2019 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 champion of sustainability and collaboration, Cynthia Fishman, AIA, harnesses her deep knowledge of biomimicry to address today’s global challenges and make the practice more accessible to the profession. Forging a path that is changing the dynamic between design professionals and scientists, Fishman is shaping a new vision for integrated and holistic design.

After receiving her M.S. degree in biomimicry from Arizona State University in 2018, Fishman struck out to form her own firm, The Biomimicry Design Alliance, headquartered in Denver. As founder and director of the research and architecture consulting group, she fuses science and design to address the gaps she’s observed in the design process. Recently she partnered with institutions such as Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to create an functional database of biological champions working in locations worldwide that have already addressed designers’ challenges in innovative and elegant ways.

Her education, as well as the education of others, has long been a priority for Fishman. After finishing her graduate work, and while working for another firm full-time, she introduced the Essentials of Biomimicry lecture class at the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning. Her enthusiasm for the topic, coupled with her engaging teaching style, earned rave reviews from students. Fishman is currently a faculty member at the Prescott, Arizona–based Ecosa Institute, where she teaches a biomimicry workshop each spring and fall. Fishman often speaks publicly about the topic, including at local high school biology classes and as the keynote speaker for the U.S. Green Building Council Arizona State Conference in 2017.

Always eager to address challenges, Fishman and a colleague began a chapter of Architecture for Humanity while working for a firm in Santa Fe, N.M. As the chapter’s co-director and treasurer, she developed new fundraising initiatives and volunteer motivation strategies. After moving to Denver she became active with AIA Colorado, representing emerging professionals on its board of directors and serving on the planning committee for the AIA National Convention, which Denver hosted in 2013.

To address the lack of communication between architects and allied professions, Fishman organized Meet the Dark Side, an annual event that promotes interdisciplinary relationships through lively networking. With its Star Wars theme and accompanying May 4 date, attendance has grown from 75 in 2013 to more than 400. Fifteen professional organizations serve as partners and sponsors. Based on the success of the event, and to support similar undertakings, Fishman co-founded the nonprofit Denver Does Design, for which she serves as president. Working with a committee of like-minded professionals, she helps cross-pollinate events and activities of interest to the city’s design community.

As a thought leader and connector, Fishman is guiding the profession to exploring new perspectives. Her endeavors blend her passions for architecture, biomimicry, and community engagement, producing results that are certain to make the world a better place.


Raymond "Skipper" Post, FAIA (Chair), Post Architects, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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

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

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

Roger Schluntz, FAIA, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

Lora Teagarden, AIA, RATIO Architects, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana

Image credits

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Rebecca Wright Multimedia

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Frank Ooms Photography

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KTGY Architecture + Planning for Forest City Stapleton

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Biomimicry Design Alliance

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Santa Fe Properties