Architect 50 2011




The Architect 50

Our third-annual ranking of American architecture firms judges them on three factors: profitability, sustainable ethos, and design quality. By looking at the whole picture, we're able to honor not the biggest, but the best.

model employee: leigh christy when friends of the los angeles river needed an architect to plan the reclamation of a flood plain just east of downtown, it turned to perkins senior associate leigh christy, aia, who heads the social responsibility committee at the firms l.a. office. (the committee identifies nonprofits that could benefit from pro bono design services.) christy, 37, ended up leading a collaborative of southern california firms whose work will help the organization promote its goal of riverbank restoration. a university of michigan and university of california at berkeley grad who has been at perkins since 2004, christy is committed to such pro bono projectsbut even her paying work is civic-minded. witness the new lapd rampart station near macarthur park, part of an effort to make the citys police force accessible to the public. christys current projects include a new student services building for modesto junior college and a new home for lapds metropolitan division. she lauds perkins for encouraging an entrepreneurial spiritone reason she acts as both project architect and project manager on many jobs.

Number 1: Perkins+Will

Openness and sustainability help this firm move into the top spot this year.

model employee: jamie lee 33-year-old jamie lee is a newly licensed architect in smithgroups washington, d.c., office. she was born in taiwan and grew up in northern virginia. after receiving her m.arch. in 2005 at the harvard graduate school of design, lee wanted to return home and have some impact on the built environment of d.c. working in the offices learning studio, lee has developed a passion for higher-ed design. i like working with the client, she says. the thing thats great about schools [is], they all have academic missions and visions. its nice to provide them with a physical structure that embodies their vision.

Number 2: SmithGroup

This firm pulled through the recession by focusing on its four primary markets.

model employee: samuel lasky forty-two-year-old samuel lasky, aia, joined william rawn associates (wra) in 1998, having earned his stripes at the harvard graduate school of design and yale university, and with stints in a few other architecture offices. because of wras team-based, generalist approach, the environment was such that lasky could freely contribute design ideas. then, as the office took on program types it had not yet worked with, lasky set out to fill the gaps. when the cedar rapids courthouse came in, i learned everything there was to learn about courthouses, lasky says. he brought that same researchers spirit to projects including the w hotel and residences in boston and temple beth elohim in wellesley, mass. outside the firm, laskys contributions have not gone unnoticed: he won the aia young architects award in 2008. now, as a senior associate, he is able to mentor younger designers. our designs involve an entire team, he says. the ideas may come from junior staff who are a few years out of school and who bring a different expertise. we want that to happen.

Number 3: William Rawn Associates

Staying true to their mission and not falling for the boom helped this Boston firm return to the top five.

Number 4: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

After trimming its organization with the downturn in 2009, the skyscraper-building giant is hitting its stride.


Number 5: Ann Beha Architects

This Boston firm took a top 5 spot with their combination of research and its sensitivity to the past.

ARCHITECT 50: Top Tens

The top 10 in each of the scoring categories: award-winning, net revenue per employee, and sustainable firms.


ARCHITECT 50: 51-100

Those firms who came in at 51 to 100 in the third-annual ARCHITECT 50 rankings.

ARCHITECT 50: Methodology

Here is how the rankings in the ARCHITECT 50 are calculated.



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