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ISU Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture honored with AIA Iowa Educator Award

October 26, 2015


AIA Iowa President Joe Tursi, left, and Executive Director Jessica Reinert with 2015 Educator Award winner Thomas Leslie, ISU Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture. Photo by Rod Stevens, AIA Iowa.

AMES, Iowa — Thomas Leslie, the Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture and director of graduate education in the Department of Architecture at Iowa State University, received the 2015 Educator Award from the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Iowa) Oct. 15 at the AIA Iowa/Central States Regional Convention in Des Moines.

The award recognizes significant contributions to architectural education in Iowa.

Leslie, who joined the Iowa State architecture faculty in 2000, teaches the department’s integrated design studio to third-year graduate and fifth-year undergraduate students and advanced courses in building science, technology and history. He has received numerous awards for teaching and creative achievement from the AIA, the U.S. Green Building Council, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He won the 2013-2014 Booth Family Rome Prize in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome.

Nominator Mindy Aust, AIA Iowa president-elect and architect with Substance Architecture, who received a Bachelor of Architecture from Iowa State in 2001, said Leslie "has an innate ability to teach complex concepts with ease. He taught me that process is just as important as the final product, and only by refining the process and through many iterations will your project be successful. I use this every day in practice."

In support of Leslie's nomination, Rob Whitehead, ISU assistant professor of architecture and winner of last year's AIA Iowa Educator Award, said: "Tom has consistently been an invaluable mentor, an insightful collaborator and an exemplary educator who has significantly improved architectural education in Iowa and beyond."

Leslie co-developed and co-teaches the Sci-Tech sequence of architectural technology courses, which incorporate hands-on design labs and contextualize students' learning with historical references and lessons. This innovative, integrative approach has influenced building technology educators and administrators nationwide, Whitehead observed.

Leslie is the author of Louis I. Kahn: Building Art, Building Science (2005) and Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 (2013) and co-author, with Jason Alread and Whitehead, of Design-Tech: Building Science for Architects (2006, 2014). He is a regular contributor to Iowa Architect magazine and has been published widely in academic journals. He has presented at more than 75 conferences and appeared on C-SPAN's American History TV.

"[Tom's] books have significantly altered the way in which many educators talk about architectural and construction history. Rather than simply talking about the buildings as a result of a singular architectural idea or individual effort, Tom has shown that there is a larger story of influence that includes building technologies, consultants, economic and sociopolitical factors that have helped shape our memorable built environments," Whitehead said.

Leslie's research has been supported by the Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society. He has held visiting faculty positions at the University of Technology-Sydney, Australia; the Bauhaus-Universitat in Weimar, Germany; and the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

"I'm deeply honored to be recognized with AIA Iowa's Educator Award. It's been a real privilege to work alongside the state’s architects and designers over the last 15 years to help educate the next generations of Iowa’s architects," Leslie said.

"The architectural community in this state is one of the strongest and most collaborative in the nation, and I am grateful every day that I get to work with young, enthusiastic students who are committed to making better cities and better environments here and throughout the world," he said. "The list of those who have received this award is impressive and humbling—many of them have been patient mentors for me and have played important parts in my development as a teacher and writer."

Prior to joining the Iowa State faculty, Leslie was an architect for Foster and Partners, where he oversaw completion of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, the Stanford University Center for Clinical Sciences Research in California and the Al Faisaliah Banquet and Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. He holds a Bachelor of Science in architectural studies with high honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1989) and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University (1992). He is a member of the AIA, American Historical Association, Construction History Society and Society of Architectural Historians.

Amy Spike, AIA Iowa Communications & Programming, (515) 244-7502,
Mindy Aust, AIA Iowa President-Elect, (515) 294-1653,
Thomas Leslie, Architecture, (515) 294-8460,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,