The River Mile Master Plan, The Grand Apartments at Union Station, and the much-anticipated Meow Wolf in Denver all share one thing in common—designer and 2018 AIA Colorado Young Architect of the Year, Ryan Meeks, Senior Associate at Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects.
At age 37, Meeks has practiced architecture in Denver for 12 years, and has quickly developed a portfolio of very important projects in the metro-area.
Though the 2018 AIA Colorado Honor Awards Jury was impressed with his list of design achievements, they also noted his involvement and impact in urban design, local advocacy, community service and collaboration.
For Meeks, these other facets of being an architect are just as important as the design work itself.
“Architects are citizens as well as designers—we live in the communities where we design,” said Meeks. “It’s important for us to understand the places we live and the people and environment around us because good architecture isn’t just imposing our will on a situation. It’s synthesizing all of these pieces to create a really great outcome.”
Meeks’ recognition as a 2018 Honor Award recipient was a pride point both for his clients and his SA+R colleagues (in fact, the SA+R staff even gave him a crown and celebrated him with patio beers). But for him, the most exciting part was joining the list of previous Honor Award recipients.
“There are amazing architects in our state, like Jesse Adkins and Dan Craig in our office who have both received AIA Colorado Honor Awards in the past, so it’s quite an honor to join them and work with them every day,” Meeks explained.
Receiving the award also provided a moment to reflect on his career thus far, and to look ahead and intentionally plot out his future as an architecture professional.
“It marked a turning point in my career: I thought about the projects and people I worked with as a “young architect,” and began looking forward and thinking about who my colleagues are now and who I aspire to be like,” said Meeks.
He said it’s also inspired him to think more about giving back to the profession by mentoring the next generation and helping them make the most of their careers early on, just like Meeks did.
Shortly after earning his architecture degree from the University of Arizona, Meeks understood that the real education was just beginning.
“I realized that if I wanted to be successful as an architect, I could never stop learning. And if I want to become a better architect, I needed to take advantage of all opportunities,” Meeks said.
That’s why when he began applying for jobs in Denver after working in New York for two years, Meeks set his sights high to continue those opportunities. He began at Tryba Architects on the Bonfils Stanton Visitors’ Center at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
“I tried to learn and soak up as much as I could from that project,” said Meeks. “That experience, combined with the ones that followed, and now with Chris Shears on the River Mile, has taught me that architecture is a constant learning and discovery process, and I have embraced that.”
A year after being named Young Architect of the Year, Meeks will give back to the architecture community as a member of the 2019 Honor Awards Jury.
“I’m excited to serve on the jury with two excellent architects who I haven’t worked with before, so I am looking forward to learning from and collaborating with them—even if it’s only for one afternoon,” he said.
Meeks joins two Fellows on the 2019 Honor Awards Jury, so in addition to bringing the Young Architect perspective, he will be reviewing submissions with an eye toward well-roundedness. He believes it is important to recognize awardees both for their design work and their contributions to the state of Colorado and to the architecture community.
“It’s an exciting—and challenging—time to be an architect in Colorado,” he said. “We understand place, politics, design and the environment. I think we are some of the only professionals equipped to take on this challenge, and through good design and good stewardship we can create great communities for today and the future.”