About the award
Since striking out on his own to establish his Chicago-area architecture and urban design consultancy firms, Matthew R. Clapper, AIA, has emerged as a vociferous advocate for small firms across the country, working tirelessly to highlight their contributions to the profession and society at large. His dedication to AIA at the local, state, and national levels has established and nurtured a vital network of small firms, empowering their leaders to become active with AIA and assume leadership roles themselves.
After launching his career in New York following the completion of his master’s degree in architecture and urban design at Colombia University, Clapper returned to the Midwest to establish his firms, Modern Architecture & Development and UD4U, in 2014. His work combines architecture with real estate development, demonstrating that multifaceted firms can carefully balance societal good and financial considerations.
Clapper joined AIA Chicago shortly after moving back to the area. He participated in the chapter’s Small Firm and Urban Design knowledge community events and was quickly asked to become a member of both entities’ steering committees. He was also a mentee in the chapter’s Bridge program, which connects young AIA members with AIA fellows, and participated in its inaugural iteration of the Transform program for mid-career professionals and small firm operators.
In 2018, Clapper was appointed to AIA National’s Small Firm Exchange (SFx) as the Illinois regional representative and quickly identified new pathways for small firms to share their work through the committee’s social media accounts. He rose to lead SFx’s outreach workgroup in 2020, further broadening its social media activity. He was selected to chair SFx in 2021 and reorganized the group to be state-based rather than regional. He also developed an important onboarding presentation, which has helped SFx’s new members become acquainted with its mission and activities more quickly.
Though he lives and works in Chicago, Clapper’s architecture firm is focused on his native state of Wisconsin. While the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for all, the slate of virtual events it ushered in allowed Clapper to become more involved with AIA Wisconsin. Clapper immediately became involved in the chapter’s conference planning process and proposed ethical architecture as its overarching theme. Additionally, he has been a critical part of the chapter’s interior design legislation workgroup and started SFx Wisconsin last year to support small firms across the state. His efforts led to his receipt of AIA Wisconsin’s 2022 Young Architect Award.