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.

Edwin J. Harris, AIA

His design vision firmly set on providing authentic and inspired architecture that improves the lives of those who experience it, Edwin J. Harris, AIA, has assembled an astounding portfolio of work. For more than a decade, Harris has designed culturally significant projects, such as the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and Emancipation Park in Houston. His concepts are decisive, focused, and rooted in novel concepts, resulting in impactful architecture that serves everyone regardless of means or background.

Architecture completely transformed Harris’ life. Before college, he knew little about design and had never met an architect, but he quickly realized how influential design can be and how few African American architects are engaged in the profession. African American voices were absent from the built environment Harris experienced, resulting in a “design silence” that has formed homogenous cities that are not reflective of all the cultures and perspectives found in them.

When he began school, Harris met Phil Freelon, FAIA, who became Harris’ mentor and whose work has been a model for the young architect. Today, Harris follows in the late Freelon’s footsteps, setting new standards for design excellence and uncovering new pathways to architecture for minority students. Clearly, Harris is passionate about design and architecture, and as his mentor said in an interview with Architectural Digest, he is a “supremely talented architect on the rise.” But his greatest reward is seeing the spark of inspiration and excitement in those who pursue design as they realize its ability to change the world for the better.

“Edwin’s thoughtful and creative designs transcend style or movement and are rooted in the place where the buildings he designs reside,” wrote Andre L. Johnson, AIA, in a letter supporting Harris’ nomination for the Young Architects Award. “Edwin has been responsible for designing projects that have garnered over 30 design awards from the American Institute of Architects. His talent is among the best that I have encountered in my 24 years of practicing architecture.”

“Edwin’s thoughtful and creative designs transcend style or movement and are rooted in the place where the buildings he designs reside.”

Harris is a co-founder and design principal of Durham, North Carolina’s EVOKE Studio, where he oversees projects, including the dynamic Lumbee Tribal Welcome Center in Pembroke, North Carolina. Harris’ design will serve as a new gateway for both the Lumbee Tribe and the town and thoughtfully integrates the region’s unique character and history while remaining authentic to the community it serves. Through his leadership, EVOKE has grown to include a team of 14 professionals whose work ranges from public art to large-scale mixed development. Previously, at The Freelon Group and Perkins+Will, Harris was instrumental in realizing numerous significant projects, positioning himself as a leading designer for the global firm.

Harris has embraced his status as a role model for aspiring professionals and is a professor of practice at his alma mater, North Carolina State University. There he teaches undergraduates, offers career lectures, and engages the next generation of architects in design dialogues. In 2020, the Triangle Business Journal named him to its 40 under 40 list in recognition of his achievements and dedication to community service.

“He is popular among students because of his thoughtfulness as a designer and critic, his rigorous standards, his passion for architecture, and his care for individuals,” wrote David B. Hill, FAIA, professor and head of the School of Architecture at NC State University College of Design, in a letter supporting Harris’ nomination. “Edwin gives our students an optimistic view of how they can drive positive change through design. I think Phil would be proud.”

Image credits

Edwin J Harris-03

EVOKE Studio Architecture

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Mark Herboth Photography

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EVOKE Studio Architecture

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EVOKE Studio Architecture

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Mark Herboth Photography