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.
Through what she calls “small but mighty acts of urbanism,” Amanda Loper, AIA, consistently demonstrates the power architects have to address significant issues, particularly affordable housing. By infusing her career with community engagement and activism, Loper stands out as a model of leadership and works to instill the most positive values of design in her firm and the classrooms where she helps shape tomorrow’s professionals.
Loper is a principal at David Baker Architects (DBA), leading the firm’s southeastern office in Birmingham, Alabama, which she founded in 2016. Her work, which integrates architecture and urban design, has contributed significantly to alleviating San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis. In San Francisco, projects such as Potrero 1010 delivered more than 450 residential units—with 20 percent of them designated as affordable apartments—above flexible work and retail spaces. The project also includes a one-acre park and a mid-block pedestrian mews bordered by active uses.
"Amanda has become a passionate advocate for exemplary design and a progressive ethic of community engagement in the classrooms of architecture and real estate programs at Auburn, Mississippi State, and Arkansas"
“She proved from the outset to be an unusually skilled and impassioned designer and quickly developed as a formidable creative force for the firm. We elevated her to principal in 2014 to formalize her position as a visionary leader of our practice,” wrote David Baker, FAIA, in a letter supporting Loper’s nomination for the Young Architect Award. “With entrepreneurial spirit and drive, Amanda launched DBA’s first regional office, building relationships in Birmingham and beyond. She has made exceptional contributions to addressing San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis and enhancing livability in the urban realm, and now she is extending her insights and expertise to the South and other parts of the country.”
Loper was also called upon to lead the team for San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Bonus Program and was charged with providing recommendations to bring the city’s policies in line with the rest of California’s standards. Her work also identified numerous sites on the city’s west side where code constraints could be waived in favor of boosting density. A number of identified parcels transformed from undevelopable lots with strict density requirements into financially viable sites.
Since establishing David Baker’s Birmingham office, Loper has harnessed the lessons she learned in San Francisco to assist other cities in enhancing their livability. She lobbied Birmingham’s officials to remove parking requirements in favor of a parklet program to fill its streets with seating, bicycle parking, and art. She has also completed a number of projects for the city’s Pepper Place Entertainment District, speeding the redevelopment of a former industrial section of the city. In Atlanta, Loper partnered with developer Zimmerman Properties to develop two master plans that will provide nearly 1,200 housing units, many of which are set aside for low-income families and seniors.
In the fall of 2021, ORO Editions will publish David Baker Architects’ 9 Ways to Make Housing for People, a showcase of proven strategies to support a high standard of living for residents of urban multifamily housing and the communities surrounding them. While the firm had long discussed such a publication, Loper, one of the tome’s co-authors, led the effort to secure a deal with a publisher and steered it to completion.
Since returning to Alabama, Loper has been a frequent lecturer and teacher at Mississippi State University School of Architecture and is a regular speaker at Auburn University’s Center for Architecture, Design and Construction. At Auburn, she has presented case studies in fourth-year housing studios and real estate development classes. Loper has also served as a guest juror for the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.
“Amanda has become a passionate advocate for exemplary design and a progressive ethic of community engagement in the classrooms of architecture and real estate programs at Auburn, Mississippi State, and Arkansas,” wrote David W. Hinson, FAIA, professor of architecture at Auburn University, in a letter nominating Loper. “Our faculty see her as an inspiring role model for students and a go-to expert on housing and urbanism.”