Letter from the president

In a time of war, climate change, pandemics, famine, and other global catastrophes, it is only natural that many of us worry about our ability to solve massive problems. Personally, I approach the enormity of distressing circumstances by first taking a step back and examining what’s in my control and then acting within my sphere of influence. We take a similar approach at the Architects Foundation.

As America continues to grapple with racism today and in its collective past, the foundation plays an important role in revealing America’s parallel histories. Enslaved people built many of our nation’s historical homes and sites. Through exhibits like I Was Here, the foundation is shining a light on important yet hidden parts of our nation’s story.

Meanwhile, our mission to support all students—particularly students of color—has grown more important than ever. And you come through for them time and again.

Over the last 50 years, foundation scholarship programs have empowered the professional lives of nearly 2,500 students. Last year alone, donations to our Diversity Advancement Scholarship increased by more than $100,000. We also established the AIA Large Firm Round Table Architect Registration Exam scholarship, which enabled more than 30 Black architects to access ARE testing in 2022.

Looking ahead, supporting minority students will remain a top priority, as will the AIA Large Firm Round Table’s goal of doubling the number of licensed Black architects by the year 2030.

We also plan to leverage The Octagon—former AIA headquarters and home of President James Madison—as a special place to promote conversations about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.  In effect, we are reclaiming The Octagon as a safe, respectful, equitable, inspirational, and thought-provoking space.

Without question, this has been a tumultuous year on many fronts. But your generous support allowed the foundation to achieve many important goals in 2021. Please enjoy this look back at our accomplishments and remember: By working together and taking one constructive, positive action at a time, we can repair our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, and ultimately our nation.


R. Steven Lewis, FAIA

2021–2022 Architects Foundation President

Year in review

Year in review numbers


The Architects Foundation proudly invests in the future of architecture through scholarships that empower our profession’s next generation.

In 2021, we awarded 32 new scholarships across eight programs, totaling $334,041. With the understanding that diversity drives innovation in design, we are committed to funding education for students of disparate backgrounds, experiences, and points of view. By promoting a wider range of voices within the architecture industry, we will strengthen our built environment and the ways in which we engage with, and understand, one another through shared space.

We look forward to seeing how these young practitioners leverage their diverse perspectives and lived experiences to develop as architects and change-makers.

Among the scholarships awarded in 2021:

Diversity Advancement Scholarship

Architecture professionals should reflect the diverse communities they serve. Since 1970, this multiyear scholarship has supported ethnically diverse students who are entering, enrolling in, or transferring to an NAAB-accredited undergraduate architecture program. Students may renew scholarships every year until degree completion for up to five years ($20,000 total award).

The scholarship also strengthens recipients’ career trajectory by giving them access to its extensive network of alumni, mentors, and scholars. In 2021, donors contributed approximately $250,000 to this scholarship fund—an increase of more than $100,000 from the year before—enabling us to award 10 scholarships. And, with a $150,000 gift, Sherwin-Williams set up an endowed Diversity Advancement Scholarship.

Scholar spotlight: Shannar O’Connor

“The past five years of architecture school have been the most transformative years of my life. I had many hardships, but also a plethora of rewarding experiences. From the beginning, the odds were never in my favor, being that I am a Black woman from a single-parent immigrant family. However, my hard work, determination, and aid from scholarships, such as the Architects Foundation Diversity Advancement Scholarship, The Villagers Preservation Scholarship, and the Colin MacDonald Betsch Memorial Award, helped me accomplish one of my major life goals—graduating Summa Cum Laude with a B.Arch degree from my dream university (the University of Miami).”

Large Firm Roundtable (LFRT) Architect Registration Examination (ARE) Scholarship

In partnership with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the Architects Foundation launched its inaugural LFRT Architect Registration Examination scholarship in 2021. This initiative aims to help fulfill LFRT’s goal of doubling the number of licensed Black architects by 2030.

A joint survey conducted by NCARB and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) called Baseline on Belonging found that minority professionals experience more barriers as they pursue licensure. The report also found that Black and Latino candidates disproportionately face issues of ARE affordability, with most applicants spending more than $500 on study materials.

The scholarship covers the cost of the ARE and provides $500 in study materials, a one-year subscription to AIA’s exam prep resource (ArchiPrep®), one year of membership dues to either AIA or NOMA, and one year of NCARB Record fees. The scholarship opened for applications in 2021 and was awarded to 30 Black architects in 2022.

Donor spotlight: Jonathan Moody, AIA

“We wanted to remove as many barriers as possible for young people seeking this award,” said Jonathan Moody, AIA, NOMA, co-chair of the LFRT Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) committee. “And being the first year of granting these scholarships, we’re not sure how many applications to expect, but if you run the numbers, the need exceeds current resources. That being said, I believe the LFRT is committed to providing continued financial support and work with the Architects Foundation and others to support aspiring Black architects.”

