Tiara Hughes Recognized as

2023 Chicago Women in Architecture Making Waves Awardee

Tiara Hughes, Associate AIA, NOMA, Realtor

The Making Waves Award recognizes early-career architects who have had an impact through an innovative project or initiative. The 2023 Making Waves Awardee is Tiara Hughes, Associate AIA, NOMA, Realtor , Senior Urban Designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a Commissioner with the City of Chicago Landmarks Commission, and founder of FIRST 500, a global platform dedicated to elevating and celebrating Black Women Architects. As the founder and executive director of FIRST 500, Hughes raises awareness of the importance of Black Women Architects throughout history and their contribution to the built environment.

As a devoted activist, educator and advocate for underrepresented communities and voices, she recently served on the Board for the National Organization of Minority Architects and currently serves on the Charnley-Persky House Board of Directors for the Society of Architectural Historians. 

As a designer, Hughes creates work that emphasizes greater socioeconomic equity and cultural awareness. She believes “Ultimately our efforts to positively impact communities of color will expand outward and evolve our academic institutions, our firms, our industry and by extension, our communities.” In 2021, Hughes received the prestigious national AIA Associates Award and in 2022, she received Landmark Illinois’ Influencer award for her progressive and inclusive efforts to preserve the built environment and equitably advance the design industry. Most recently, she has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumni from her alma mater Drury University.


Established in 2022, the Chicago Women in Architecture Making Waves Award recognizes early career architects who have had an impact through an innovative project or initiative.


Chicago Women in Architecture (CWA)

CWA is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit membership organization founded in 1974 to establish community, mentorship, visibility, and advocacy for women working in the field of architecture and related professions. Through the ongoing efforts of the entirely volunteer-led organization, this mission is realized by offering educational, professional, and social networking events; organizing and sponsoring lectures in partnership with like-minded organizations; and awarding annual scholarships to women architecture students in their final year of study.

Chicago Women in Architecture Foundation (CWAF)

In 2003, CWAF was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Today, CWAF continues its support of CWA initiatives by raising funds to expand scholarship offerings as well as fundraising for events and special projects that further the careers for women in and around the field of architecture.