2021 Honorary Membership Recipient

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

In her 22 years as the leader of AIA St. Louis, Michelle C. Swatek, Hon. AIA, has greatly strengthened the chapter’s membership, its programming, and its future. Whether one of the chapter’s more than 800 members, a conventioneer in town for a few days, or a member of the public, they will find Swatek at the  AIA St. Louis headquarters championing architects and a sustainable built environment. Through her steady, creative leadership, Swatek has steered the chapter through two physical expansions while deftly meeting the shifting needs of its membership.

When Swatek joined AIA St. Louis as executive director, she restored monthly chapter meetings, believing that they were critical to growing membership and fostering connections. She secured countless guest speakers, and prompted now long-running annual chapter events—including a winter movie night in a historic theater, AIA Missouri legislative updates, and a fall tour of Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Tomb. Swatek broadened the chapter’s continuing education opportunities by including more product representatives, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, she quickly transitioned to virtual platforms offering them to AIA chapters across the state.

In 2001, Swatek was instrumental in organizing the chapter’s move from a second-floor location in the city’s Lammert Building to its new 1,800-square-foot, ground-level home. The storefront location welcomes those curious about design and AIA, and the significant increase in foot traffic presented new opportunities for the AIA St. Louis Bookstore. Swatek organized the grand opening event, which drew more than 300 guests and members of the press. The highlight of the event, however, was the chapter  being presented the Cityscape Award in recognition of its commitment to remain in downtown St. Louis.

In 2019, the chapter became the first AIA Component to own its own Resource Center. Modeled after the for-profit Reference Library in Phoenix, it is staffed and funded by AIA St. Louis. The Resource Center is adjacent to the bookstore and is available to the regional design community as a materials library, networking space, or event venue.

Swatek has been an effective, and outspoken advocate for the profession in St. Louis and works closely with the AIA Missouri Board of Directors on important legislation that affects the profession. In 2010, she advocated updating the definition of the practice of architecture in the Missouri Revised Statute, while coordinating with other allied professions also defined in the statute. Her leadership in preserving the qualifications-based selection (QBS) process has measurably decreased the number of violations in Missouri.

Swatek has also been a key figure in the continued operation of AIA St. Louis nationwide photography competition, which it has managed since 1984. As Swatek noted last August, when the winners were revealed in Architectural Digest, the competition has sought to “highlight the unique way in which architects view and capture the world. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to see beauty in the world around us and in the built environment. We hope these photographs provide just that."


Pamela Loeffelman, FAIA, Chair, DLR, Denver, Colorado

Gary Gilbert, AIA, Coleman Partners Architects, LLC, Baton Rouge, Lousiana

Juliet Chun, AIA, Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects, Boston, Massachusetts

Image credits

Michelle C. Swatek-03

Dilip Vishwanat

Michelle C. Swatek-04

Sara Tetley, AIA

Michelle C. Swatek-05

Sara Tetley, AIA

Michelle C. Swatek-07

Sara Tetley, AIA