WASHINGTON, DC.- The American Institute of Architects
(AIA) have selected Benjamin Vargas, FAIA, as the 2010 recipient of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, given to an architect or architecturally oriented organization exemplifying the professions responsibility toward current social issues. Vargas, whose efforts to instill the value of diversity and inclusiveness into the AIA at a national, Institute-wide level, will be presented with the award at the 2010 AIA national convention in Miami.
The award honors civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr., proponent of social change and head of the Urban League from 1961 until his death in 1971. At the 1968 AIA Annual Convention, Young challenged architects to more actively increase participation in the profession by minorities and women.
A native of Puerto Rico, Vargas established a presence within the AIA as a tireless advocate for institutional change to survey and remedy the lack of minority participation in the Institute and architecture at large. He was elected as the Florida/Caribbean regional director on the AIAs Board in 2002, and has been on numerous committees and groups tasked with addressing this issue.
Ben was the dependable and thoughtful originator of concepts and working papers designed to develop and bring into architecture the talents of aspiring Latino and Hispanic architects, and to recognize the practitioners who too often had been unrecognized even within their own firms, wrote Boston Architectural College president Theodore Landsmark, Assoc. AIA, in a recommendation letter.
Vargas has been at the helm of a great many of the diversity initiatives the AIA has undertaken, beginning with a resolution to track demographic data to better understand the challenges to diversity the profession faces. In 2005, he helped craft the AIAs position statement on diversity, and in 2007 he participated in the planning committee for the AIAs Diversity Plenary.
This year, Vargas helped create the AIAs Diversity Recognition program, which recognizes architects for contributions to diversifying the profession by bestowing diversity best practice awards. Vargas was also instrumental in the appointment of a director of diversity and inclusion at the AIA, and has helped codify diversity as one of the AIAs primary strategic initiatives. Throughout his career, Vargas has been vocal about the gap between Hispanic and Latino presence in the AIA and in architecture in general and their growing influence in American culture at large. Hes used his steady presence in the AIA to diligently work for change from the inside-out.
Vargas has also come to professional prominence for promoting the architecture and history of Caribbean architects, as well as building bridges of professional collaboration across the Caribbean. Vargas has lead several networking trips for Puerto Rican architects that have taken them to the Dominican Republic and Cuba in an attempt to build a pan-Caribbean culture of design collaboration.
Bens resume of accomplishments is well documented, but it is his unique, quiet, thoughtful, and inspirational leadership that has had the greatest impact on the profession, wrote Mickey Jacob, FAIA, of Tampa-based Urban Studio, in a letter of recommendation. His mentorship, leadership, and vision have opened the doors of opportunity and touched the lives of many wishing to pursue a career in architecture, who in the past have found their paths filled with barriers.
Notable past projects Vargas has worked on with his firm Bartizan Group Architects and Project Managers are the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School and a cancer hospice for children called Hogar de Ninos Que Quieren Sonreir.
Past Whitney M. Young Jr. Award winners have included J. Max Bond, FAIA (1987), Habitat for Humanity (1988), Curtis J. Moody, FAIA (1992), the National Organization of Minority Architects (2007), Norma Sklarek, FAIA (2008), and Clyde Porter, FAIA (2009).