Jared Soares

Lenore M. Lucey, FAIA’s career in architecture began typically enough. After graduating from the Pratt Institute in 1970 with a B.Arch. degree, she toiled for several years as a design architect for several New York firms, including for the office of Edward Durell Stone. But Lucey says she was “always a bit frustrated” as a practicing architect. “You spend so much time working on projects,” she says, “and sometimes they happen, and sometimes they don’t.”

After spotting an opening for a project director at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), she landed the job and spent eight years overseeing a number of construction projects for the television network, including several high-profile buildings designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. “I was very busy getting things built,” says Lucey, who would go on to become a leading advocate for the profession—but not as an architect. “I was once called the poster child for alternate careers in architecture,” she quips.

Lucey, named the 2018 Kemper Award winner for her contributions to the profession through her work with the AIA, was named the first female executive director of the Institute’s New York Chapter in 1986. “She increased membership and helped get the chapter on a solid operational footing,” says David Piscuskas, FAIA, founding principal of 1100 Architect and AIA New York’s immediate past president. “But more importantly, she helped elevate an awareness of architecture and urban planning.”

In 1997, she joined the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards as the organization’s first female CEO. Fourteen years later, she left for the AIA, where she has served as chancellor of the Institute’s College of Fellows Executive Committee. She led an effort to make the AIA’s biennial Latrobe Prize, a $100,000 research grant, more relevant to practicing architects. No more “white papers sitting on the shelf,” as she describes it.

Looking back on her career, Lucey sums it up this way: “In a certain sense, I’ve just been a giant cheerleader for the profession. I really do believe that everybody in the world should be using architects. We’re really, really good at helping people and making things better. My whole career, I’ve tried to make people understand that and worked to make that happen.”

Other 2018 AIA Honor Awards: