Improving lives: Carol Ross Barney Design principal and founder of Ross Barney Architects (Chicago, IL), an architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture studio.
By LIISA ANDREASSEN Correspondent
S ince founding Ross Barney Architects in 1981, Carol Ross Barney has been a driving force in civic space design. And, with a career that spans nearly 50 years, she has no plans to retire – ever. Over the years, she’s made significant contributions to the built environment, the profession, and architectural education and continues to advocate that excellent design is a right, not a privilege. She’s passionate about that and communicates her philosophies through teaching, mentoring, and empowering young architects. The American Institute of Architects recently awarded her the 2023 AIA Gold Medal, making her the first living woman to win the award as an individual (Julia Morgan received the recognition decades after her death; Denise Scott Brown in 2016 and Angela Brooks in 2022 each won with their partners). Ross Barney says she takes particular pride in being only one of four women to receive the prize – recalling that she was one of 12 women out of 312 students in her first architecture course at the University of Illinois. The AIA cites her “architecture that betters the daily life of
all who interact with it. With her focus on design excellence, social responsibility, and generosity, Barney is an unrivaled architect for the people.” MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. “Some of our projects may not even be considered architecture, but they’re spaces and that defines them as problems we should undertake,” she says. “We’ve done parks and transit, and each of these is as important as a building.” One of the firm’s crowning achievements is the Chicago Riverwalk along a mile and a quarter of the Chicago River. Designed as a series of outdoor rooms, Ross Barney (who partnered with the landscape architecture firm Sasaki) delivered a terraced amphitheater, a kayak launch, a floating fish habitat, and more. In addition to design, there was also a good deal of lobbying that occurred to make this happen. As a result of her efforts, 30 feet of public space is required for any new development along the Chicago River, ensuring that future building continues to maintain this strip of open space. Her firm has also worked closely with the Chicago Transit
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