AIA Chicago’s board of directors has selected John Syvertsen, FAIA, to receive the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. In his career, Syvertsen has distinguished himself through his work as an architect and firm leader, as a leader in community outreach, social impact, environmental sustainability and through his professorship at colleges and universities across the country.
For ten years Syvertsen was president of OWP/P Architects. He led the merger with CannonDesign where he co-founded the Open Hand Studio dedicated to public interest design and was a member of the executive leadership team. Since 2015 he has dedicated his career full time in support of several nonproﬁt organizations.
“John is the model example of a leader—he’s a true gentleman that possesses poise and humility, but makes the tough decisions when needed,” said Andrew Balster, Assoc. AIA, office practice leader of CannonDesign’s Chicago office. “As a mentor, he holds a deep sense of responsibility to ensure future generations not only achieve their greatest potential but that they also contribute to society as a whole. It’s humbling to be able to say I experienced the workplace and culture he helped define.”
Civic engagement is a hallmark of Syvertsen’s philosophy. He has served as chair of the American Institute of Architects national committee on design, as president of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Arts, as president of AIA Chicago (1996), as chair of the board of regents of the American Architectural Foundation and as chair of the board of trustees of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. He currently serves as chair of the board of directors of Archeworks, an alternative, socially-focused design educator. In 2006, Syvertsen was the inaugural recipient of the AIA Illinois Gold Medal in recognition of a career of service.
A 1986 Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Syvertsen is currently teaching as an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. With his lifetime achievement award, he joins a roster of architects and architectural advocates such as Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Peter Landon, FAIA, Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, Ben Weese, FAIA, Helmut Jahn, FAIA, Gertrude Lempp Kerbis, FAIA and Natalie De Blois, FAIA.
Syvertsen will receive the award on October 25 at Designight 2019, celebrating AIA Chicago’s 150th anniversary and the 2019 recipients of the Design Excellence Awards.