California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Pomona, CA



By Samantha Gonzaga
Sep 8, '15 5:06 PM EST

Sarah Lorenzen, AIA honored in the American Institute of Architects 2015 Design Awards

POMONA, Calif. (Sept. 8, 2015) – Cal Poly Pomona architecture faculty Sarah Lorenzen is the recipient of 2015 Educator Award, one of eight presidential honors bestowed during the annual Design Awards organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Conferred by AIA|LA’s board of directors as part of its Presidential Honoree program, the Design Awards recognizes the talents and contributions of Southland practitioners, built-environment leaders and culture-makers as they reshape existing landscapes and ideas. Lorenzen will accept her award at the 2015 AIA|LA Design Awards Ceremony and Reception on Thursday, Oct. 29 at the Aratani Theatre in the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.

"From her meticulous attention to past, to her vision of technological advances, to her innate ability to energize next generation architects and provide them with the rigorous knowledge required to design and build great cities, Sarah Lorenzen embodies the attributes of a Presidential Honoree for Excellence in Education,” said AIA|LA Executive Director Nicci Solomons. 

Born into a family of academics, Lorenzen grew up in Mexico City before moving to the United States for college. She attended Smith College for two years and then completed her studies at the Atlanta College of Art graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing. She went on to earn a Master of Architecture degree from Georgia Institute of Technology. A registered architect, Lorenzen worked on large commercial and institutional projects for seven years in Atlanta and San Francisco. A presentation on urbanism by Michael Speaks, then the graduate director at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, proved to be “a real eye-opener” that inspired her to return to school. She spent a year doing a post-professional Masters degree in Metropolitan Research and Design with Speaks at SCI-Arc.

Lorenzen’s tenure at the College of Environmental Design began in 2005. Three years later she became the resident director of the Neutra VDL Research House, Richard Neutra’s iconic modernist compound built for himself and his family in 1932, 1939, and 1965. The Silver Lake property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was donated to Cal Poly Pomona by Neutra’s widow Dione in 1980.

Since 2013 Lorenzen has been the chair of the Department of Architecture, which has 17 full-time faculty and about 25 part-time lecturers. She continues to teach undergraduate and graduate-level architecture courses, including design studios and seminars.

“Professor Lorenzen’s Cal Poly Pomona colleagues know how effectively she is leading our architecture program into the future, but it’s wonderful that Sarah’s leadership is now publicly recognized by the largest professional association for architects in Southern California," said Michael Woo, dean of the College of Environmental Design.

Lorenzen credits the diverse demography of architecture students for the program’s distinctive pluck and talent. The program is one of the most selective in the country, enrolling fewer than 150 architecture students a year from an applicant pool of more than 1,500. Currently, there are 500 students enrolled in the program.

“The most satisfying thing about working here is how talented and driven our students are,” she said. “They are positive. They’re eager to learn. And above all they’re scrappy. All necessary qualities for an architect.”

At the core of the architecture program is a multifaceted approach to understanding the aesthetic, tectonic, technological, economic and cultural forces that inform the role of an architect. Undergraduates begin learning about form and shape. They then address site, program and the public realm – creating buildings that respond to cultural contexts. Increased use of software technology, coupled with the materials revolution and new emergent regulations, means training students to think critically and adaptively.

“There is no longer dominant convention for architecture,” Lorenzen said. “More and more voices are being heard as opinions become more democratized. Learning to make work that responds to a multivalent and rapidly changing world is fundamental. I believe that as an industry, we should be far more responsive to the evolution of culture.”

For information about AIA|LA’s 2015 Design Awards, visit

The College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona is one of the few university-level programs bringing together architecture, art, landscape architecture, and urban and regional planning. DesignIntelligence ranks Cal Poly Pomona’s undergraduate Architecture program in the top 5 in the West and in the top 20 nationwide.


Media Contact: Samantha Gonzaga

Phone: (909) 869-4806

Email: [email protected]