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.

Elizabeth McLean, AIA

The profession and the world now require design professionals to do much more than solve individual problems, and Elizabeth McLean, AIA, is accelerating this change by gathering ideas and people to create beautiful and meaningful work. She is deeply committed to advancing the profession and delivering solutions that integrate social, economic, and environmental sustainability. While her work varies in program and scale, she strives to intertwine the richness of place with the goals of the communities she serves.

McLean is a senior associate at Ayers Saint Gross in Tempe, Arizona, where she has been instrumental in shifting the firm’s design culture. She specializes in the design and delivery of large-scale academic facilities that require complex programs, and her work is consistently underpinned by analytical discourse and a vision for future potential. For Arizona State University (ASU), she oversaw the design of the school’s Hayden Library reinvention and Durham Hall renovation. Both multi-phase projects were continuously occupied, adding to their complexity.

Her work at ASU highlights best practices for renovating existing buildings into high-performing buildings that forge an environmentally responsible legacy. The team engagement she fosters and stewards influences the firm’s projects, aligning them with a shared set of sustainability goals that support the refinement of program, systems, and materials.

“Elizabeth knows that designers have the power to shape culture by shaping the built environment. She passionately advocates for all aspects of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion,” wrote Luanne Greene, FAIA, president of Ayers Saint Gross, in a letter nominating McLean for the Young Architects Award. “At all levels in the firm and with our clients, Elizabeth pushes us to be collaborative, innovative, and empathetic. She mentors young staff and empowers the teams she leads.”

Prior to joining Ayers Saint Gross, McLean was a project manager for Wendell Burnette Architects in Phoenix, contributing significantly to many of the firm’s projects, including the award-winning Dialogue House Renovation and Desert Courtyard House. She organized the firm’s entry in the competition to design cottages at Fallingwater, which was featured in Competitions magazine and took second place, and was instrumental in the publication of the firm’s first monograph. Earlier, in 2008, she participated in Ghost Studio 10’s 1000’ Courtyard House, which was highlighted in Monocle magazine and Architectural Record.

“Elizabeth knows that designers have the power to shape culture by shaping the built environment. She passionately advocates for all aspects of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

Since completing her undergraduate and graduate studies at ASU, McLean has remained engaged with academia and has contributed to studio courses for nearly 15 years. Her dedication to advancing the critical relationship between the academy and the profession is evident in the courses she leads and the advising roles she has assumed.

McLean is an active member of the AIA Phoenix Metro Woman’s Leadership Group board, where she works to raise the profile of women principals and leaders. Much of the group’s work is focused on developing a diverse and well-connected network of design leaders. To that end, it envisions diverse programming, such as storytelling events, town halls, student outreach, and an online exhibition of women architects from across Arizona. A salute to their talent, hard work, and passion for shaping cities, the exhibition was also a highlight of the 2021 AIA Arizona Conference.

“Elizabeth mentors in her workplace and the studio. I’ve watched her connect the next generation of architects with our design community’s service opportunities, leaders, and guide them in navigating difficult situations,” Alison Rainey, AIA, said of McLean in a letter supporting her nomination. “We are fortunate to have her in our community, making great work and helping others learn and grow.”

Image credits

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Travits Photography

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Gabe Border

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Bill Timmerman

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INCKX Photography, Michael Duerinckx

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Gabe Border