Sage, Swanson Earn 2021 Awards for Excellence in Public Architecture

Architecture should make surroundings look and feel better, and the building function at the highest level. Both Jennifer Sage and Katie Swanson earned awards for Excellence in public architecture for their efforts, as awarded by the AIA. –By Brian Hurlburt, Founder and Host, Magnifying Excellence Podcast.


Katie Swanson

An incredibly effective advocate and champion for equitable design and development, Katie Swenson works tirelessly to humanize design and propel the profession forward. Whether its directing the distinguished Rose Fellowship program or guiding MASS Design Group as a senior principal, Swenson’s preternatural abilities to navigate complex social entanglements and forge strong alliances allow her to address our most pressing conditions with aplomb.

“What makes Katie the ideal candidate … is her profound passion for service by design,” wrote Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NOMA, in a letter supporting Swenson’s nomination for the award. “She is hyper-focused on the impact that people have on other people in the design and development of the built environment. Katie is a gifted relationship builder and talent cultivator.”

Jennifer Sage

Leading the charge in developing social infrastructure, Jennifer Sage, FAIA, demonstrates that public architecture, whether grand or modest, must always be inclusive, sustainable, and democratic. A native of New York, Sage grew up relying on the city’s extensive library system, public pools, and parks. Those early experiences have guided her firm, Sage and Coombe Architects, for nearly 25 years, resulting in a portfolio of some of the most memorable public architecture in New York and beyond.

“In a profession known as much for its flamboyance or its banality, she has developed a model of a truly public architecture look that, as she says, ‘expresses confidence in the future of a place,’” wrote James Stewart Polshek, FAIA, in a letter supporting Sage’s nomination for the AIA Award for Excellence in Public Architecture. “Her projects are as diverse as the city she has principally worked in over the years. Their scale varies from prototypical plans for simple bathhouses to the preservation of historic seaside landscapes. All of her projects are, at the same time, elegantly modest and memorably powerful.”

About the award

Great public architecture embodies the identity and values of a society. This award, known as the Thomas Jefferson Award, was established in 1992 to recognize the importance of public officials or individuals who by their role and advocacy have furthered the public’s awareness and appreciation of design excellence in public architecture.