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August 28, 2019
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Chapter News

AIA Philadelphia Announces Annual Award Winners Susan Maxman, FAIA and Elizabeth K. Miller

By Elizabeth Paul

AIA Philadelphia’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of Susan Able Maxman, FAIA, retired founding principal of SMP Architects, as the 2019 John Frederick Harbeson Award (Harbeson) recipient and Elizabeth K. Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative, as the 2019 Paul Philippe Cret Award(Cret) recipient. Both awards honor individuals that have made a significant contribution to the field of architecture and the built environment whether as an architect or as a member of the public with a keen interest in design. ​

The John Frederick Harbeson Award is presented annually to a long-standing member of the architectural community and is intended to recognize their significant contributions over their lifetime to the architectural profession and its related disciplines. The recipient of this award will have distinguished themselves throughout their career by their contributions to the architectural profession, the American Institute of Architects, the education of the architectural community, and their contributions to the Philadelphia community at large.

Susan Abel Maxman, FAIA, has been blazing trails for female architects in Philadelphia since founding her first firm Maxman/Sutphin Associates in 1980, just three years after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her master’s degree in architecture. Maxman learned quickly how to leverage the benefits of her gender to catapult her career. As one of Philadelphia’s only active female architects, she joined AIA’s Women in Architecture group where she saw first-hand the oppressive nature of being a female in a male-dominated industry. Determined to tackle the “boys’ club” head-on, Maxman became entrenched in the professional organization and was placed on the board of the Pennsylvania chapter of AIA. She rose in the ranks eventually becoming president of the Pennsylvania State Society of Architects in 1987 and by 1992, the first female president of the American Institute of Architects. ​

Susan Maxman Architects/SMP Architects are award-winning firms with 65 awards including 14 AIA design awards and 14 honors commending environmental responsibility. Always an advocate, Maxman used her standing as AIA president to draw attention to environmental responsibility and sustainability at the 1993 AIA National convention. Continuing her endeavors in professional associations, Maxman was a founding member of the environmental committee of the Urban Land Institute and in 2011, around the time of her retirement, she was named to the board of the National Institute of Building Sciences by then-president Barack Obama. 

Maxman’s career was on the forefront – designing projects that responded to issues of sustainability and affordable housing. She was inducted into the AIA College of Fellows in 1991 and is an honorary fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Federacion de Colegos de Arquitectos de la Republica Mexicana. 

The Paul Philippe Cret Award recognizes individuals or organizations who are not architects but who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the design of buildings, structures, landscapes, and the public realm of Greater Philadelphia.

Elizabeth Kay Miller (Beth) is the Executive Director of the Community Design Collaborative, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that strengthens neighborhoods through design. Founded in 1991, the Collaborative coordinates pro bono preliminary design services and amplifies the importance of community-engaged design.

Since 2001, Miller has worked with the Collaborative’s board, staff, and volunteers to leverage pro bono design assistance and deliver responsive Design Grants to nearly 1,000 nonprofits throughout greater Philadelphia. In 2005, Miller also launched Infill Philadelphia, a proactive design initiative to reimagine underutilized assets, convene conversations, and deliver pragmatic design solutions. Topics addressed include affordable housing, food access, commercial corridors, industrial reuse, green storm-water infrastructure, play space, and sacred places.

Miller served on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 2011 to 2016 and the Design Advocacy Group from 2005 to 2011. She holds a Master’s in Government Administration from the Fels School of Government at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in the Growth and Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College.

Miller is currently one of nine mid-career innovators engaging in research and discussion on topics such as art, architecture, and public policy as a 2020 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

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