ARO Wins AIA's 2020 Firm Award

John Hill
12. December 2019
Photo: Architecture Research Office

New York's Architecture Research Office (ARO) has been named recipient of the 2020 AIA Architecture Firm Award, the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architectural practice.

Founded in NYC in 1993, ARO is led by three principals: Stephen Cassell, Kim Yao, and Adam Yarinsky. Accompanied by 27 employees — if the firm portrait above is accurate — the trio works on projects ranging from single-family houses and schools to office interiors, boathouses, and complex restorations of cultural institutions. Their most high-profile project is one of their earliest: the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station, which fits well on its Times Square site by representing the American flag with lines of light.

Other notable projects named by the AIA in its announcement of the 2020 Architecture Firm Award include the LGBTQ Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which moved into a space ARO renovated in 2016 in the base of a Cass Gilbert-designed building in Midtown Manhattan; the restoration of the Judd Foundation in SoHo; and the ongoing restoration and expansion work at the Rothko Chapel in Texas. 

Citing the firm's emphasis on "collaboration and shared ideas," among other things, the AIA will honor ARO with the 2020 Architecture Firm Award at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2020 in Los Angeles in May. Below are a couple quotes from architects who supported ARO's nomination for the Firm Award, inserted between some images of the firm's recent work. 

Riverdale Country School (Photo: James Ewing/OTTO)
ARO's work, ranging from their extensive work on additional American university campuses to the cultural work they are doing for the Rothko Chapel and have done for the Judd Foundation to the research work that they've done on urban climate issues as well as material fabrication, has been consistently tight in its articulation (no excess), but it emerges from a keen understanding of each project and a keen appreciation for each deployed material rather than coming from a school of minimalism.

Sarah M. Whiting, Harvard GSD Dean

Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse (Photo: Elizabeth Felicella)
It takes the tireless efforts of firms like Architectural Research Office to construct a positive working environment within their offices that develop skills, discipline, and deep values to empower every young professional to achieve their own measure of success and purpose towards lifelong contributions to the profession and the broad realm of architecture. I, too, admire their willingness to admit that they know enough to know that they don’t know.
Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Tate Library (Photo: James Ewing/OTTO)
The 2020 Advisory Jury:

  • Kelly M. Hayes-McAlonie (Chair), The State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
  • Emily Grandstaff-Rice, Arrowstreet Inc., Sommerville, Massachusetts
  • Norman Foster, Foster + Partners, London, United Kingdom
  • Marsha Maytum, LMS, San Francisco, California
  • Takashi Yanai, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, Culver City California
  • Scott Shell, EHDD, San Francisco, California
  • Melissa Harlan, Christner, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Maurice Cox, City of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan

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