Las Vegas-based architect Monica Gresser has had the title “Citizen Architect” in her email signature line for years. Today, those words take on a little more meaning. The founder of BRAZEN Architecture was awarded AIA Nevada’s first ever “Citizen Architect Award,” which was presented at the virtual AIA Nevada 2020 Holiday Celebration & Design and Service Awards Gala earlier this month.
The award didn’t even exist prior to this year. But Gresser’s body of local community work encouraged judges to create a new award category.
“They [jurors] felt so strongly that [she] should be recognized for her amazing work throughout the community that they asked to present a ‘Special Citizen Architect Award’ to her,” said Lance Kirk, AIA Las Vegas Chapter president.
For the past decade, Gresser has been involved with, and has initiated, numerous community and design discussions in Meadows Village, also referred to as “Naked City,” near The Strat. Her “BRAZENconversations” discussions started in 2016, spurred dialogue among people in the community about homelessness and the lack of affordable housing.
These efforts bookended public design charrettes sponsored by the City of Las Vegas, and the eventual establishment of the Corridor of Hope and Courtyard Master Planning project in 2017. The corridor provides a protected area for the homeless to find safety and respite from thieves. Gresser also sits on numerous boards for local jurisdictions and area nonprofits that seek answers to homelessness among youth and adults and affordable housing concerns.
“Something has to evolve locally to recognize these issues,” she said. “Many people in this area make less than the median income level of the state or county. It’s about helping them to find ways to live better so they can avoid homelessness, which then creates a bigger problem for them and the community.”
With more than 20 years of experience today, Gresser started her firm in the middle of the Great Recession. Around the same time, she became curious about Meadows Village (in the city’s Gateway District) and why its long-time issues continued to go unaddressed. Her curiosity and drive to ask questions has further engrained her into Meadows Village. She eventually moved her office there in 2014.
“She’s a leader who looks to the improvement of the community and human condition, beyond self,” added Tania Salgado, principal architect for Handprint Architecture in Denver and who is among the AIA’s distinguished Jury of Fellows. “She’s active. She’s engaged. Monica is an inspiring hero any community should be so fortunate to have.”
For more information about BRAZEN Architecture, visit brazenarchitecture.com