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.
Nathan Griffith, AIA
Nathan Griffith, AIA, is an exemplary designer, leader, and community ambassador who empowers his clients and colleagues in his endless pursuit of design excellence. Griffith's early introduction to architecture through his father’s work as a stained glass artist gave him a broader view of the profession and the ways in which it can deliver positive impacts. His work, consistently thoughtful and energetic, consists of an enviable portfolio that reflects his dedication to the public realm.
During his time as a student at Iowa State University, Griffith's approachable and empathetic demeanor made him as a trusted source for feedback and critiques among his peers. Those experiences fostered a passion for teaching and mentorship, which he tapping into when he supported freshman at the school’s College of Design for several semesters before his graduation. Griffith continued to return to his alma mater as a studio critic and joined its faculty as an associate professor of practice last year.
“As a profession, we need a strong pipeline of young people entering the profession, and through his work, Nathan is making strides,” wrote Mindy Aust, AIA, in a letter supporting Griffith's nomination for the Young Architects Award. “He teaches design thinking to anyone who listens, including elementary students in his community. He makes it fun and exciting for those who might not know an architect or have thought of it as a career choice before. We need more people like him to make the profession more approachable and appealing to the next generation.”
Starting in 2008 as an intern architect, Griffith has been a member of Neumann Monson Architects in Iowa City, where his talents have matured and informed a wide range of projects, including high school gyms, community centers, and mixed-use developments that stand as award-winning symbols of community pride. His projects, such as the Cascade High School Addition, which won design awards from AIA Central States and AIA Iowa, bring elegant and pragmatic design solutions to communities not accustomed to them. In 2017, Griffith became a shareholder in the firm and, in 2020, received the AIA Iowa Young Architect Award.
“He teaches design thinking to anyone who listens, including elementary students in his community. He makes it fun and exciting for those who might not know an architect or have thought of it as a career choice before."
Griffith founded the firm’s design quality group in 2013, and he continues to lead and facilitate the design review of all projects. Since its formation, the firm has outpaced other firms in design award recognition, leading to an influx of talent focused on design excellence. To further elevate the firm’s work, Griffith created Neumann Monson’s publications team, which shares the firm’s work through a network of print and digital outlets. In just three years, Neuman Monson has been featured in more than 120 publications with national and international reach.
Griffith practice is intertwined with mentorship, and for nearly a decade he has introduced hundreds of K-12 students to the profession, sustainability, and design thinking. In 2019, he partnered with the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and a local alternative high school to oversee a yearlong collaboration that gathered students, AEC professionals, and tradespeople as they constructed a replica of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its collapse.
Within AIA, Griffith has held a number of leadership positions, including president of AIA Iowa’s Southeast section, and had a critical role on Iowa Architect magazine’s editorial board. He was the co-chair of last year’s AIA Iowa Convention and also serves on the Iowa Architectural Foundation Board of Trustees.
“Educators always hope our students will design great buildings that enrich communities and garner attention. We also hope our graduates will become good citizens and find ways to apply what they’ve learned to the cities and places in which they live and work,” Thomas Leslie, FAIA, a professor of architecture at Iowa State University, said in a letter supporting Griffith's nomination. “Over the course of his professional career, Nathan Griffith has struck exactly this balance and has exemplified the role of citizen architect.”