Quinn Evans EVP, Chief Design Officer Recognized for Preservation, Stewardship of Cultural Landmarks
Alyson Steele, FAIA, LEED AP, executive vice president and chief design officer of Quinn Evans, has been elevated to the prestigious College of Fellows within the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Steele joins six other Quinn Evans architects who have attained the prominent status, which recognizes significant contributions to the profession.
Steele is widely known for her work in revitalizing cultural institutions and landmarks across the nation. Her research-based approach shapes authentic places with an emphasis on unique history and character, strengthens community experiences and addresses accessibility and sustainability, and informs and empowers cultural stewards. Steele has pioneered inclusive design for cultural projects ranging from museum master plans to gallery renovations, bringing them to life for 21st-century audiences. With an eye toward long-term stewardship, relevance, and resilience, she has been instrumental in the development and application of advanced data management technologies to document culturally significant properties, including historic building information modeling (HBIM). Long-time clients include the Smithsonian Institution, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and the National Park Service.
For two decades, Steele has assisted the Smithsonian Institution with long-range planning and multiple design projects at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. She has completed numerous projects at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. Her work at Mount Vernon has included the development of a groundbreaking HBIM database for the historic Washington mansion and property, used for ongoing facility management and interpretation.
For the North Carolina History Center in New Bern, N.C., Steele created a transformative master plan for a living history museum, balancing riverfront context with contemporary public life. At Blood Run State Park in Iowa, she helped craft a master plan that respects and celebrates the traditions of native tribes while orienting visitors to the sacred site’s meaning and geography. Her portfolio also includes the design of Heritage Hall, a new visitor component at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, the modernization of the Benjamin Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, restoration of the Sant Ocean Exhibition Halls at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and design of a new 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 is leading an interdisciplinary team to realize the vision of artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto for the revitalization of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden that reflects and supports the museum’s position as a national platform for contemporary art and culture.
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 member of the AIA and the Association for Preservation Technology. Steele has published and presented extensively on a range of topics, including how to leverage technology for integrated stewardship.
As executive vice president and chief design officer at Quinn Evans, Steele oversees a staff of more than 200 employees in six office locations. In addition to her expertise in design and technology, she has advocated for the development of a diverse talent pool, piloting new policies to enhance productivity and collaboration.During her tenure as an executive, the firm has increased its minority representation from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 18 percent today. Company ownership by women has also significantly increased to nearly 50 percent.
“Alyson has demonstrated leadership in this firm and in the architectural profession throughout her career,” says Larry Barr, FAIA, president and CEO of Quinn Evans. “Her contributions to the preservation and protection of cultural landmarks are unprecedented, from creating memorable visitor experiences to charting a clear path for ongoing stewardship and resilience. Her elevation to fellowship in the AIA is much deserved.”