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.
As the leader of an innovative multidisciplinary firm, Ming Thompson, AIA, has proposed a new paradigm for architecture and challenged the rigid definition of practice. Her prominent voice has driven the conversation on equity in architecture, and her efforts and stamina have led to positive change and increased longevity for the profession.
After years of working for firms, from traditional studios to community development corporations around the world, Thompson founded Atelier Cho Thompson with partner Christina Cho Yoo in 2014. In her work, Thompson leans on the rich diversity of her personal history and has shaped her practice around a more humane vision of architecture built around the human body. With offices in New Haven and San Francisco, the multidisciplinary practice employs a range of approaches, including architecture, interiors, graphics, and strategy, to solve design problems large and small.
Today, the firm employs 14 people and has embarked on a new initiative to connect more deeply with the communities both offices serve. In both cities, the firm occupies storefront offices with windows that provide insights on design within the surrounding neighborhoods. The firm never shies from pro bono and low-fee work. It is currently working on a community parklet to replace an abandoned New Haven lot and recently tackled a project to promote children’s food education in schools.
Equity is a hallmark of Atelier Cho Thompson’s practice, and as a woman of color, Thompson is not the average firm principal. In 2018, the firm became part of the 2 percent of women-owned businesses nationwide to surpass the $1 million revenue benchmark. To combat the trend of mid-career women leaving the profession because they could not advance due to long hours or lack of mentoring, Thompson instituted policies to break these norms when establishing the firm. Employees enjoy generous time off and benefits, and laptops and cloud-based software allow them to work from home when needed.
Thompson’s work has received national attention, and she and her partner have been named “Next Progressives” in the pages of ARCHITECT magazine and “Designers You Should Know” in Contract magazine. Thompson regularly lectures on the firm’s work, and its unique business model was celebrated with IIDA’s 2019 Visionary Firm award.
In the few years since she relocated to Connecticut, Thompson has emerged as a vital advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in a state where women and minorities are significantly underrepresented. She helped establish and co-chairs AIA Connecticut’s Women in Architecture committee, which, just nine months after it was founded, led programming at a state conference, hosted a panel on women leaders, and launched a series of statewide panels on the AIA Guides to Equitable Practice. The committee is currently planning a fall summit on equity that anticipates participation from across the New England region. She is also active with Connecticut’s burgeoning NOMA chapter.
Thompson is a quintessential changemaker whose new ideas and energy are invigorating the profession. She has proven herself to be a role model that architects, both young and established, should aspire to emulate.