2020 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.
A leader on the path to greater diversity, Damaris Hollingsworth, AIA, forges cross-cultural communication skills among architects through her design projects, advocacy efforts, and mentorship programs. Her empathetic nature and ability to listen closely inform her compassionate approach, highlighting the importance of cultural fluency for the profession.
Growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Hollingsworth’s encounter with a female architect who helped design a new home for her family informed her career trajectory. Despite her parents’ continual dismay at her career choice, they encouraged her and she enrolled at the University of Sao Paulo. Her ability to connect with people from different backgrounds began at school, where most of her classmates came from means and had private school educations. Instead of harboring resentment, Hollingsworth became friends with her peers, learning from them and sharing her outlook on the importance of the dense neighborhoods she grew up in.
After graduation, Hollingsworth landed in Arizona for further schooling at the Arizona State University College of Design. For several years, she was a project designer at Phoenix’s RSP Architects, where her mentor, Beau Dromiack, AIA, introduced Hollingsworth to the breadth and spirit of American architecture. As her technical skills grew, she found herself not only serving as an architect but also a translator of sorts, bridging the divide between firm and client, who regularly bring different cultural and educational backgrounds to the table.
Today, Hollingsworth is based in Minneapolis as the principal architect and owner of Design By Melo, the firm she founded in 2018. At the outset of every project, she relies on her skills to find a common language and opportunities to learn from one another. Across a wide range of project types—from offices to student housing—global connection, environmental health, and human inclusion are at the forefront of her work. She laid out her motivation in “Places, Spaces, and the Behavior They Create,” a TEDxTalk she gave in 2018.
Hollingsworth also endeavors to nurture and amplify the profession’s diverse voices. To do so, she co-founded the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 2016. After three years, the chapter is supported by more than a dozen AIA member firms, offering venues for membership events and opportunities to visit projects and interact with architects in their daily work. In addition, Hollingsworth founded DesignSHOP, a collaboration between NOMA, Achieve Minneapolis, and the University of Minnesota College of Design. The program pairs students from underserved communities with design mentors of color for 12 weeks. For the past two years, the program concluded with a presentation at AIA Minnesota’s annual conference.
Achieving greater social equity and diversity takes time and strong leadership, and the profession is fortunate to have Hollingsworth’s prominent voice. Fueled by her experiences, Hollingsworth creates spaces that all can enjoy.