The hard work of a 40-year partnership has paid off for Lake|Flato founders David Lake and Ted Flato, who have been awarded the AIA Gold Medal 2024. The Texas architects built a design practice together that started with ranch houses and has now expanded to university buildings, courthouses, and even birdhouses.
Awarded annually, the Gold Medal is the highest honor given by the AIA. It recognizes “individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.” Past winners include Carol Ross Barney (2023) and Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa (2022).
In a letter nominating Lake and Flato for the Gold Medal architect Bob Berkebile, of BNIM, wrote: “Across the country, their buildings are wonderful, but ultimately it is their ability to craft sustainable, high-performance buildings and inclusive places welcoming for both the public and our fellow design professionals that is their true legacy, a legacy deserving of the Gold Medal.”
The firm is based in San Antonio and today also works from a second office in Austin. It is headquartered in the same building in which Lake and Flato founded the office, though now with recent improvements. Lake and Flato met while working in the office of O’Neil Ford & Associates in San Antonio. They founded their own design practice in San Antonio in 1984.
Lake|Flato’s attention to sustainable and climate-conscious design does not go unnoticed. It is among at least 86 architecture firms in the country to be a certified B Corp. Among their projects promoting climate-forward principles and design practices is the Josey Pavilion, the first Living Building Challenge–certified project in Texas. It’s often said the most sustainable buildings are those that already exist, and Lake|Flato takes this sustainable sentiment to heart, evidenced by the 3 million square feet of space the firm has renovated into multifamily housing, hospitality, and offices.
Beyond buildings, the firm has also preserved access to over 50,000 acres of land across Texas and advocated for the conservation of 35,000 acres spanning from West Virginia south to the Everglades.
In addition to considering the environment, the firm also focuses on community design projects. Across Texas and parts of Mexico, Lake|Flato has designed H-E-B grocery stores, and in Mississippi the firm’s Marine Education Center, a COTE Top Ten recipient, reimagined a community asset to replace one that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The renewal of existing buildings is also a critical element of Lake|Flato’s practice, and the firm has repurposed more than 3 million square feet of space into multifamily housing, hotels, and offices.
The AIA Gold Medal is by no means the firm’s first recognition. So far the firm has amassed 15 COTE Top Ten awards, which according to a press release they consider “as their most revered.” Lake and Flato have also received recognition as national academicians from the National Academy of Design and induction into the Design Hall of Fame. The firm also took home an honorable mention in AN’s 2023 Best of Design awards in the Building Renovation category for their work on 311 Third Transformation.
As in past years, the Gold Medal was selected by an esteemed panel of jurors comprised of design professionals from across the country, including Anne Hicks Harney, Long Green Specs; Kjell Anderson, LMN Architects; Ung-Joo Scott Lee, Morphosis Architects; Amy Slattery, Odimo; Megumi Tamanaha, ARO; Roderic Walton, Moody Nolan; Korey White, DLR Group; and Taryn Williams, SGH.