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.
Blazing a nontraditional career path that intrinsically links architecture and education, Jeff Wagner, AIA, has made a distinct mark on the fabric of Las Vegas. Dedicated to improving the human condition, he finds ways to contribute to the built environment and his community through educational programming, mentorship, and teaching.
Wagner’s career as an architect—beginning as a project manager at Melvin Green Architect Ltd. and Robert A. Fielden Inc., both in Las Vegas—laid a solid foundation for his current role as director of design and construction for Nevada’s Clark County School District. The nation’s fifth-largest school district, it serves more than 320,000 K–12 students, nearly 75 percent of all students in the state. Wagner was a member of the inaugural class at the district’s Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, widely recognized as one of the nation’s top high school programs. Honored to serve the school district that presented him with opportunities as a student, Wagner is charged with the monumental task of managing a $4.1 billion capital improvement bond to construct, replace, and modernize more than 100 schools.
While overseeing 45 employees, Wagner has been highly involved with selecting the 21 architecture firms and countless contractors that are delivering the district’s projects. While his direct involvement varies depending on the complexity of each project, he is responsible for the overall direction of the program, maintaining budgets and schedules, and the success of the district’s capital improvement program. Wagner continues to refine the approach to building schools by writing new educational specifications for the district and pushing his team and the architects with whom they work to discover better and more efficient solutions.
Equally passionate about both education and architecture, Wagner established a mentorship program at his old high school that connects students with the architecture program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The expanded program now involves professionals at all stages of their careers, and more than 20 years after graduation Wagner regularly returns to the school to mentor students.
An active member of AIA Las Vegas, Wagner has served on its board of directors and as chair and vice chair of its Emerging Professionals/Young Architects Forum. Focused on building connections throughout the architectural community and supporting young professionals, he arranged and hosted many of the chapter’s monthly mentorship dinners. Recognizing a need to offer stronger resources to ARE candidates, he offered a series of ARE workshops and mentored aspiring architects in one-on-one sessions. In 2011 the chapter honored his commitment with its Young Architect Award.
While tackling an incredibly important responsibility so early in his career, Wagner handles the challenge with poise and a dedication that has elevated the conversation about the design of smart schools. As a mentor, he is a pivotal figure for the next generation of architects and design leaders.