Architecture Faculty Member and Alumni Named AIA Fellows
SAN LUIS OBISPO — A Cal Poly faculty member and two alumni have been named fellows by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for their contributions to the architecture profession and to society.
Architecture Professor Thomas Fowler was selected to join the AIA College of Fellows, the organization’s highest membership honor. Fowler, who has helped shape Cal Poly’s top-ranked public architecture program for more than 23 years, teaches undergraduate and graduate students and is the director of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design’s (CAED) graduate program in architecture. He was also recognized this year with Cal Poly’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the prestigious Wang Family Excellence Award by the California State University.
“Thomas Fowler is a truly extraordinary teacher who has played a major role in shaping Cal Poly’s top-ranked architecture program,” CAED Dean Christine Theodoropoulos said. “He is an influential innovator in the field of architectural education known for his interdisciplinary approach to Learn by Doing and for his collaborations with practitioners and communities. Generations of Cal Poly students credit him for making a difference in their lives and careers.”
Two Cal Poly alumni have also been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows: Robert J. Condia, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cal Poly in 1980, and Lee E. Salin, who graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Condia is an architecture professor and Regnier Faculty Chair in the Department of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Planning and Design at Kansas State University; Salin is the managing principal of Anderson Brulé Architects in San Jose, California.
Condia was recognized by the AIA as an educator whose innovative pedagogy of embodied experiences teaches design thinking through the craft of architecture by implanting curiosity, critical aptitudes, a creative drive and self-confidence within his students.
"In more than thirty-five years of teaching nothing is more important than cultivating young talent by lighting up their love for building architecture and launching them on a career path,” said Condia. “I have been a champion of experiencing architecture through teaching design thinking, preparing our students for careers in the profession of architecture, and by engaging them to reflect and research the meaning of design.”
Salin was honored in the Object Three category, which is granted to architects who have actively, efficiently, and cooperatively led the institute or a related professional organization over a sustained period of time and have gained widespread recognition for their work. He has served the profession in a wide range of leadership roles, highlighted by being AIA California (AIACA) president in 2015 and leading the formation of strategic initiatives that refocused the AIACA’s efforts on a new model of advocacy, outreach, and member service.
Salin reflects on his engagement in the profession. “Being elevated to the College of Fellows is a tremendous honor, but it is only another step in an ongoing journey – one that began when I was at Cal Poly and continues as I apply what I learned in school through Learn by Doing. I feel we also ‘learn by giving back’.”
Salin continues to mentor emerging professionals, encouraging many to take on leadership roles at the national, state and local levels of the profession. He attributes his various accomplishments to many committed volunteers who he has worked together with.
In addition, the AIA recognized alumnus Frank Mahan, a 2003 architecture graduate, with the Young Architects Award. Mahan is an associate director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) in New York City. The award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.
Mahan is entrusted with some of SOM’s most complex and significant projects, including its work at the World Trade Center site. He is involved in the SOM Women’s Initiative and has dedicated himself to the professional development of women architects. Outside the office, Mahan is involved in academia at his alma maters Cal Poly and Princeton University.
“The college is very proud of the accomplishments of our three alumni, who will be honored by the AIA,” Theodoropoulos said.
Fowler, Condia and Salin will receive fellowship medals on Friday, June 7, during the Investiture of Fellows Ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2019 at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. Nationwide, the AIA’s Jury of Fellows elevated 115 AIA members to its College of Fellows. Only 3% of the AIA members have this distinction.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for the significance of working with a wonderful range of students over an extended period of time,” Fowler said.
Fowler was honored in the AIA College of Fellow’s education category, which is granted to architects who have made notable contributions through their work in education, research, literature or the practice of architecture. His nomination took note of his work to establish Cal Poly’s Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio (CIDS), serving as director since its founding in 1997. The studio provides opportunities for students to participate in interdisciplinary collaborations with other departments.
“Combining the aspirational aspects of the creative building design process with the importance of creating bridges to professional practice has always been a value that I have carried into the classroom,” Fowler said of his educational approach. “But I have also understood the importance of continuing to link students to the ongoing and evolving models of innovative trans-disciplinary collaborations that happen inside and outside of the discipline of architecture and provide the needed skill set for graduating students to become leaders in industry.”
He earned his Bachelor of Architecture from New York Institute of Technology, and his Master of Architecture in architectural design from Cornell University.
For more information on the AIA Fellowship Program and its recipients, visit
About the College of Architecture and Environmental Design
With more than 1,900 students, Cal Poly’s acclaimed College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) offers a unique blend of eight degree programs in five closely related departments: architectural engineering, architecture, city and regional planning, construction management, and landscape architecture. For more than 70 years, the CAED programs and 16,000 alumni have been a positive influence on the forces that shape the planning, design and construction worlds. Learn more at www.caed.calpoly.edu.
Photo information: The CAED celebrates newly inducted Fellows and a Young Architect. Shown above clockwise from top left are Thomas Fowler, Robert Condia, Lee Salin and Frank Mahan. Professor Fowler is shown speaking with high school students as part of the Internnect internship program, which provides opportunities for teens from schools in Tulare and Kings counties to gain career experience.