Yiselle Santos Rivera Receives 2022 AIA’s Young Architects Award

The AIA has named Yiselle Santos Rivera, Global Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at HKS, to its list of the top emerging talent in the design industry, honoring her with a 2022 Young Architects Award.

The Young Architects Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the design profession in the early stages of their careers.

“I am honored to receive a Young Architects Award from the AIA and be recognized for my work advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at HKS, the profession, and the industry,” Santos Rivera said.

In a letter supporting Santos Rivera’s nomination for the Young Architects Award, AIA Strategic Council Member Patricia Acevedo Fuentes wrote that the Puerto Rico native’s work centers around making space for everyone and building platforms of support for those who have systemically been excluded from the design profession.

“She approaches design and community-building in the same methodical way she approached the development of her career—starting off college as a biology major, sinking herself into the technical aspects of life, and then turning to architecture because of the impact it has on human behavior,” Acevedo Fuentes wrote in her letter.

Santos Rivera joined HKS in 2015 and has risen through the ranks from medical planner to senior medical planner and more recently to Director of HKS’ J.E.D.I. initiatives. She is also a Principal at the firm.

Santos Rivera’s desire to advocate for underrepresented design professionals led her to form Women Inspiring Emerging Leaders in Design (WIELD) in 2017 to inspire and empower the next generation of design leaders. WIELD won the 2019 AIA Diversity Recognition Program Award.

In 2018, Santos Rivera received the AIA Associates Award, which recognizes leaders and creative thinkers for the contributions they make within their communities through the architecture profession. She is also an active member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).

“Architecture is less about building a structure and more about building connections and relationships among people,” Santos Rivera said. “Only through this lens, can the profession of architecture promote a sense of human dignity, strong cultures, and resilient communities.”

Architecture is less about building a structure and more about building connections and relationships among people.