2021 Young Architects 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.
Despite the challenges faced by most young professionals who began their careers during the Great Recession, Cody Henderson, AIA, has emerged as a source of leadership and unrelenting enthusiasm for St. Louis’ architectural community. Rather than shy from the issues prompted by economic uncertainty, Henderson confronted them head on. His resiliency, both then and now, has made him an inspiration for his fellow emerging professionals and as the 2020 president of AIA St. Louis.
Henderson began his career in the St. Louis offices of ACI Boland Architects through an internship that gave way to full-time employment. He was quickly identified, largely through his lunch-hour studies of hand rendering with the firm’s lead designer, as being a curious learner. His interest in energy-efficient buildings prompted him to pursue LEED accreditation, and he became a project manager just two years after his graduation. Henderson was laid off in 2009, but he remained engaged and continued to sharpen his design skills while seeking employment. After 10 months, he joined FSA, LLC, located in Kirkwood, Missouri, where he has remained for more than a decade and currently serves as the director of science and education.
“Cody is very detail oriented and customer focused. He works diligently with the research scientists on the design of their laboratories, asking probing questions, defining and documenting their needs, and, in some cases, educating the researcher on improved laboratory layout and functionality,” wrote Matthew P. Conlon, director for capital projects at Washington University in St. Louis, in support of Henderson’s nomination for the Young Architect Award.
Since joining FSA, he has led much of the firm’s laboratory and higher education design, with more than 150 projects—totaling more than $20 million in construction in 2019 alone—under his belt. Henderson established FSA’s first-ever mentorship program, Final Fridays, during which he helps build the skills of both its emerging professionals and senior staff. Topics have included BIM standards, common mistakes in construction documents, laboratory design, and the art of marketing. In addition, Henderson led the firm’s effort to be named an AIA Central States Region Emerging Professional Friendly Firm, a designation it has held for the past four years.
“Cody is very detail oriented and customer focused. He works diligently with the research scientists on the design of their laboratories, asking probing questions, defining and documenting their needs, and, in some cases, educating the researcher on improved laboratory layout and functionality”
As the recession subsided, Henderson, seeking to grow his network and become more involved in advancing the profession, began volunteering with AIA St. Louis in 2012. Just a few years later, he chaired the Young Architects Forum St. Louis Chapter and worked to reestablish group ARE study sessions. He also organized a biannual ARE celebration to fete newly licensed architects. In 2018, Henderson co-founded the Emerging Professionals Fund and Golf Tournament to focus attention on the debt load architecture students face. The fund was designed to raise money through a tournament and, after a rigorous interview process, use the money to pay down the student loans of the finalist.
While Henderson’s work with the forum grew, so did his involvement with AIA St. Louis’ board of directors. After several terms as a director, he became the youngest president in the chapter’s 130-year history in 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, he was instrumental in speeding the transition of the chapter’s CEU events to an online platform. He also led the chapter’s efforts to finalize its five-year strategic plan and replace a retiring executive director after 22 years of leadership.
“During his tenure as the 2020 president, he expanded our outreach, oversaw the St. Louis AIA scholarship fund deploy a diversity scholarship dedicated to addressing the lack of diversity in our profession starting at a young age. In addition to this, he also serves as the young architect representative for the Central States Region–Missouri,” wrote Geoffrey Vaugh, AIA, the chapter’s 2021 president, in a letter nominating Henderson. “Over the years, I’ve witnessed Cody go from strength to strength. He has leveraged his talents and abilities, reflecting on the fact he graduated into a recession to become a leader in St. Louis, pushing to improve young architects’ outcomes in the St. Louis area.”