_2DA7668The Professional Achievement Award recognizes a person or group who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, dedication, and commitment to the growth and development of AIA and his/her community while making significant contributions to the profession in the early stage of his/her architectural career. This year’s award was given to a team of emerging professionals and associates who comprised the talented group that created the 10 Years/10 Stories exhibit for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The group was comprised of Jose Alvarez, AIA; Mary Bullock, Assoc. AIA; Amy Garret, Assoc. AIA; Mary Gilmore, AIA; Gretchen Gottfried, Assoc. AIA; Amanda Rivera, AIA; Miriam Salas, AIA; Janina Scalfano, AIA; Thom Smith, AIA; Jordan Stewart, RA and Chuck Perret, Owner and financial contributor, Lettermans Blueprint and Supply Company.

On August 29, 2005, New Orleans was changed forever by Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees. To commemorate the tenth anniversary, a group of Emerging Professionals in AIA New Orleans developed an ambitious project exploring the role that architects played in the city’s recovery. The project took two formats: a retrospective exhibit entitled “10 Years/10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery,” and a forward looking panel discussion entitled “The Next 10 Years.”

The exhibit examined the question: What roles did architects play over the last ten years? Through community planning, civic engagement, leadership, activism, and design, architects in New Orleans shaped the city’s rebuilding process. Stories told in the exhibit highlight significant work, contributions, and successes, as well as missed opportunities. The exhibit also looked ahead to the future of the city, framing issues for the future of architecture as both a profession and a community.

Curating these stories began with a process of inviting members in the local architectural community to share personal experiences and recommend projects via distributed postcards or through the project’s website, 10years10stories.com. The exhibit team combed through the submissions and worked for months to gather information, research projects, and interview individuals about their specific contributions.

For participation and feedback the project team engaged practitioners ranging from firm principals to recent graduates; from city department heads to leaders of nonprofit organizations. This participatory approach resulted in a collective memory woven through stories that showcased the dynamism of architectural practice in post Katrina New Orleans.