AIA Chicago Announces Recipient of 2023 Firm Award

Group of people standing behind a table.

KOO Staff

The Firm Award is the highest honor a Chicago-based firm can receive from the local chapter of The American Institute of Architects.

(March 23, 2023) CHICAGOAIA Chicago, the second largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the collective voice of over 4,000 licensed architects, emerging professionals, architecture students, and allied professionals, today announced KOO, founded by Jackie Koo in 2005, will receive the 2023 AIA Chicago Firm Award.

“We are so proud of our entire organization so this is particularly meaningful for us.” said Jackie Koo, AIA.

KOO, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and a signatory of the AIA 2030 Commitment, was founded in 2005 by Jackie Koo, AIA, and works to craft buildings and interior environments that create a unique identity. Dan Rappel, AIA, KOO’s Director of Sustainable Design, became a Partner in 2015. Working primarily in the hospitality and civic sectors, the practice seeks functional and aesthetic solutions to complex problems, leaning on every member of the team to contribute to a given project.

The firm’s notable designs include:

theWIT Hotel, Chicago, IL

Sable Hotel at Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

Offshore at Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

Hotel EMC2, Chicago, IL

Altgeld Family Resource Center, Chicago, IL

Dual Branded Hyatt at the Old Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL (Interior Design)

“Their ability to design large buildings at the human scale is very admirable.” The jury noted. “The body of work produced by this small firm is very impressive.”

KOO’s sustainable philosophy revolves around addressing carbon reduction with passive strategies rather than implementing advanced technologies. Through glazing reduction to energy modeling, the firm employes sustainable strategies from the inception of the design.

“This firm exemplifies what it means to be an equitable and sustainable practice,” said Jen Masengarb, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director of AIA Chicago, “AIA Chicago is very excited to have a jury of their peers recognize and celebrate KOO’s achievements.”

KOO works to provide a range of experiences required for emerging professionals to complete their licensure requirements in an expedited manner, including supporting and encouraging licensure, especially for women and people of color; providing paid time off for taking licensing exams; reimbursement for all passed exams; and payment for membership in one professional organization.

The firm encourages employees to further their engagement within the profession through a spirit of volunteerism and professional development by involvement in AIA Chicago’s Bridge and Wing mentorship programs as well as a variety of other organizations, including the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.

The team at KOO will be celebrated at an upcoming AIA Chicago Third Thursdays event and receive their award at Designight, Chicago’s premier architectural celebration of the year, hosted by The American Institute of Architects, Chicago.

The Firm Award is selected by a jury of leaders and principals of previous Firm Award recipient firms. This year’s Jury was comprised of Paul De Santis, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, Partner at Goettsch Partners; Peter Exley, FAIA, RIBA, Director at Architecture Is Fun, Inc.; Doug Farr, FAIA, Founding Principal at Farr Associates; Debbie Saad, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Director at bKL Architecture; and Chris-Annmarie Spencer, AIA, NOMA, Principal at Wheeler Kearns Architects. Any firm with membership in AIA Chicago that has not won this award within the past 10 years is eligible to apply.

About AIA Chicago

The American Institute of Architects Chicago (AIA Chicago) serves nearly 4,000 licensed architects, emerging professionals, architecture students, and allied professional members in Chicago and is the second largest AIA chapter in the country. AIA Chicago’s mission builds on the city’s architectural legacy by advocating for the profession, sharing knowledge among members, and partnering with communities. The chapter fosters a culture of design excellence for equitable, sustainable places and spaces.

AIA Chicago offers lectures and continuing education courses; specialized, issue-specific Knowledge Communities; advocacy for architects; and help for consumers looking for an architect.

AIA Chicago is the local Chicago chapter of The American Institute of Architects. Based in Washington, D.C., the AIA has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1857. Learn more by visiting www.aiachicago.org.



Group of people standing behind a table.
Offshore at Navy Pier
A brick buildings with artfully scattered windows against a blue sky.
Image of a room with square lights and a patterned floor.
Aerial view of plaza with trees.
Wood wall with theater stair

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