Beardsley for web

Sara Beardsley

During her 15 years of practicing architecture AS+GG Director, Sara Beardsley, AIA has led several locally and internationally renowned projects. She has advanced awareness of technical and sustainable design issues related to tall buildings, both new and existing, and heightened the discussion of large-scale buildings’ contribution to carbon emissions.

Through her work, she has become an expert on energy performance in both new and existing buildings, with a special focus on supertall towers and the regeneration of cities. As the winner of the 2010 AIA Chicago Dubin Family Young Architect Award and the 2011 AIA National Young Architect Award, Sara has lectured widely and is recognized within the architectural community as a leading exponent of energy modernization and performative design.

Sara is currently leading the design team for a confidential residential project. Other recent projects include leading the design teams for the new Willow Creek Community Church in Glenview, Illinois and the award-winning projects the Hotel Atlantic, a conceptual resort; and Dancing Dragons, two super-tall towers designed for Seoul, Korea. She was also integral in the modernization and greening of Willis Tower project, a role for which she was uniquely suited given her lifelong appreciation for Chicago’s architectural tradition and her commitment to sustainability in the built environment. Sara also contributed to the award-winning Chicago Loop De-Carbonization plan with a special focus on energy issues in existing buildings.

Prior to joining AS+GG in 2007, Sara was a Studio Head and Technical coordinator at the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where she collaborated with Adrian Smith on the design of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago and was also involved in the renovation of Mies van der Rohe’s Dirksen Federal Building.

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Sara has a special fascination with the design of tall buildings and energy efficient facades.


Bachelor of Architecture with honors (structural engineering minor), Illinois Institute of Technology, 2002
Preservation Institute, Nantucket (graduate summer program), 2001


American Institute of Architects (AIA)
LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP)
Chicago Women in Architecture, member
CCHRB member (Chicago Committee on Highrise Buildings)
CTBUH Emerging Professionals Committee, member
AIA International Practice Committee Advisory Group (IPCAG), member, 2017

Publications + Presentations

AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, Washington DC, September 14, 2017
High Rise Construction Conference, Samara Russia, September 2017
CTBUH Walking Tour, The Spaces Within, June 22, 2017
Facades+, Chicago, November 5, 2015
TedxIIT, “Beyond Buildings,” Chicago, Illinois, April 13, 2013
Airports Going Green Conference, Panel: “Future of Sustainability Industry Perspectives,” Chicago, Illinois, November 1, 2011
GreenBuild 2010, “Chicago Model City Panel Discussion,” November 2010
GSA Region 5 Design & Construction Professionals Conference, “Transforming an Icon, Setting an Urban Precedent,” August 2010
TN 2020 International Summit, Chicago, June 2010
Re-Imagine Initiative, Alberta and Calgary, Canada, “Tower Renewal Summit,” April 2010
ASHRAE Existing Buildings in Urban Areas Conference, New York, New York, “Urban Challenges to Net Zero,” April 2010
Friends of Downtown, Chicago, Illinois, “Transforming an Icon” and “Chicago DeCarbonization,” March 2010
Presentation to Maywood Public School students, February 2010
Western Society of Engineers, Chicago, Illinois, “Willis Tower Modernization,” January 2010
High Performance Building, "Chicago's Opportunity," pp. 58-63, Spring 2010
AIA Chicago Committee on the Environment, Chicago, “Willis Tower Greening + Modernization,” August 2009
UIC Liataud School of Business MBA Program, “How to Effectively Incorporate Energy Strategies to Achieve or Grow Profitability,” November, 2009
Construction Writers Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois, “The Greening of Icons,” October 2009
Presentation to University of Wisconsin students, October 2009
Presentation to Chicago Architecture Foundation Docents, July 2009
GSA W4 International Conference, Chicago, Illinois “The Future of Sustainability,” June 2009
Sustainability and the City, July 2008
Chicago Public Library Panel Discussion, Chicago, Illinois, “Sustainability and the City,” July 2008
ARE at UIC Educational Seminar for Architectural Licensure, 2007
Penn Bridges III, Library of Congress, 2002

Awards + Honors

The Chicago Athenaeum, International Architecture Award, Hotel Atlantic, 2015
The Chicago Athenaeum, International Architecture Award, Dancing Dragons, 2014
The Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award, Dancing Dragons, 2013
The Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award, Wave Tower, 2013
Illinois AIA, Daniel Burnham Honor Award, Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, 2013
Chicago AIA, Design Excellence, SustainABILITY Award, Chicago Central Area Decarbonization Plan, 2012
National AIA, Young Architect Award, 2011
National AIA, Honor Award, Regional and Urban Design, Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, 2011
The Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award, Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Award, 2011
Chicago Crain's Business, 40 Under 40, 2010
Chicago AIA, Dubin Family Young Architect Award, 2010
Architect Magazine, R+D Award for Sustainability, Chicago DeCarbonization Plan, 2010
WAN Awards, Urban Design, Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, 2010
Heald Scholarship
CWA Scholarship

