase the number of women who choose architecture as a career.

Last year Christensen was named an associate principal at her firm, the Montana-based CTA Architects Engineers, becoming one of the youngest professionals to be named to the principal’s team in the firm’s 78-year history. Her talents have been integral to CTA’s growth, and her ability to deliver high-performing designs has made her one of the most sought-after architects in the region.

When the Altana Federal Credit Union approached CTA to design its new location in Billings, Mont., Christensen responded with a design concept that acknowledged the credit union’s existing Prairie School–style branches but integrated cutting-edge concepts that present a professional and secure environment for its members. Christensen assumed direct oversight of the client relationship, which the firm first established in the late 1990s, and recently marked her 10th project with the credit union.

Since her graduation from Montana State University, Christensen has remained a guide for the future of profession as a member of the university’s School of Architecture Advisory Council. She is a regular critical presence at in the school’s studios and participates in speed interviews with students developing their presentation skills. As chair of the school’s Graduate Council, she led the efforts to pen its bylaws and formalize its expectations. As a bridge between students and the profession, the council hosted panel discussions with architects to explore topics such as firm culture, resume and portfolio workshops, and networking events.

Christensen just completed a three-year term as an AIA Young Architects Forum Northwest and Pacific Region director. As the voice of the region during its repositioning, she served on the Community, Knowledge, and Regional Engagement Focus Groups, and helped develop YAF walking tours for the 2014 AIA Convention in Chicago. To facilitate better communication, Christensen embraced social media and started the region’s YAF Twitter account, which has grown an audience of nearly 600 followers and regularly provides updates on issues of concern to emerging professionals.

From associate director to state government network representative, Christensen has held a number of leadership roles with AIA Montana. When the Chapter was supporting legislation to improve the state’s practice laws, she attended strategy meetings with the Chapter’s lobbyist and presented its case in person to legislators at the capitol. She’s a regular contributor to AIA Montana’s quarterly newsletter, for which she pens pieces on licensure, as well as to the Chapter’s magazine, The Montana Architect.

In little more than a decade of practice, Christensen has exhibited a high level of leadership and professional engagement. As one of Montana’s young architectural paragons, she espouses all of the positive qualities the profession champions.


John Sorrenti, FAIA, (Chair), JRS Architect, PC, Mineola, New York

Josh Flowers, AIA, Hnedak Bobo Group, Memphis, Tennessee

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

Lenore M. Lucey, FAIA, LML Consulting, Washington, DC

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

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

Image credits

S. Christensen, AIA

Shannon Christensen, AIA


James Ray Spahn


James Ray Spahn