The American Institute of Architects has named Angela Brooks, FAIA, and Lawrence “Larry” Scarpa, FAIA, as its 2022 AIA Gold Medal recipients, recognizing the numerous achievements in architecture, sustainable design, and social equity of the namesake managing principal and principal, respectively, of Hawthorne, Calif.–based Brooks + Scarpa.
“[T]heir leadership in and out of the office is an inspiration to architects across the country that believe architecture at its highest level can happen anywhere, at any scale, and for anyone,” wrote BNIM Architects founding principal Bob Berkebile, FAIA, in a letter supporting Brooks and Scarpa’s nomination.
The Los Angeles–based duo were both raised by blue-collar families in central Florida. They met in architecture school at the University of Florida before marrying in 1987. A move to Los Angeles allowed Brooks to attend graduate school at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) while Scarpa began working with architect and engineer Gwynne Pugh, FAIA. Pugh + Scarpa was established in 1991, with the office’s outstanding work quickly garnering national attention. After nearly a decade focusing on policy and design issues around housing and homelessness at the Los Angeles Community Design Center, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, Brooks joined Pugh + Scarpa as a principal in 1999.
The firm received the AIA Architecture Firm Award in 2010 as Pugh + Scarpa, renaming the following year to Brooks + Scarpa after the departure of Pugh, who began his own practice.
Throughout their three decades in practice, Brooks and Scarpa have thoughtfully engaged design as an essential public service that requires the embrace of social and environmental responsibility by the architect. In her May 2020 essay on ARCHITECT, Brooks wrote, “Despite what NIMBYists may claim, housing affordability does not lessen the value of neighborhoods. Instead, it strengthens them … . Architects can and should collaborate with planners, city officials, politicians, and policymakers to tailor zoning to new uses and new ways of living. Making connections between disparate elements to create a comprehensive whole is what we do. Design can promote social change.”
At a five-story-tall apartment complex dubbed The Six Affordable Veteran Housing in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, the architects reimagined the typical courtyard plan as a stunning urban blockbuster that provides affordable veterans housing with formal ingenuity, a distinctive sense of place, and environmentally sensitive moves that create a most pleasant and sustainable spaces. The project was named a 2017 AIA National Award winner for architecture, a 2017 Residential Architect Design Award winner, and a 2020 AIA Committee of the Environment Top Ten winner, among other accolades.
Brooks + Scarpa’s scheme for expanding the Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, Fla., a 2020 Progressive Architecture Award winner, draws on the partners’ central Florida upbringing and their 21st-century cultural and environmental sensitivity, with a formal nod to Scarpa’s earliest professional work with Paul Rudolph.
At the Lipton Thayer Brick House, in Evanston, Ill., the architects, in collaboration with Studio Dwell Architects, elevated the role of Chicago common brick, typically used on side and rear elevations to save costs, to a central role throughout the residence and its undulating façade. “Just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful,” Scarpa told ARCHITECT.
This thoughtful approach to the humblest of materials pervades the firm’s architecture and philosophy. “They are motivated by a social responsibility and environmental stewardship that seeks to find ways to improve the livability of cities and ennoble the daily lives of its citizens,” wrote Eskew Dumez Ripple principal Steve Dumez, FAIA, and Merryman Barnes Architects principal Douglas A. Benson, FAIA, in their supporting letter for Brooks and Scarpa.
Among the numerous national and regional honors from AIA, AIA COTE, AIA components, and ARCHITECT recognizing both their firm and themselves as individuals, Brooks and Scarpa have received the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture in 2014 and the Civita Institute Fellowship in 2020.
This marks the second time that the AIA Gold Medal has been awarded to a pair of winners. The first time was in 2016 when Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA, received the Gold Medal. Brooks is the third woman to receive the honor since its inception in 1907. Julia Morgan received the Gold Medal posthumously in 2014.
The Gold Medal is conferred by the AIA Board of Directors and the AIA Strategic Council from a short list of three finalists, as identified by an Advisory Jury. This year's Advisory Jury was chaired by Lisa Matthiessen, FAIA, Amazon, Pasadena, Calif., and comprised Brenna Costello, AIA, SmithGroup, Denver; Nathaniel Hudson, AIA, FormGrey Studio, Reno, Nev.; Candace Jackson, CJAM Consulting, New York; Renauld Mitchell, FAIA, Moody Nolan, Chicago; Wendy Ornelas, FAIA, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.; and Anand Sheth, AIA, Studio Anand Sheth, San Francisco.