2020 Associates Award Recipient

The AIA Associates Award is given to individual Associate AIA members to recognize outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession.

Tiffany D. Brown, Assoc. AIA, brings her action-oriented approach to help create opportunities in architecture for underrepresented populations. Her commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is a model for her fellow design professionals, and her efforts have positioned the profession for growth in a way that better reflects the communities it serves.

Currently pursuing licensure, Brown is a project manager at SmithGroup as well as a member of the Lawrence Technological University’s College of Architecture and Design faculty. At SmithGroup, she oversees projects such as the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center Maintenance Program, delivering much needed repairs and upgrades to a pair of 1950s city administration towers in Detroit, her native city. She’s introduced architecture to viewers of Detroit’s WKAR television station through tours of the SmithGroup office and served on the firm’s Perspectives panel, where she addressed the importance of equity in the workplace and steps she’s taken to cultivate diverse talent pools.

“Tiffany has set out to change and diversify the profession,” wrote Jeff Hausman, AIA, senior vice president and Detroit office director for SmithGroup, in a letter supporting Brown’s nomination for the Associates Award. “She is making a material impact on the young women we so desperately need in our profession. Tiffany is truly changing the lives of the young women she is touching.”

Brown is the founder of 400 Forward, an initiative named after the number of living and licensed African American women architects. Through mentorship and financial assistance, the initiative hopes to support the next 400 women architects of color. 400 Forward has partnered with Ford Motor Company for a design challenge that supports the company’s investment of $740 million to restore Detroit’s Michigan Central Station to its former glory. 400 Forward has led the community engagement efforts around the challenge and developed strategies to transform the neighborhoods surrounding the station into an innovation district.

As a founding member of the National Order of Minority Architects (NOMA) Detroit, Brown co-chaired the organization’s 2012 national conference in Detroit. Her work for the chapter and as a university liaison for NOMA’s national efforts led to her receipt of the group’s Distinguished Service Award. More recently, NOMA Detroit created the Tiffany D. Brown Member of the Year Award in her honor.

“What is most impressive about all of Tiffany’s efforts is that she provides this type of outreach while pursuing licensure, being a successful project manager with a deep background in construction administration at SmithGroup, and most importantly, while being a single mother of a very talented, competitive, award-winning gymnast,” wrote Andrew A. Dunlap, AIA, 2019 AIA Detroit chapter president and building technology studio leader at SmithGroup.


Timothy C. Hawk, FAIA (Chair), WSA Studio, Columbus, Ohio

Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, Brooks Scarpa, Hawthorne, California

Peter MacKeith, Assoc. AIA, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Oswaldo Ortega, AIA, Gensler, Chicago, Illinois

Julia Laue, AIA, Bureau of Architecture, San Francisco Public Works, San Francisco, California

Image credits

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