Architect to Lead 200-Person Design Firm
Alyson Steele, FAIA, LEED AP, has been elected president and chief executive officer of Quinn Evans, a nationally recognized firm providing architecture, planning, interior design, landscape architecture, and historic preservation services. Steele has been with the firm since 1997 and previously served as executive vice president and chief design officer. She succeeds Larry Barr, FAIA, who will continue to serve on the board of directors.
Steele will serve as Quinn Evans’ third president, following Barr, who was named president in 2011, and the late Michael Quinn, FAIA, who served as president for 27 years beginning with the firm’s establishment in 1984.
Steele is widely known for her work in museum design and the revitalization of cultural institutions and landmarks across the nation. Under her leadership, Quinn Evans has pioneered inclusive design concepts that promote accessibility and engagement for diverse audiences, including the innovative use of sensory mapping. Her work has also emphasized the long-term stewardship of cultural resources by leveraging data management technologies such as historic building information modeling (HBIM) and implementing advanced sustainable solutions including Net-Zero Energy and carbon-saving measures toward the preservation of sensitive and significant historic properties.
Steele’s clients include the Smithsonian Institution, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and the National Park Service. For more than two decades, she has assisted the Smithsonian with long-range planning and the realization of multiple design projects at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. She has also completed numerous projects at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Her work at Mount Vernon included the development of a groundbreaking HBIM database for the historic Washington mansion and property, used for ongoing facility management and interpretation.
Projects directed by Steele span the nation and include the North Carolina History Center in New Bern, N.C., Blood Run State Park in Iowa, the new Heritage Hall visitor center at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, the modernization of the Benjamin Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, and the visitor center at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Currently, Steele is overseeing the design of visitor experiences at the Alexander Hamilton Center in Paterson, N.J., and leading a multidisciplinary team to realize the vision of artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto for the revitalization of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
As president and CEO of Quinn Evans, Steele will oversee more than 200 professionals in six offices. During her tenure as executive vice president, the firm experienced rapid growth—tripling in size over the past five years. The firm has also increased its minority representation from 6.5% in 2014 to nearly 25% today. Company ownership by women has significantly increased to nearly 50%.
Steele has been instrumental in diversifying the firm, fostering a transparent and supportive culture. With a leadership style that welcomes insights from employee experiences and perspectives she encourages staff discourse and strong connections across offices and disciplines. Steele has also overseen major investments in technological tools that have enhanced collaboration while increasing productivity.
Successful teambuilding requires understanding people as individuals with unique strengths and talents,” says Steele. “I look forward to creating a more distributed leadership structure at Quinn Evans along with a culture that engages our staff members directly to recognize diverse insights and points of view. We will continue to innovate, adapt, and push our profession forward.
Much of our work involves sustainable stewardship, including the transformation of existing buildings and landscapes,” Steele adds. “We are renewing the human habitat—from the natural environment to the urban realm—and that responsibility requires new ideas and fresh perspectives. Today, very little goes by the book—design challenges demand a creative mindset and a willingness to step out of the perceived boundaries of our practice areas.
Steele holds a Master of Architecture (1994) from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies (1989) from Stanford University. She is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a member of the Association for Preservation Technology.