2022 Gold Medal
The Gold Medal is the AIA’s highest annual honor, recognizing individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.
Partners in life and design, Angela Brooks, FAIA, and Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, have forged a pioneering brand of architecture that profoundly enriches the human experience and reveals the extraordinary in what is widely considered ordinary. Across three decades, the excellence of their work has been celebrated internationally, recognized for its unparalleled intersection of collaboration, community, research, and reflection. Moreover, their projects demonstrate a keen understanding of beauty, craft, and the raw power of architecture, standing among the very best of the profession.
“Aside from being outstanding, award-winning design architects, Angie and Larry are also exceptional activists, community leaders, and civic collaborators,” wrote Steve Dumez, FAIA, and Douglas A. Benson, FAIA, in a letter nominating Brooks and Scarpa for the Gold Medal. “They are motivated by a social responsibility and environmental stewardship that seeks to find ways to improve the livability of cities and ennoble the daily lives of its citizens. Actively engaged citizen-architects, their efforts have fundamentally reshaped public policy initiatives that address critical issues and reforms that serve the public good, increase housing equity, and improve the built environment.”
Brooks and Scarpa both come from humble, blue-collar families who hail from small Central Florida towns, and they eventually met while studying architecture at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Scarpa had recently returned to Florida to pursue his graduate studies after working with Paul Rudolph in New York, and Brooks was completing her undergraduate work. They married in 1987 with their passion for architecture and its ability to amplify the human experience fully engaged.
The duo eventually moved to California, where Brooks attended graduate school at SCI-Arc, and Scarpa began working with Gwynne Pugh, FAIA. After several years of working together, they founded Pugh + Scarpa in 1991, a three-person office. The firm quickly grew to a staff of more than 20 and attracted national attention for its finely crafted work. Brooks launched her career with the Los Angeles Community Design Center, a nonprofit design and affordable housing developer, where she leveraged policy and design to tackle issues surrounding housing and homelessness.
Following a decade of nonprofit work and the birth of their son Calder in 1999, Brooks joined Scarpa and Pugh as a firm principal. Though her name was absent from the firm’s marquee at the time, she played a pivotal role in work that garnered the firm nearly a dozen AIA Design Awards and, in 2010, the Architecture Firm Award. Those projects include Colorado Court Apartments, the first building of its type in the United States to be 100% energy neutral and the first to achieve LEED Gold certification, and Step Up on 5th, which provides housing for the homeless and mentally disabled. Both are located in Santa Monica, California, and both received COTE Top Ten Green Building Awards.
Following Pugh’s exit in 2011, the firm was renamed Brooks + Scarpa to reflect its new leadership. While the firm’s two histories will always remain intertwined, Brooks and Scarpa have pursued numerous personal and professional aspirations in academia, volunteerism, mentoring, and collaborative practice—unusual for most practicing architects. Together they have founded organizations such as Livable Places, The A+D Museum in Los Angeles, and the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute.
“Angie was the first woman ever to be awarded AIA’s Maybeck Award for ‘a different kind of legacy, contributing in ways that move beyond designing buildings.’ She is also a steadfast advocate for the environment on a global scale,” Elizabeth del Monte, FAIA, chair of the 2021 COTE Advisory Group, wrote in support of the duo’s nomination. “Larry was awarded AIA’s Collaborative Achievement Award as co-founder of the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute, a forum that for eight years has provided design tools for developers across the country. Both are testament to their legacy of design advocacy for the public, doing something outside themselves: ‘the measure of a true professional’ as the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg said.”
No matter the budget, size, or background, the pair espouse the philosophy that design is not mutually exclusive and holds the potential to enrich everyone. Their socially engaged approach to design excellence led to their receipt of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s National Design Award in Architecture in 2014. The award lauded their ability to synthesize design and engagement to deliver affordable housing and sustainable architecture that advances equity for the benefit of society.
“Without question, Larry and Angie are leading ambassadors for the extraordinary contributions of architecture to society. If every architect operated in this manner, combining design excellence, social and environmental responsibility, and public service, our profession’s relevance and positive impact on society would increase ten-fold,” wrote Robert Berkebile, FAIA, in support of Brooks and Scarpa’s nomination. “Simply put, their leadership in and out of the office is an inspiration to architects across the country that believe architecture at its highest level can happen anywhere, at any scale, and for anyone.”
Together, Brooks and Scarpa continually redefine the role of an architect. They are potent form seekers and socially responsible practitioners, a combination not easily replicated. As they expand the boundaries of practice and chart an architectural path that is equally didactic and successful, Brooks and Scarpa have made a clear and profound impact on the practice of architecture.