2021 Associates Award Recipient

The AIA Associates Award is given to individual Associate AIA members to recognize outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession.

A multifaceted leader who approaches architecture through the lens of social good, Oscar Lopez, Assoc. AIA, embodies the best qualities of the next generation of architects. A talented educator, principal of his own practice, and an involved member of AIA chapters in Arizona, Lopez leverages his penchant for deep thought to advance inspired, democratic design that heralds a brighter future.

"Writing from a number of perspectives, I can personally say that Oscar has accomplished more in his early career than many architects accomplish throughout their lifetime,” wrote Jack DeBartolo 3, FAIA, 2020 AIA Arizona president, in a letter supporting Lopez’s nomination. “I have invested countless hours with Oscar in planning and strategic thinking sessions, and he is always a stalwart champion of people and design, finding new and refreshing ways to celebrate the best of architecture and the people who bring it value.”

Lopez’s interest in architecture that serves the greater good began when he was a second-year architecture student at The Design School at Arizona State University and received a travel scholarship that sent him to Belfast, Northern Ireland. There, Lopez explored architecture’s role in mediating the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, specifically the peace lines that divided neighborhoods. Ever drawn to architecture’s role in solving global issues, Lopez would later study abroad, focused on the work of Carlo Scarpa in Italy and Peter Zumthor’s thermal baths in Vals, Switzerland. A mentorship with Juhani Pallasmaa, a visiting fellow at Taliesin West, followed those experiences.

After graduation, Lopez spent several years in the Tucson studio of Rick Joy, FAIA, where he was key to a number of projects, each with their own perspective of place and materiality. Lopez later struck out on his own to form s p a c e BUREAU, the firm he has helmed for the past three years. In that time, his projects have been recognized with eight design awards from local AIA chapters. Lopez was also the recipient of the 2018 AIA Arizona Associate Award and the 2019 AIA Western Mountain Region Pettigrew Leadership Scholarship.

Early in his career, Lopez was invited to participate in design reviews and critiques at The University of Arizona College of Architecture, Planning, & Landscape Architecture. Since then, he has embraced the role of educator, leading second-year foundation design studios focused on concepts such as tectonics, light, texture, and design thinking. In 2018, he led his first summer study abroad program throughout Spain and Portugal, a program that was nominated for the 2018 AIA Arizona Design Pedagogy Award.

Lopez has been involved with AIA since 2015, when he joined AIA Southern Arizona’s communications committee. For the past several years, he has been the chapter’s associates director and has co-chaired the two most recent AIA Arizona State Conferences, welcoming speakers such as Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Bruce Mau, Reed Kroloff, and many more.

“Oscar believes that our profession can and will change the world through design, a belief that he instills in the next generation for architects, designers, and builders,” wrote Robert Miller, AIA, professor and director of the School of Architecture at The University of Arizona College of Architecture, Planning, & Landscape Architecture. “He is an exemplar of service to his community, to AIA, to this school of architecture, and, through his professional work, to students and architects alike.”


Britt Lindberg, AIA, Chair, Gensler, San Jose, CA

Karen Braitmayer, FAIA, Studio Pacifica, Ltd., Seattle, WA

Antoine Bryant, Assoc. AIA, NOMA, Moody Nolan, Houston, TX

Damaris Hollingsworth, AIA, NOMA, Design by Melo, Golden Valley, MN

Paul Young, City of Memphis, Memphis, TN

Image credits

Oscar Lopez-02

Oscar Lopez

Oscar Lopez-03


Oscar Lopez-04


Oscar Lopez-05

Oscar Lopez

Oscar Lopez-06

Oscar Lopez