AS+GG's Sara Beardsley Named a Winner of the 2011 AIA Young Architect Award

February 17, 2011

Sara Beardsley, AIA, a senior architect at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, is one of 11 recipients of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Young Architects Award for 2011. 

Young Architects are defined as professionals who have been licensed 10 years or fewer regardless of their age. This award honors individuals who have shown exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the profession early in their careers. The Young Architects Award will be presented to the recipients at the AIA 2011 National Convention and Design Exposition in New Orleans in May.

The award from the national AIA is the most recent of several major honors for Sara, who was the winner of the Dubbin Family Young Architect Award given by Chicago AIA in 2010. Sara was also featured on the cover of Crain’s Chicago Business as part of its annual “40 Under 40” feature honoring Chicago’s most promising talent in various fields.

In explaining her architectural philosophy, Sara—who will be addressing the AIA Convention as a Young Architect winner—likens buildings to "living, functioning machines."  Sara's skills will become increasingly prevalent in the new century as energy usage becomes more of a factor in design and engineering.

At AS+GG, Sara led the design efforts on the firm’s proposed modernization and greening of Willis Tower, a role for which she's uniquely suited given her lifelong appreciation for Chicago's architectural tradition and her commitment to sustainability in the built environment. She is also currently involved with a confidential supertall tower project in the Middle East.

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Sara has a special fascination with energy issues and the design of tall buildings. Among her past projects at AS+GG are the Federation of Korean Industries headquarters in Seoul, Korea; a supertall hotel tower for a confidential development in Dubai; the Verde Offices; the Mansion; and the Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, to be published in Toward Zero Carbon, a new book to be published in March 2011 by Images Publishing (Australia).

Before joining AS+GG in 2007, Sara was a technical studio head at the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. There she collaborated with Adrian Smith, FAIA, on the design of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, and led the renovation design of Mies van der Rohe's Dirksen Federal Building. Prior to working at SOM, Sara interned at several local firms including Holabird & Root, where she worked on the IIT Student Center and the Booth Library at Eastern Illinois University.

“Sara is one of the most talented, versatile and committed young architects working in the United States today,” Adrian Smith said. “The quality of Sara’s that strikes me most is that for her, architecture is not merely a profession. It’s a mission and a calling. In her young career she has already developed a significant reputation as an expert on projects involving preservation and sustainability. She’s drawn in those directions, I think, because of her understanding of architecture as a tool for addressing some of the most pressing problems we face as a global community.

“It’s that quality, among others, that made her the ideal candidate to lead our greening and modernization project for Willis Tower, and to focus on the process of retrofitting existing buildings described in our award-winning Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan. There are ‘sexier’ things that an architect might do than analyzing how to make exterior wall and mechanical systems in our existing building stock more energy efficient, but none more important. Sara understands that and embraces it.”

About Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is dedicated to the design of high-performance architecture in a wide range of typology and scale, from low- and mid-rise residential, commercial and cultural buildings to mixed-use supertall towers and new cities. The office uses a holistic, integrated design approach that explores symbiotic relationships with the natural environment. AS+GG is currently working on projects for clients in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and the United States. The partnership was founded in 2006 by Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest. For more information, please visit In 20.10, AS+GG launched a related energy and engineering consulting firm, PositivEnergy Practice; for more information, please visit
About the American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit