2019 Young Architect 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.

Dedicated to exploring the architect’s role in shaping community policy and elevating the human experience, Patricia Opitz, AIA, sets an excellent example for the next generation of architects. Leading by action, she serves her community tirelessly and is committed to promoting the profession and her home state of Arkansas.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas, in 2004, Opitz returned home to Little Rock to join Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, where she has worked for the past 14 years. Now a senior associate in the 45-person firm, she delivers on the firm’s promise that quality and value in design are not mutually exclusive concepts. Her rigorous execution of the smallest details in every project has led to the creation of inspiring public spaces, such as the new headquarters campus for Bank of the Ozarks, one of America’s fastest-growing banks. Demonstrating her belief that good design reaches across all styles and preferences, she has also worked on its CEO’s personal home for more than eight years.

Opitz’s talent and leadership abilities have brought significant attention to architecture, for which she has established herself as a trusted voice throughout Arkansas. In 2014 she was one of 29 women—and the only architect—selected for Little Rock Soirée magazine’s Women to Watch, which celebrates annually the women in the state making an impact in business, philanthropy, and the community. Two years later her peers gave her the 2016 AIA Arkansas Emerging Professional Award in recognition of her dedication to the profession.

Since the start of her professional career, Opitz has been an active member of AIA Arkansas, and she has held several positions on its board of directors. In her role as central section chair, she oversaw efforts to engage 400 architects and associates in the central and south regions of the state through educational and networking opportunities. To reach more associates, Opitz launched entertaining new events, such as a brewery crawl and an emerging professionals’ event that coincided with the chapter’s annual golf outing, raising more than $5,000 to support scholarships and a lecture series.

With four other like-minded members of the board, Opitz founded Arkansas’ first Diversity and Women in Architecture committees in 2016. Together they offer mentoring, educational resources, and leadership support to any architect or associate interested in broadening diversity and inclusion in the profession. The group’s efforts quickly generated interest across the state, with nearly 40 percent of women active in the chapter having participated in committee-sponsored events.

Beyond the AIA, Opitz is active in the Junior League of Little Rock, having served as a board member for the 96-year-old organization committed to developing the potential of women and improving the community through the leadership of trained volunteers. The league is responsible for many of Little Rock’s treasures, including formation of the Arkansas Arts Center and its Museum of Discovery.

An outstanding architect in every sense, Opitz is a key figure that both her firm and the AIA rely upon for strong leadership. Always willing to share her passion for design, knowledge, and keen insight, she has bettered the profession and the community she serves in countless ways.


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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PSW Architects and StudioOutside Landscape Architects

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Ken West Photography

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PSW Architects

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PSW Architects