Ralph Johnson, FAIA
(August 10, 2022) CHICAGO – AIA Chicago, the second largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the collective voice of 4,000 licensed architects, emerging professionals, architecture students, and allied professionals, today announced that Ralph Johnson, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal and Global Design Director of Perkins&Will, founded in Chicago, will receive the 2022 AIA Chicago Lifetime Achievement Award. Johnson will be given the award on September 12 at Pritzker Pavilion during Designight 2022, the first free and public ceremony for AIA Chicago’s signature award program which honors the global design achievements of Chicago architects.
“Generations of Chicago architects have learned from Johnson’s mentorship over the years and his constant push for design excellence,” said Drew Deering, AIA, President, AIA Chicago. “These diverse projects that focus on the users of the space are recognized globally for their influential design. At the local level, every Chicagoan knows a Ralph Johnson project.”
Ralph Johnson is a quintessential Chicagoan. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, just down the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s R.W. Evans House. Fascinated by the home’s design and inspired by the rich architecture of the city, by the time Johnson reached grade school, he decided to become an architect. Johnson started his career with a summer internship doing industrial architecture for Chicago’s famous stockyards. From the stockyards, Ralph went on to design some of the most iconic buildings in Chicago and around the world.
Johnson’s designs are driven by program, human need, and an unwavering commitment to the just, resilient, and livable city. These principles are especially evident in his Chicago projects. Deeply influenced by humanistic values, Johnson’s approach emphasizes process rather than a preconceived aesthetic. In this way, the design can respond to diverse cultures and urban conditions; diversity enriches a design.
Among Johnson’s most significant works with notable honors are:
- Northtown Library and Apartments; Chicago, Illinois; AIA/ALA Library Building Award 2020
- Northwestern University Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center; Evanston, Illinois; Merit Award, ASLA Illinois, 2019
- Case Western Reserve University Tinkham Veale University Center; Cleveland, Ohio; Distinguished Building Award, AIA National Honor Awards, 2016
- Rush University Campus Transformation Project; Chicago, Illinois; National Healthcare Design Award, AIA/Academy of Architecture for Health, 2015
- United States Coast Guard Headquarters; Washington, D.C.; Distinguished Building Award, AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards, 2015
- William Jones College Preparatory High School; Chicago Illinois; Mies Van Der Rohe Award for Innovation, AIA Illinois Chapter Honor Awards, 2015
- Shanghai Natural History Museum; Shanghai, China; Divine Detail Award, AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards, 2015
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; Chicago, Illinois; Distinguished Building Award, AIA Chicago, 2000
- Desert View Elementary School, Sunland Park, New Mexico; National Honor Award, American Institute of Architects, 1989
Johnson has been a leader in the design community since he began work in the profession. His academic appointments include membership to the Architecture Committee at the Art Institute of Chicago, appointment as a visiting critic at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois, membership to the Board of Overseers at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture, and adjunct professorships at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
Johnson has received notable personal and professional awards:
- Gold Medal Award, University of Illinois, Department of Architecture, 2022
- Distinguished Legacy Award, College of Fine Arts, University of Illinois, 2020
- National Academy of Design, Inductee, 2015
- Society of Architectural Historians, Career Award
- Young Architect Award Recipient, American Institute of Architects, Chicago Chapter
- Young Architects Forum, Architectural League of New York, 1983
“Ralph Johnson’s gift as a designer comes in the ways in which he puts people at the center of architecture,” said Jen Masengarb, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director of AIA Chicago. “From thoughtfully designed hospitals for patients and nurses to creative learning spaces for teachers and students, he is continually learning from users to create better architecture for our everyday human experience.”
New in 2022, the Lifetime Achievement Award selection process began with an open nomination process by the membership of AIA Chicago. All nominees were contacted and were encouraged to submit portfolios and additional information to the AIA Chicago Board of Directors if they wish to continue. The Board went through multiple rounds of anonymous voting and discussion prior to selection this year’s recipient.
Previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are Stuart Cohen, FAIA (2021); Phillip C. Johnson, FAIA (2020); John Syversten, FAIA (2019); Peter Landon, FAIA (2018); Carol Ross Barney, FAIA (2017); Ronald Krueck, FAIA (2016); Richard H. Driehaus (2015); John Vinci, FAIA (2014); Stanley Tigerman, FAIA (2013); Helmut Jahn, FAIA (2012); Ben Weese (2011); Natalie DeBlois, FAIA (2010); Gertrude Lempp Kerbis, FAIA (2008); John Holabird, Jr., FAIA (2007); Walter Netsch, FAIA (2006). In 2009, Daniel Burnham, FAIA and Edward Bennett, FAIA, were recognized posthumously on the centennial of The Plan of Chicago.