Today, the American Institute of Architects named Karen Braitmayer, FAIA, the recipient of its 2019 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Established in 1972 and named in the memory of the late civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League, the award is presented to “an architect or architectural organization that embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness, or universal access,” according to the AIA. Founder of Seattle-based architectural consulting firm Studio Pacifica, Braitmayer—who is a lifelong wheelchair user—specializes in accessible design, and advises local governments and state agencies, as well as school districts, architects, and developers on designing accessible spaces. Braitmayer will be officially presented with the award next June at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2019 in Las Vegas.
Braitmayer holds a B.Arch. from Rice University in Houston and an M.Arch. from the University of Houston. In 1993, she founded her consulting firm which, under her leadership, has been regionally and nationally recognized for focusing on “universal design and social sustainability,” according to Studio Pacifica’s LinkedIn page. From 1994 to 2001, Braitmayer served as a member of the Washington State Building Code Council, and since has remained involved in developing and updating the state’s accessibility code. In 2010, she was appointed by former President Barack Obama to the United States Access Board—an independent government agency that provides leadership in accessible design to promote equality for people with disabilities. Braitmayer has also served on the advisory board of the Northwest ADA Center, as well as the board of the Northwest Center for People with Developmental Disabilities.
“As an advocate, she knows that an accessible environment allows people with disabilities to live with greater independence and dignity,” wrote John Catlin, FAIA, in support of Braitmayer’s nomination. “Her advocacy for equality and inclusion has affected public policy at both the local and national level. Through her work, Karen has distinguished herself as a leader in educating society about the integrity of universal human rights and the virtues of inclusivity.”
This year’s jury comprised chair Katie Wilson, AIA, a principal at Boston-based KMW Architecture; Mark Chambers, director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability; Curtis Fentress, FAIA, principal in charge of design at Denver firm Fentress Architects; Stephanie Herring, Assoc. AIA, a designer at Boston firm Cambridge Seven Associates; and Margaret Montgomery, FAIA, principal and sustainable design leader at Seattle firm NBBJ.
Last year, Tamara Eagle Bull, FAIA, co-founder and president of Encompass Architects in Lincoln, Neb., was named the 2018 winner of the award. Eagle Bull, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, was the first Native American woman in the U.S. to become a licensed architect and to receive the prestigious award. She was recognized for being a staunch advocate for the preservation and respectful representation of Native American culture within tribal nation built environments.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.