2021 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education Recipient

Architecture’s future depends on its next generation of leaders—and the educators who impact their lives. The Topaz Medallion honors those who educate others to ensure architecture’s enduring excellence.

For more than four decades, ACSA Distinguished Professor Kathryn Anthony, PhD, has been one of the profession’s most prominent guiding forces, long urging architects and the public to embrace the importance of designing spaces for both people and diversity. Having influenced a long list of distinguished architects and educators around the world, Anthony is widely recognized for placing diversity, inclusion, and social justice at the forefront of her pedagogy.

Anthony, who holds a PhD in architecture and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, has been a force at her alma mater; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At the University of Illinois, Anthony was one of the first women to receive a promotion to full professor as well as chair both its design program faculty and building research council. In addition, she is an affiliated faculty member in the university’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives Program, and Department of Landscape Architecture.

“As a former ACSA president, I am quite familiar with the Topaz Medallion and the excellence it represents. I personally know many of the previous recipients and am acquainted with the superb qualifications of its nominees. Undoubtedly, they have all demonstrated distinction within our discipline,” wrote Francisco Javier Rodríguez-Suárez, FAIA, in a letter nominating Anthony for the Topaz Medallion. “Having said that, I am making a strong case for a unique candidate whose trail-breaking achievements have transcended both the physical and the perceived boundaries of our profession and our campuses into a realm few architects and academics have the opportunity to influence: mainstream society.”

More than 30 years ago, Anthony developed a groundbreaking seminar course focused on gender and race in contemporary architecture that she continues to lead today. It has drawn countless students from a wide range of ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds who have had profound experiences meeting under-represented architects in their Chicago-area studios. During her time as the chair of the University of Illinois’ Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women and co-chair of the Provost’s Gender Equity Council, Anthony led a successful movement to incorporate gender equity issues into the university’s design review process for new buildings and renovations.

“In a time where the Black Lives Matter movement is challenging us to act with agency and thoughtfulness, with respect and responsiveness, her profound work underscores the importance of social justice in all fields, especially ours,” Frances Bronet, president of the Pratt Institute, wrote in support of Anthony’s nomination. “She built on a legacy of architecture to make more vital and engaging public places that reflect the diversity of the American people.”

Anthony has penned more than 100 published pieces and five books, including the influential Design Juries on Trial: The Renaissance of the Design Studio, published in 1991, Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession, published in 2001, and Defined by Design: The Surprising Power of Hidden Gender, Age, and Body Bias in Everyday Products and Places, published in 2017. Anthony’s eloquence often results in invitations to join important debates surrounding society’s pressing issues. Alongside Sharon Pratt Dixon, the former mayor of Washington, DC, and two members of Congress, Anthony was the only private citizen to testify before the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform in 2010 in support of the bipartisan Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act. Anthony’s testimony was recognized by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for her leadership in addressing issues of gender equality in design. As an eager spokesperson for such issues, Anthony’s voice is regularly featured in print and broadcast media outlets, such as CNN, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and many more.

For many years, Anthony has served as the faculty advisor for her university’s National Organization of Minority Architecture Students chapter, which NOMA recognized as its 2016 student chapter of the year. The Chicago Women in Architecture recognized Anthony with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020 for “chiefly addressing issues of gender and diversity in design.” The awards ceremony included a video tribute by 30 former students and colleagues, whose careers Anthony helped shape.

“Over the course of her expansive career, Kathryn Anthony has been a ceaseless advocate for both historically marginalized voices and the architecture profession itself,” wrote Hazel Ruth Edwards, professor and chair of Howard University’s Department of Architecture. “As a teacher and mentor, she has positively influenced hundreds of students, myself included.”


Donna W. Dunay, FAIA, Chair, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia

Erin Conti, AIAS, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois

Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Danielle McDonough, AIA, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts

Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Ross Barney Architects, Chicago, Illinois

Image credits

Photo of Kathryn Anthony

Kathryn Anthony