2021 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.

A fourth-generation architect, Jack Becker, AIA, has tapped into his broad experience and sustainable design values to position himself as a leader in the Washington, DC, area. While focused on large-scale, civic-minded preservation and adaptive re-use projects at R. McGhee & Associates during the day, Becker is equally present at night and on weekends as he operates one of the region’s most exciting sustainable residential practices.

Founded by Becker and Andrew Linn, bld.us is based in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood in a LEED Platinum compostable accessory structure adjacent to the Frederick Douglass House. Together, Becker and Linn harness their expertise to provide contextual and affordable architecture that boosts the quality of life for the city’s most disadvantaged residents. Perched at the intersection of stewardship and profitable development, the firm has achieved acclaim for its uncanny ability to deliver projects that meet the needs of both stakeholders and concerned neighbors.

bld.us' headquarters, Grass House, is the first code-compliant bamboo structure on the East Coast. Its construction relied on several innovative materials and techniques, such as sheep’s wool insulation and insulated concrete block. Surrounded by a number of derelict public housing projects, Grass House stands out as a potential model for their modernization and rehabilitation. The forward-thinking project has been celebrated with a 2019 AIA DC Chapter Design Award and a 2019 Best of Design Award in the new materials category from The Architect’s Newspaper.

“His energy, creativity, and his personable nature also enable him to communicate effectively with all types of people and cultures, his peers, other architects, engineers, and clients to achieve project success.”

Though he grew up in Chicago, Becker spent countless holidays at the house his grandfather designed and built as part of a multi-home subdivision in the DC area. Becker was quick to uncover the potential of a developer-architect hybrid. Those early experiences fueled his pursuit of degrees in architecture and urban design from Cornell and Harvard universities, as well as his deep understanding of Washington, DC’s, development sector. In addition to his work at bld.us, Becker has overseen significant projects for Quinn Evans Architects and R. McGhee & Associates, where he is currently a senior project manager. He was a designer for the Marie Reed Community Learning Center, a $60 million modernization of an existing Brutalist building, and was a key member in the $1 billion revitalization of the National Air & Space Museum, which boasts the highest visitorship among all museums in the country.

“Jack is one of the brightest, most accomplished young architects I have encountered in 20 years as a principal of R. McGhee & Associates,” wrote Ronnie McGhee, FAIA, in a letter supporting Becker’s nomination for the Young Architect Award. “His energy, creativity, and his personable nature also enable him to communicate effectively with all types of people and cultures, his peers, other architects, engineers, and clients to achieve project success. These abilities, in my opinion, make him a current and future leader of the DC architecture community.”

While a professional career coupled with running a separate residential practice leaves little time for much else, he remains engaged with Washington’s design community. He is a regular juror for reviews at the University of Maryland, several of which are facilitated by Linn, his partner at bld.us. Previously, during his time at Quinn Evans, Becker participated in the Architecture in Schools Program at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

“Jack Becker is an extraordinary thinker and doer. He has accomplished a great deal incredibly quickly,” wrote Carl Elefante, FAIA, principal emeritus at Quinn Evans and 2018 AIA president, in a letter supporting Becker’s nomination. “AIA and the architectural profession will be well-served by celebrating Jack’s early career and elevating awareness of his work through recognition with the Young Architect Award.”

Jury

Peter Kuttner, FAIA , Chair, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

John Castellana, FAIA,  TMP Architecutre, Inc., Bloomfield Hill, Michigan

Frances Halsband, FAIA, Kliment Halsband Architects, New York, New York

Ivenue Love-Stanley, FAIA, Stanley Love-Stanley, Atlanta, Georgia

Ryan McEnroe, AIA, Quinn Evans, Washington, D.C

Chris-Annmarie Spence, AIA, Wkarch, Chicago, Illinois

Image credits

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Jack Becker

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Ty Cole

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Jack Becker & Shawn Michael

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Joseph Romeo

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Anthony Lanzilote