2022 Associates Award
The AIA Associates Award is given to individual Associate AIA members to recognize outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession.
As an emerging professional, Julian T. Owens, Assoc. AIA, is dedicated to shaping spaces for those who need it most. As an architectural designer in Jacobs’ Arlington, Virginia, office and an entrepreneur, Owens is driven by his passion for education and a desire to shape a more equitable and sustainable future. Through his creativity, compassion, and sense of purpose, Owens has already made many meaningful contributions to the profession.
“Julian is truly an amazing young professional and designer at the budding stages of his career who has already had an immeasurable impact on both the profession and his community,” 2021–2022 National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) President Jason Pugh, AIA, wrote in a letter supporting Owens’ nomination for the Associates Award. “I have witnessed both within his academic matriculation, and now early professional career, a rising star within the architecture and design industry who’s destined for greatness.”
Owens experienced blatant racism during his time as a student at the Clemson University School of Architecture. His class, with more than 150 students, included only 10 Black students, a number that dwindled further by the time graduation approached. The Black students in the architecture program were increasingly isolated, and the campus saw increasing acts of racism, such as the distribution of Ku Klux Clan recruitment flyers and the vandalism of a banner celebrating architect, civil rights leader, and the university’s first Black student, Harvey Gantt. Recognizing the need for a safe space for his colleagues, Owens founded Clemson’s NOMA chapter.
In his final undergraduate year, Owens served as the chapter’s president and fostered important conversations and opportunities for students to meet architects of color. As a graduate student, his focus shifted to mentorship in his role as the chapter’s graduate student advisor. Later, his involvement with NOMA was elevated to the national level when he assumed the role of national student representative on the organization’s board of directors.
Following his graduate studies, Owens returned home to Washington, D.C., in 2018 and revitalized the city’s NOMA chapter, organizing its first meeting in nearly two years. At the same time, his engagement with AIA grew. Owens joined the Public Outreach Committee and leveraged his seat to advocate for sustainable design and a more equitable profession. He called upon AIA’s board to take a strong stance against injustice in light of dangerous narratives emerging in the news, social, media, and even the profession.
“George Floyd was murdered during our service together. I will never forget my one-on-one conversations with Julian in the aftermath,” wrote 2022 AIA President Daniel S. Hart, FAIA, in a letter nominating Owens. “So many of us were grappling with what we could do to address the injustice of it all. Julian spoke earnestly about the role of design to bring about healing and health in community. He talked about empathetic collaboration with designers and those within disaffected communities rather than imposition of designers on a community.”
Last year, Owens began co-hosting The United Amends Project Podcast, which centers conversations on race, economics, and politics, and explores the ways in which they intersect with American life. The podcast also serves as an important platform for guests to highlight the issues they care deeply about. In addition, Owens has participated in Jacobs’ Global Design Lecture Series, has been appointed to the firm’s Global Design Council, and is focused on firm-wide community outreach initiatives.