McAslan Scholars

The merit-based Architects Foundation/McAslan Fellowship funds academic travel opportunities for undergraduate seniors and graduate students. It also provides mentor relationships for them with international architects.

In 2021, fellows Melissa Smith and Mike Lidwin focused on the problems confronting Scottish care homes during COVID-19: One half of COVID-19 deaths in the UK were tied to care homes. The two published a report on the homes’ design and how they could be adapted to better withstand pandemic conditions.

The pair also started work on another project on Turquoise Mountain in Jordan. This community-focused, heritage-led urban regeneration initiative focuses on Umm Qais, one of Jordan’s most important archeological sites. The fellows are developing the best response to support the built heritage, sustainably increase tourism, and radically transform locals’ lives through the employment and education benefits of a revitalized Umm Qais.

Scholar Spotlight: Melissa Smith

“Now that I’ve secured my Master’s in Architecture from the University of Kansas, I’ll be working with LRK in New Orleans to design WELL-certified buildings and communities, and I look forward to putting my Health & Wellness and Historic Preservation certificates to work. I hope to use my studies in Jordan and elsewhere around the world to design more sustainably and beautifully. Who’s to say where I may be in a year, or five years, or ten? But I’m excited to see where this next path takes me as I continue to embrace change and take advantage of opportunities, even if it means letting go of certain things I once held dear.”


The Architects Foundation leads several philanthropic campaigns to support a core element of our mission: Attract, inspire, and invest in the next generation of architects.

Working with partners and sponsors who share in our mission, our campaigns raised more than $450,000 in donations and pledges throughout 2021. Highlights of these campaigns follow.

Fireclay Tile campaign for Black women studying architecture

According to a 2020 report in Archinect, only 0.4% of licensed architects in the United States are Black women. Fireclay Tile partnered with the Architects Foundation during Black History month (February 2021) to sponsor a Diversity Advancement Scholarship specifically for Black women pursuing architecture careers. Impressively, the campaign reached its initial goal of $25,000 in its first three days. With a total of 173 supporters, Fireclay Tile eventually doubled its goal to $50,000. The AF/Fireclay partnership was honored with the Best in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion-Partnership or Collaboration, Silver Medal Class in the Inaugural Anthem Awards, presented by the The Webby Awards and judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS).

Partner Spotlight: Eric Edelson, CEO, Fireclay Tile

“This is a tremendous partnership, and we are honored to support the work of the Architects Foundation to help educate and inspire more amazing talent.”

Robert Ivy Tribute Fund

In 2021, the Architects Foundation created the Robert Ivy Tribute Fund to honor Robert’s service to AIA—including his 11-year tenure as CEO.

The fund recognizes Robert Ivy’s vision for the foundation as the philanthropic arm of AIA. Coming at a critical juncture in the foundation’s history, the fund represents an investment in ensuring continued growth during AIA’s leadership transition and will serve as a lasting legacy for a true pioneer in our field. We’re proud to share that the foundation has already raised more than $350,000 in donations and pledges.

Partner spotlight: Chris Anderson, CEO, AIA Contract Documents, powered by Catina

“Gifts are a fine way to say ‘thank you’ but Robert is deserving of so much more as a legacy for his leadership. I was happy to spearhead the fundraising in Robert’s honor to acknowledge his vision for the Architects Foundation to secure its ability to continue to attract, inspire and invest in the next generation design community for years to come.”

The Octagon

Long a symbol of power and influence in Washington, D.C., The Octagon serves “as a beacon in the nation’s capital for the Architects Foundation’s mission to promote a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive profession,” according to the foundation’s President, R. Steven Lewis, FAIA.

The Octagon remained closed to in-person visitors during much of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, by summer’s end, The Octagon began accepting appointments for small, private group tours and events, accommodating 200 visitors and earning modest revenue by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, virtual tours and activities, such as the CODAworx exhibit, attracted 12,700 unique online visitors.

Leadership took advantage of the facility’s closure to:

  • Make repairs, focus on rebranding, and redevelop a membership program for 2022 launch complete with an annual building and program fund
  • Hire strategic communications consultants, the InnovateHers
  • Hire Amanda Ferrario, a historical preservation expert with more than 11 years of museum experience
  • Launch I Was Here, a private history installation that documents and honors the enslaved African Americans who built and worked at The Octagon. Through this exhibit and related efforts, the foundation hopes to reveal the role enslaved craftspeople played in creating the architecture canon nationwide.

Support the Foundation

Our success depends on your support. Donate to the Architects Fund today to help us grow our scholarship and museum programs. Your gift is a direct investment in the next generation of architects and design professionals whose future work will make our world a better place.

AF 2022 Financials