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.
Actively engaging the profession at every opportunity, Myer Harrell, AIA, is a widely recognized leader in sustainability whose research has impacted the built environment internationally. The depth of his knowledge, from jurisdictional green incentives to biophilia, makes him an in-demand speaker at high-profile events or writer of topical pieces for widely read publications. Harrell’s ability to intertwine practice and teaching helps him press upon tomorrow’s architects the need for an interdisciplinary and integrated design process.
The majority of Harrell’s professional career has been devoted to Seattle’s Weber Thompson, the firm he joined in 2005 as an intern. Today, he is a principal and its first director of sustainability. In 2010, he led the charge in Weber Thompson’s signing of the AIA 2030 Commitment and assembled a team to constantly track the firm’s work, provide project data to AIA, and oversee the firm’s internal efforts to meet a constantly evolving list of sustainability goals. Harrell’s leadership has led to Weber Thompson’s listing on ARCHITECT 50’s sustainability rankings for four years in a row, a rare accomplishment for a mid-sized firm largely focused on private commercial development.
“He is a high-functioning, integrative thinker and multi-mode communicator and has been able to contribute meaningfully to most any topic in my experience. This has made him a great person to kick new ideas around with, whether formally or informally.”
For Weber Thompson’s 70,000-square-foot Watershed Office Building in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, completed last June, Harrell steered his team through a number of site challenges and the developer’s desire to outshine its recent LEED Gold building across the street. His solution to maximize the development was to participate in the Seattle Living Building Pilot Program, a land use incentive that exchanges height and area for petal certification through the Living Building Challenge. Because of his intimate knowledge of the most rigorous green building standard in the world, Harrell was able to further educate the team and design the building with advanced energy and water efficiency strategies.
“He brings out the best in teams, asking great questions and then providing ‘room’ for all to contribute in exploring answers,” wrote Tom Marseille, P.E. LEED Fellow, Managing Principal, Integral Group, in a letter supporting Harrell’s nomination for the Young Architect Award. “He is a high-functioning, integrative thinker and multi-mode communicator and has been able to contribute meaningfully to most any topic in my experience. This has made him a great person to kick new ideas around with, whether formally or informally.”
For more than 13 years, Harrell has been an active member of AIA Seattle, serving as a committee member, board member, and its current president-elect. On the national level, he has been a key member of AIA’s Continuing Education Committee, serving as its vice chair and Manufacturers Council representative. For several AIA Conferences on Architecture, Harrell has volunteered as a session reviewer.
Harrell is also a part-time faculty member at the University of Washington’s Department of Architecture and serves as a liaison for the university’s Integrated Design Process Partnership Initiative. Working closely with Associate Professor Gundula Proksch, he taught a graduate-level comprehensive design studio that investigated the integration of urban agriculture in, on, and around mixed-use residential buildings. Harrell introduced experts on the subject as well as speakers well versed in growing food in urban settings and arranged class visits to growing operations in the city. The resulting projects were cutting-edge designs that not only realized building systems capable of food production, but were also paired with metrics that detailed the potential agricultural yield.
“In the 22 years of my academic career and professional practice in renowned offices in London, New York, and Seattle, I have not seen a more accomplished and versatile young architect that shaped his profession in so many significant ways,” Proksch wrote of Harrell. “With Myer’s high credentials and enthusiasm, he becomes an admired mentor and role model whenever he interacts with students.”