2022 Young Architects Award

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.

Graciela Carrillo, AIA

Unwavering commitment, fearlessness, and tireless advocacy for emerging professionals are hallmarks of the young career of Graciela Carrillo, AIA. Carrillo is a particularly staunch advocate for women and immigrants in the profession, drawing on her own experiences to elevate young professionals in a quest for a more equitable profession. A true leader, she has stepped up to lead AIA through difficult times while contributing significantly to the vibrancy of the profession.

Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Carillo has overcome adversities since her arrival in the U.S. The challenges of navigating life in a new country while pursuing licensure and finding her voice in a male-dominated profession helped forge her commitment to blaze a trail for others to follow.

When Carrillo arrived on Long Island in 2003 to begin her professional career as an intern architect, she had few, if any, contacts. So she turned to AIA to network with other architects and quickly emerged as one of AIA Long Island’s most influential leaders. Since 2011, when she became the chapter’s associate director, she has held an array of board leadership roles, culminating with president in 2020. She was the chapter’s first Latina president and just the third woman to hold the position in more than 75 years.

“She subsequently became chapter president during a very difficult time for all of us, during COVID-19,” wrote John R. Sorrenti, FAIA, in a letter supporting Carrillo’s nomination for the Young Architects Award. “Her enthusiasm allowed the chapter something unique; it enabled the chapter to stay connected to its members and make the chapter flourish during difficult times. Truly amazing.”

Her deep investment in the chapter’s success spurred her to cofound its Emerging Professionals Committee in 2015 and its Women in Architecture Committee in 2018. Today, both committees are thriving, with active members and numerous events hosted throughout the year. The Women in Architecture Committee’s events are focused on mentorship, exploring resources for women-owned businesses and highlighting the inspirational experiences of current practitioners. AIA chapters in Tampa Bay, Brooklyn, and Queens have asked Carillo to help launch their own committees.

“Graciela has committed to this profession with passion and optimism. She is a leader who is inclusive of new ideas, and she is humbled by the opportunities she has been given to serve her community.”

During her time as the young architect regional director for New York for the AIA Young Architects Forum, Carrillo was instrumental in developing the How to Facilitate the Emerging Professional Friendly Firm Program toolkit and launched the Firms Fostering Emerging Professionals Award. She worked to restructure the AIA New York State board throughout her tenure, adding a vice president of emerging professionals position. Additionally, she helped the chapter broaden its offerings for young architects, which included adding a Young Architect Award and an emerging professionals forum.

In 2019, Carrillo was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the A’19 Conference in Las Vegas titled “How Immigrant Architects Can Prosper in the U.S.” The session, attended by more than 60 immigrant architects, launched her advocacy efforts in this realm. Shortly after, she helped found the Immigrant Architects Coalition, which is creating a comprehensive set of resources for immigrant professionals.

“Graciela is developing guidelines for AIA chapters to help immigrant architects prosper in the U.S. By sharing her own story at local and national conferences, she transforms her personal experiences to help others flourish,” Carole Wedge, FAIA, wrote in a letter. “Graciela has committed to this profession with passion and optimism. She is a leader who is inclusive of new ideas, and she is humbled by the opportunities she has been given to serve her community.”

Additionally, Carrillo’s speaking engagements, which include numerous lectures, podcast appearances, and social media features, have made her as a widely recognized advocate for immigrants. For the last two years, she has mentored professionals from around the world, imparting advice on licensure, cultural bias, and the immigration process, in the pursuit of a more diverse and equitable profession.

Image credits

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Chris Cordone, Foxlight Studios

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Graciela Carrillo, AIA

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Graciela Carrillo, AIA

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Graciela Carrillo, AIA

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Graciela Carrillo, AIA