Tiara Hughes

Senior Urban Designer , SOM

A St. Louis native, now based in Chicago, Tiara Hughes is a Senior Urban Designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a Commissioner with the City of Chicago Landmarks Commission, and founder of FIRST 500, a global platform dedicated to elevating and celebrating Black Women Architects. She is a devoted activist, educator and advocate for underrepresented communities and voices, and recently serves on the Board for the National Organization of Minority Architects and currently the Charnley-Persky House Board of Directors for the Society of Architectural Historians. Tiara's personal experiences in the industry along with her passion for advocacy led her to establish FIRST 500 in 2018. 

As the founder and executive director of FIRST 500, Tiara raises awareness of the importance of Black Women Architects throughout history and their contribution to the built environment. As a designer, Tiara creates work that emphasizes greater socioeconomic equity and cultural awareness. She believes "Ultimately our efforts to positively impact communities of color will expand outward and evolve our academic institutions, our firms, our industry and by extension, our communities." In 2021, Tiara received the prestigious national AIA Associates Award and in 2022, she received Landmark Illinois' Influencer award for her progressive and inclusive efforts to preserve the built environment and equitably advance the design industry and she has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumni from her alma mater Drury University. Most recently, she received the Making Waves Award from the esteemed Chicago Women in Architecture organization.