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Ann Arbor’s Lisa Sauve wins 2021 AIA Michigan Young Architect Award

Sauve co-founded Synecdoche Design Studio

Lisa Sauve.
Lisa Sauve. (Synecdoche Design Studio)

ANN ARBOR – Lisa Sauve, co-founder, CEO and Principal of Synecdoche Design Studio, has been honored with the 2021 AIA Michigan Young Architect Award.

The award, given by the national architecture organization of professionals, recognizes those architects who have made substantial contributions to the industry early on in their careers and who have demonstrated outstanding leadership.

No stranger to awards, Sauve’s unique approach to business and design has earned her a spot on the Forbes Next 1000 and Crain’s Detroit Notable Women in Design in 2020.

She and partner Adam Smith founded Synecdoche while they were students at University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It broke the mold of the traditional track in the practice, said Sauve.

“Architecture has been practiced in the same way forever,” said Sauve. “You get your master’s, and you go apprentice at another firm. Once you’re licensed, you might start a firm. For us, starting a firm right out of school and collaborating with architects is very different.

“I actually faced a lot of resistance from other architects and people within the AIA questioning our process. It was different, which made them uncomfortable. That’s why being recognized for this is important because from a professional level it says: This is okay, it’s different.”

Sauve said being a licensed architect shouldn’t be the only thing that validates a person in the industry. She feels there are many ways to contribute without having an official title.

Craig Borum is a professor of architecture at U-M’s Taubman College. Here’s an excerpt from his letter supporting Sauve’s nomination for the AIA award:

In addition to her talents as a designer, she has developed a unique entrepreneurial practice through innovative project partnership models mutually supporting and elevating the profile of small, local businesses across southeast Michigan that has leveraged design in the service of brand identity and spatializing the mission of these companies. Lisa is a passionate and dedicated advocate for a locally engaged, mutually supportive ecology of businesses, creative civic ventures, leveraging the power and expertise of our profession to positively shape the environment of our community.

Borum supported Smith and Sauve while they established their business and later became a collaborator and partner with Synecdoche.

Synecdoche is responsible for transforming numerous restaurants, bars, offices and businesses in Ann Arbor, including Duo Security, Nightcap, Blom Meadworks, Ann Arbor Pharmacy and more.


About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.