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.
Emily Roush-Elliott, AIA
Motivated by her conviction that the lives of all humans are intertwined, Emily Roush-Elliott, AIA, leverages design, education, and advocacy to broaden equity in the Mississippi Delta. Roush-Elliott has distinguished herself through her commitment to a community-focused, equitable practice throughout her young career. She is a true citizen architect, and her work in affordable housing and community development has had a lasting and meaningful impact on her clients.
While studying in Buenos Aires during her undergraduate education at Arizona State University, Roush-Elliott was assigned a studio project that involved designing housing for unhoused children. That early experience helped her understand that good architecture remains out of reach for much of the global population. Instead of emerging disenfranchised, Roush-Elliott decided to pursue a career path that allows her to work with clients and partners who have not yet had access to the services of an architect.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Roush-Elliott broadened her construction knowledge while rehabilitating and constructing homes in Biloxi, Mississippi. Later, as a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, a studio course and co-op work experience allowed her to harness her design and construction skills while gaining a keen understanding of project management. She oversaw the construction of Roche Health Center’s first clinic building, the only modern medical facility serving nearly 20,000 people in northern Tanzania.
Roush-Elliott’s pursuit of social impact architecture led to an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship and returned her to Mississippi, where she led neighborhood revitalization efforts and taught classes. The fellowship allowed her and her partner, Richard Elliott, to launch the Delta Design Build Workshop, Delta DB for short, an offshoot of R19 Architecture, which they have helmed for nearly a decade.
“Emily’s primary focus is understanding the critical role of the architect in community development and high-quality, affordable housing,” wrote Ceara O’Leary, AIA, the 2019 chair of the Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community, in a letter nominating Roush-Elliott for the Young Architects Award. “Starting in her student days, working in Tanzania and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, she has developed a career that contributes to both equitable neighborhoods and methods of practice, prioritizes community engagement in the design and build process, and elevates local partners and trades.”
“Emily’s primary focus is understanding the critical role of the architect in community development and high-quality, affordable housing.”
Delta DB endeavors to build racial equity in the Delta, and its clients are generally small municipalities, nonprofit community and neighborhood organizations, or low-wealth households often earning less than $16,000 annually. Through Delta DB, Roush-Elliott has completed public space improvements, such as the renovation of two community centers, seven public parks, and a pedestrian bridge and boardwalk that received a design award from AIA Mississippi. In addition to those projects, she has positively impacted the living conditions of Mississippians by creating 27 new homes that are safe, healthy, and extremely affordable.
The importance Roush-Elliott places on architecture as a critical tool for building equity carries over to her educational work, too. In 2015, she and two colleagues at Mississippi State University received an NCARB award for their innovative course “Expanding the Agency of Architects.” During the course, Roush-Elliott led discussion and reflection assignments on practice models and prompted students to envision the career paths they could pursue. She has also taught younger students through STEAM summer camps and other engagement activities.
“I think it is important to emphasize that Mrs. Roush-Elliott and her partner moved to Greenwood in 2013 and have not left. Rather, they’ve doubled down on a commitment to a region so many have overlooked,” Phil Eide, senior vice president of Hope Credit Union Enterprise Corporation, wrote in a letter supporting Roush-Elliott’s nomination. “While many have come to Mississippi, for decades, seeking to make a difference, few have the fortitude and emotional intelligence to remain long enough to build the relationships necessary to change systems of oppression.”