May 21, 2021

Updates to the Architectural Education Awards


ACSA modifies awards to be more accessible, inclusive, and equitable

For Immediate Release:
Washington D.C., May 21, 2021—The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) announced changes to three of its annual Architectural Education Awards to make them more inclusive as opportunities for faculty and more transparent in the way they are determined. ACSA’s awards program provides international recognition for faculty scholarship, teaching, and practice. The changes were approved by the ACSA Board of Directors at their May meeting.

“The Board of Directors decided last summer that one way to increase racial equity in architectural education is by reviewing our programs, policies, and practices,” said ACSA President Lynne M. Dearborn. “We began to look at barriers to participation in our scholarly and other recognition programs. The annual awards program stood out, particularly the career awards and, our most competitive award, the Faculty Design Award.” 

Changes to Awards
The ACSA board altered the Faculty Design Award by clarifying the criteria by which design achievement will be measured. A task force reviewing the Faculty Design Award recommended expanding definitions of design achievement to be more inclusive of the kinds of work considered worthy of recognition. This includes adding more qualitative language that replaces words like “outstanding” and “critical” to describe what should be awarded. The task force noted that such words did not provide sufficiently detailed evaluation criteria for the award. 

“When such words are used,” Dearborn said, “they stand in for community judgments of design excellence which can default to traditional norms that, in the past, have excluded faculty working on projects with high impact on clients and communities. Such projects often have different metrics for success than projects that earn awards from signature photographs, renderings, and other aesthetic criteria.” 

In place of the previous criteria, the board incorporated instructions for the jury and three basic criteria against which all awards should be judged: 1) the work expands the boundaries of design; 2) the work exhibits creativity, originality, and innovation; and 3) the submission links to a broader context through which to understand the work and its impact.

The ACSA board revised the criteria and jury process for the Distinguished Professor Award with an eye for subtle biases that have been documented in award reviews in other disciplines. The award now emphasizes professors’ “positive, stimulating, and nurturing” influence on students, rather than “sustained creative achievement in the advancement of architectural education.” 

“This change reflects the growing recognition that perceptions of student success may be artificially increased for faculty teaching at schools with greater financial resources and the ability to draw students with stronger academic backgrounds,” Dearborn said. “The revised criteria emphasize the faculty’s impact on student growth from wherever the students begin.” 

Changes to the New Faculty Teaching Award, an award jointly bestowed by ACSA and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), focus similarly on demonstrating positive impacts on students and curricula. The revisions also expand access to the award. Part-time faculty are now eligible for the award, as are faculty at schools with National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) chapters. Previous eligibility criteria required the nominee’s school to have an AIAS or Canadian Architecture Students Association/Association Canadienne d’Étudiants en Architecture chapter.  

“ACSA is committed to making architectural education more accessible, inclusive, and equitable by initiating change through our volunteer committees and programs,” Dearborn said. “From our growing understanding of overt and covert forms of racism and white privilege, we acknowledge the need for a comprehensive review of policies, programs, and procedural norms in ACSA and our member institutions to eradicate long-standing inequities.” 

About the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)
The mission of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture is to lead architectural education and research. Founded in 1912 by 10 charter members, ACSA is an international association of architecture schools preparing future architects, designers, and change agents. ACSA’s full members include all of the accredited professional degree programs in the United States and Canada, as well as international schools and 2- and 4-year programs. Together, ACSA schools represent 7,000 faculty educating more than 40,000 students.

ACSA seeks to empower faculty and schools to educate increasingly diverse students, expand disciplinary impacts, and create knowledge for the advancement of architecture. For more information, visit



Amanda Gann
Creative Lead of Communications and Marketing