Carol Ross Barney on the Chicago Riverwalk
John Boehm Carol Ross Barney on the Chicago Riverwalk

Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, is the 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner. The award honors an individual or pair whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

The Chicago architect is just the second woman to be individually honored, following the posthumous award to Julia Morgan in 2014. Women have shared the recognition with their spouses on two occasions: Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA, with Robert Venturi in 2016, and Angela Brooks, FAIA, with Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, in 2022.

Born in Chicago, Ross Barney studied at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before joining the Peace Corps in 1971. Returning to her birthplace, she worked at the venerable firm Holabird & Root before establishing her own office in 1981.

 Oklahoma City Federal Building
Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing Oklahoma City Federal Building

Ross Barney’s portfolio is a remarkable essay in making a difference through public work. The highlights include the Glendale Heights (Ill.) Post Office (1989); Little Village Academy (1996), Chicago; Oklahoma City Federal Building (2005); Chicago Riverwalk (2006-16); CTA Morgan Station (2012), Chicago; CTA Cermak-McCormick Place Station (2015), Chicago; Searle Visitor Center at Lincoln Park Zoo (2018), Chicago; McDonald’s Global Flagship Chicago (2018); and McDonald’s Global Flagship at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Fla. (2020)

For the past 20 years, Ross Barney has worked from a three-story loft in River North that was once the offices of the late American architect Harry Weese. She was one of the eight founding members of Chicago Women in Architecture in 1974 and she continues to work with the organization as vice chair of its Board of Directors.

Ross Barney has won more than 200 national and international awards, including two AIA COTE Top Ten Awards, the 2005 AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture (now known as the AIA Award for Excellence in Public Architecture), and AIA Illinois Firm Award and Gold Medal. She also won the National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt in 2021.

 McDonald’s Global Flagship at Walt Disney World Resort
Kate Joyce Studios McDonald’s Global Flagship at Walt Disney World Resort

In the first half-century, Chicago architects won the AIA Gold Medal somewhat regularly, among them Howard Van Doren Shaw, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and John Wellborn Root. But Ross Barney is the first local to win since Mies van der Rohe in 1960, a long drought for a city that considers its architects and architecture among its most important cultural products. “One of the things that thrills me most about it is the recognition of Chicago,” Ross Barney says. “Sixty-two years is too long.”

Carol Ross Barney was chosen by the AIA Board of Directors and the AIA Strategic Council from three finalists who were identified by an advisory jury consisting of chair Nathaniel Hudson, AIA, FormGrey Studio in Reno, Nev.; Joseph Benjamin, AIA, Lake | Flato, San Antonio; Arathi P. Gowda, AIA, ZGF Architects in Washington, D.C.; Anne Hicks Harney, FAIA, Long Green Specs in Manasquan, N.J.; Jaime Torres Carmona, AIA, Canopy/architecture + design in Chicago; Andrew Tyley, RIAI, RSHP formerly Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in London; and Melodie Yashar, ICON in Austin, Texas.