2020 Honorary Membership Recipient

The AIA recognizes the notable contributions and service of people outside of the architecture profession with Honorary Membership in the Institute.

As a relentless advocate for architects and the built environment, Nicki Dennis Stephens, Hon. AIA has long promoted good design’s ability to solve complex problems in California and beyond. As the executive director of AIA California, she has set a high bar for other regional, state, and local components and has bolstered AIA’s efforts in tackling the most pressing issues facing the profession.

Since taking the helm of AIA California in 1999, Stephens’ leadership has positioned the chapter as a leader in member service, government advocacy, and public engagement. In 2003, she convened a group of talented volunteers to define a new approach to project delivery. Her efforts resulted in the landmark publications Integrated Project Delivery: A Working Definition and Experiences in Collaboration, both of which have been heralded as the best primers for Integrated Project Delivery. The initiative quickly spread through AIA, prompting the development of Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide in 2007, which shared California’s design and construction process with the nation.

When California adopted its ambitious new green building code, CALGreen, Stephens worked with a number of environmental organizations to create materials to support a statewide education campaign to clarify how the plan differed from existing green rating systems. Now, as the state implements its zero net energy goals this year and again in 2030, she is gathering experts to facilitate dialogue around the architect’s role and ability to respond to the challenge. Last year, she organized a zero net energy, zero net carbon symposium for the chapter’s board of directors to explore the state’s leadership in addressing environmental imperatives.

Through her ability to form coalitions and orchestrate opportunities on a national level, Stephens has helped boost the number of emerging leaders from California who support AIA by serving on task forces, committees, and the board of directors. She has also ensured AIA California remains an active participant in AIA governance. To that end, she led the publication of candidate surveys and distributed them to those seeking national office. The chapter is also an enthusiastic contributor to AIA’s resolution process in which members can publicly discuss important issues.

A role model for her members and CACE colleagues, Stephens is a staunch supporter of the profession and an ally for architects.


Sylvia Kwan, FAIA, Chair, DLR Group Kwan Henmi, San Francisco, California

Joan Soranno, FAIA, Hammel, Green & Abrahmson, Inc. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Melanie Ray, AIA, Hord Coplan Macht, Baltimore, Maryland

Image credits

Dennis Stephens- Nicki-02

Randy Licht

Dennis Stephens- Nicki-06

Benjamin Kasdan, AIA

Dennis Stephens- Nicki-04

Benjamin Kasdan, AIA

Dennis Stephens- Nicki-05

Benjamin Kasdan, AIA