Two Australian expatriates based in Los Angeles have been honoured with the nation’s highest architecture prize for their contribution to the profession through social outcomes combined with design excellence.

Hank Koning FRAIA and Julie Eizenberg RAIA, the directors of Koning Eizenberg, have led a movement of architect-designed social housing and community-focused projects in the United States.

Their work in affordable housing, education and civic projects, often in underprivileged communities for almost four decades won them the Australian Institute of Architects’ highest honour – the Gold Medal. 

The architects’ community-first design ethos has led to landmark buildings such as the Simone Hotel and 28th St Apartments offering supportive housing in Los Angeles as well as community buildings including the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Pico Branch Library in Santa Monica, and the recently completed Geffen Academy at UCLA. 

After completing their initial architecture studies at the University of Melbourne, Koning and Eizenberg moved to the US in 1979 for graduate study at the University of California, Los Angeles. Following their graduation in 1981, they established Koning Eizenberg in Santa Monica, taking up projects that challenged the notion of social housing and educational buildings, and building a practice that supports the design of sustainable neighbourhoods through the creation of schools, housing and civic buildings.

Institute Immediate past national president Clare Cousins says, “Working mainly in areas of need, Hank and Julie created appropriate and respectful homes for people who were not widely considered in the design world.

“They took on complex and difficult challenges and now have a legacy of meaningful projects that have transformed individuals’ lives and the communities around them.”