Shannon Dowling, AIA, principal and learning environments strategist at Ayers Saint Gross in Richmond, will be presented AIA Virginia’s 2023 Award for Distinguished Achievement. The Award for Distinguished Achievement recognizes either a singular achievement by an architect or the work of an entire career in any of the following: design, practice, education, service as a “citizen architect,” service to the profession, or initiatives to advance social justice, equity, diversity, or inclusion.
Dowling focuses on creating research-driven and student-centered learning environments. Equipped with an extensive knowledge of educational trends and challenges, she always works with the physical and psychological needs of students in mind. She collaborates closely with educators, students, and administrators to create inspirational yet functional space in which every student feels comfortable, safe, and ready to succeed.
in 2020 and 2021, as the recipient of a fellowship from the Society for College and University Planning, Dowling worked with students to create a playbook for the planning and design of diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus environments. The playbook, including the voices of more than two dozen institutions and more than 200 students, offers student-informed design strategies to create a more supportive physical environment for historically marginalized students.
Published in 2022, Dowling’s research project entitled Peripheral Vision: Planning and Designing Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Learning Environments – and its accompanying playbook – breaks down simple steps that institutions and designers can take to eliminate barriers to access and make existing and future spaces more welcoming and comfortable for a diversity of student populations. Dowling has written about her research and collaboration with students in numerous national publications and presented it widely. As the SCUP leadership notes, “The project has been far-reaching and impactful, not only for our SCUP constituency but many others who are committed to equitable and inclusive design.”
Dowling’s advocacy has extended to her local community and Richmond Public Schools. She lent her graphic design support to teachers in the Support Our Schools movement, actively contributing to raising awareness about the need for improved facility conditions and better teacher pay. Shannon’s dedication to fostering diversity and equity is evident through her volunteer work with Full STEAM Ahead, introducing middle school females to STEM professions, as well as her participation in numerous Career Fairs at local schools. Additionally, she has taken the initiative to lead camps and workshops, introducing children to the profession of architecture and inspiring the next generation of architects.
For her passionate service, Shannon Dowling, AIA, will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Achievement at the Visions for Architecture event on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond.