2020 Collaborative Achievement Award Recipient

The Collaborative Achievement Award recognizes the excellence that results when architects work with those from outside the profession to improve the spaces where people live and work.

Since its founding in New York in 1966, Silman has distinguished itself as a leading structural engineer in New York and the nation, playing a significant role in more than 23,000 projects. Because of the firm’s track record of sustained excellence, it is sought out, in lieu of competitors, to handle challenging renovation, restoration, and adaptive reuse projects for many of the country’s most treasured buildings.

“Many of the world’s leading architects turn to Silman to design structural solutions for educational, cultural, and civic projects that will serve the public and endure for decades to come,” wrote Deborah Berke, FAIA, dean of Yale University’s School of Architecture, in a letter supporting Silman’s nomination for the Collaborative Achievement Award. “We all know that architects can have big egos, and these are the types of projects that define legacies. Architects put our trust in Silman.”

In Silman’s early days, it would accept nearly any project that presented itself, many focused on residential rehabilitation of New York’s tenement buildings often passed over by larger, more established firms. This extensive work eventually gave way to significant structures, including Carnegie Hall in the early 1970s and a number of other New York landmarks.

Because of founder Robert Silman’s love of collaboration and his passion for solving challenging structural questions, the firm’s reputation for creative thinking and its ability to breathe new life into existing structures swelled. Through the 1970s and 1980s, Silman’s willingness to listen broadened its collaborations with many of New York’s most respected architects. As it continues to mature, the firm has been tapped by international architects, such as BIG, SANAA, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop, to serve as the primary structural engineering consultant on projects beyond New York.  

“Architecture deals with two of the most mysterious forces of physical nature: light and gravity. Silman understands structure is so much more than what holds the building up,” wrote Chris McVoy, senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, in a letter supporting Silman’s nomination. “It channels the gravitational force that charges through materials and mass to shape space inseparably from architecture. Engaging this deeply in collaboration gives a perceptible integrity to the space.”

With additional offices in Boston; Washington, DC; and Ann Arbor, Silman is equipped to serve clients across the country. While the firm now works on more new building projects than existing buildings, it continues to honor its legacy of preservation and the optimism of its founder. Steered by a new generation of leaders and now boasting more than 170 employees, the firm continues to approach all of its work with compassion and thoughtfulness. Its commitment to nonprofit organizations and pro bono work have ensured the benefits of architecture and engineering are delivered to underserved communities across the nation.

“I am grateful for Silman’s ability at the highest level to collaborate innovatively and with integrity for humanitarian impact,” wrote Sharon Prince, president and founder of Grace Farms Foundation. “It is always people at the firm who can envision what could be, make a commitment, and then work vigorously to achieve it. There is much more work to do ahead together, and the exceptional team at Silman will deliver.”


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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Michel Denance

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Iwan Baan

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