AN ARCHITECTURE alumna who designed homes for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda was recently elected 2020 fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Lira Luis, who graduated with cum laude honors from the University in 1995, is the first Filipino to become a RIBA fellow. 

Luis said becoming a RIBA fellow meant representation for Filipinos and signified “the breaking of barriers.”

“If you don’t see people who look like me — Filipinos like me, women like me, people of color like me — in elite spaces such as the global architecture platforms, then how can you know what is also possible for you?” she told the Varsitarian.

Luis said it was a “collective achievement” of everyone who helped her in her journey as an architect.

Despite multiple failures, Luis said she opted to focus on her achievements.

“It was tempting to succumb to a negativity bias towards falling short of succeeding from an unsuccessful pursuit, that I nearly missed celebrating a successful one right in front of me,” she said.

She said RIBA has provided her a platform to make a difference in the field.

“I want to change the world that makes the lives of the disenfranchised better, as an architect — this is the driving force behind my aspirations,” she said.

Luis is the principal architect of the firm Atelier Lira Luis Limited, which has helped survivors of natural disasters, such as Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, rebuild their homes.

She said she plans to craft more architectural solutions for climate change.

“I am developing new architectural solutions appropriate to our time and using 21st century technology that build upon the architecture experiments,” she said.

Luis worked with nongovernment agencies like the United Nations (UN) 2030 Youthforce and UN Women USA and has mentored young women and minorities about 3D printing, architecture and technology. 

She received the 2010 American Institute of Architects Athena Young Professional Leadership Award for “actively assisting others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential.”


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