Rona Rothenberg
Rona Rothenberg Rona Rothenberg

Today, the American Institute of Architects awarded Rona Rothenberg, FAIA, with its 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. Named for the third president of the United States, the award honors “architects, public officials, or other individuals who design distinguished public facilities and advocate for design excellence,” according to an AIA press release.

"By applying her unique background and affinity for justice, Rothenberg, has distinguished herself as a tireless servant who advances public architecture, as she puts it, 'from the inside out,'” according to the same release. “By leading with an unwavering drive to instill design excellence and best practices, Rothenberg has been a guiding force in shaping California’s public realm through her work as the senior program manager for the state’s daunting courthouse building program. Her leadership has influenced countless institutional campuses and buildings across the country, demonstrating that public architecture can vastly improve the lives of citizens who rely on it.”

Nick Merrick-Hedrich Blessing Photography Santa Clara Family Justice Center by ZGF Architects

Rothenberg received her M.Arch. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1983 before going to work in private practice where she completed educational, office, and military projects. These included leading the development of a 57-courthouse capital outlay for the chief justice of California. In 2001, she began her role as the senior capital program manager for the Judicial Council of California, overseeing more than $10 billion worth of capital campaigns and working with architectural firms on behalf of the California judiciary system.

San Bernardino Justice Center, by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Bruce Damonte San Bernardino Justice Center, by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Several award-winning projects, such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s San Bernardino Justice Center, have been completed under Rothenberg’s leadership. In 2019, Rothenberg was appointed vice president of Government Relations for AIA California.

Rothenberg joins the rank of previous Thomas Jefferson Award recipients, including James McCullar (2019) Stephen Ayers, FAIA, (2018); Alan Greenberger, FAIA, (2017); and Hans Butzer, AIA, (2016).

East County Hall of Justice
Michael O'Callahan East County Hall of Justice, by Fentress Architects

The jury for the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award comprised chair Timothy C. Hawk, FAIA, of WSA Studio in Columbus, Ohio; Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, of Brooks + Scarpa in Hawthorne, Calif.; Peter MacKeith, Assoc. AIA, of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.; Oswaldo Ortega, AIA, of Gensler in Chicago; and Julia Laue, AIA, of the San Francisco Public Works Bureau of Architecture.

Tim Griffith Superior Court of California Mammoth Lakes, by Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects