AIA Announces the Winners of the 2019 Young Architects Award
February 8, 2019
Photo courtesy Uche Iroegbu Photography
College of Environmental Design alumnus James Garrett Jr. (B.A. Architecture ‘95) was named one of 22 recipients of the 2019 AIA Young Architects Award which “honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.” Any AIA member that has been licensed for fewer than 10 years is eligible for the award.
Garrett’s upbringing influenced his architectural design style, commitment to diversity, and tenacity. Garrett was born in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and later moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where his interest in cities was first sparked. Growing up in the post-industrial era that gave rise to hip-hop culture and graffiti writing, Garrett made it his mission to reconnect art and architecture. First and foremost a visual artist and writer, his work as the founding partner of St. Paul’s 4RM+ULA (FORM + Urban Landscape Articulation) combines resiliency and dynamic expression in the form of vibrant color and diverse media. Founded in 2002, the firm has evolved into a full-service practice focused on transit design and transit-oriented development.
Garrett’s vision for a more equitable future is apparent in projects like Great River Landing, slated to open this summer. Centered on his mission to build equitable cities, the apartment complex will provide single-room occupancy housing for 72 adults who were previously homeless or unemployed due to incarceration. Additionally, Garrett’s renovation of Freedom Square in Minneapolis, formerly a vacant lot, into a busy public plaza has shifted the perception of the area and contributed to the aesthetics of the neighborhood in a way that echoes the culture of the community.
Despite doubt in his architectural abilities by a high school teacher and graduate school instructor as a youth, Garrett remained unfazed and pursued his passions. He explains that those early experiences made him an advocate for a more diverse profession. Garrett has dedicated himself to serving as a mentor for aspiring design professionals in his firm and as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. He’s worked tirelessly to increase the number of registered architects of color through hiring and training, and his boutique firm serves as an incubator that instills a strong foundation in design principles, project management, and community engagement.
Last year Garrett created the innovative Base Pay Matrix, which prompted an interview by the authors of the AIA’s “Guides for Equitable Practice.” The document maps compensation and career trajectory based on job descriptions and years of experience at his firm. Any employee can quickly identify his or her current position, salary, and earning potential. Women can ascertain that their compensation is identical to their male counterparts’, while employees of color obtain the same information in terms of their white colleagues. Garrett believes that transparent, equity-based policies are valuable tools for the profession to recruit and retain women and people of color.
In addition to leading his firm, Garrett works as an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota, as the President of the University of California Alumni Association’s Minnesota Chapter, and serves on the Metropolitan Council of Livable Communities.
Read more about Garrett’s latest work here.