Major projects at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture:

Willow Creek Community Church
72, 000 sf community church, designed to use natural light and to bring the experience of the surrounding landscape indoors. The new building will feature a center auditorium space, which will act as an achor for the offices, classrooms, and café spaces, connected by a large circulation area. Glenview, Illinois

Master Planning and Architecture for 174 hectare international exposition site features exhibition and cultural pavilions (118,620 sm); a residential development (686,000 sm); service areas including shopping, socio-cultural, educational and civic facilities; and site-wide parks (72,000 sm). Astana, Kazakhstan

Hotel Atlantic
Architectural competition entry for world-class resort destination. Design for 35-story residential and 35-story hotel towers features a canopy veil that frames the buildings, extending off the towers by 10 meters on each side. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Danicing Dragons
A twin tower scheme of 450 m and 330 m tall towers that proposes a new paradigm for super tall residential typologies. The performative design creates opportunities for views, daylighting, natural ventilation and other experiences. Seoul, Korea

Incheon Airport
This design is based around a central spine which follows the main axis of the site. The plan resolves opposite forces working together: airside with landside, passenger with aircraft, in a sustainable city airport, introducing the balance between nature with technology. Incheon, Korea

Jeddah Tower
The next tallest building in the world, this multi-use Tower will feature a luxury hotel, office space, serviced apartments, luxury condominiums and the world’s highest observatory. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan
Commission from the City of Chicago for a complete “Energy Master Plan” that assesses and looks at innovative solutions for the carbon performance of the downtown area Loop using a holistic urban design approach. Chicago, Illinois

Willis Tower Greening Project + Hotel (Formerly Sears Tower)
Integration of sustainable systems to reduce energy consumption at the former Sears tower and design for highly sustainable, 50-story five-star hotel to be built on the south side of Willis Tower plaza. The hotel will draw net zero energy from the power grid. Chicago, Illinois

FKI Tower
50 story, 240 meter tower in downtown Seoul will provide the headquarters for the Federation of Korean Industries. The Class A office building also includes dining facilities, theater and conference center and rooftop garden. Seoul, Korea

Franklin Point
3.5 million sf mixed-use development along Chicago River. Chicago, Illinois

Verde Residences
49-story, 1.35 million sf luxury residential tower, including duplex townhouses, 4 stories of office space and retail along a harbor promenade. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Verde Offices
32-story, 820,000 sf office tower featuring including verdant sky gardens and podium offices. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Grand Boulevard
Luxury two-tower residential complex with outdoor plaza, a theater and unobstructed views of Burj Dubai. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Energy Master Plan
Master planning and architecture for large-scale mixed-use district, including office, hotel, parks and civic spaces. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Clean Technology Tower
Proposed 60 story tower in downtown Chicago. Project is designed to eliminate its negative impact on the environment and could potentially provide excess energy. Chicago, Illinois


Trump International Hotel & Tower
Architectural design and structural engineering for 2.4 million sf, 90-story mixed use tower comprised of luxury residential, hotel, health club, retail, parking and riverfront park on prominent site along the Chicago River. Chicago, Illinois, 2007

Dirksen Federal Building
Architecture, interior design and engineering services for the renovation of courtrooms, offices and building infrastructure in the landmark, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, mid-century modernist federal building. Chicago, Illinois

201 Bishopsgate
13-story, 680,000 sf office building with two 80,000 sf trading floors and two atriums. London, United Kingdom, 2002

Sarah Beardsley on...

Buildings are unique in that they can be artistic but also must be useful. We live in buildings and experience them as part of our cities' identities every day. I enjoy design because creating beautiful, unique and innovative buildings can have a positive impact on the people who see and use them. I find it meaningful to create great spaces, and contribute positively to the human experience.

where she finds inspiration
From nature, from my own experiences, and from the world around me.

her favorite "moment" in architecture
Not one single moment. I think of architecture more as "projects." The projects most meaningful to me have been Trump Tower at SOM and Sears Tower at AS+GG. I also find the architectural community a fascinating group of people, and have enjoyed many little moments interacting with my colleagues.

her favorite city architecturally
Chicago, of course.

her favorite thing about a collaborative design process
Getting different points of view on the same problem. Often the ultimate solution comes from a collaboration of ideas, or an idea that develops over time. In architecture you get to see the progress of something visually through the work we produce, which is exciting.

the accomplishment she's proudest of at AS+GG
A renewed commitment to environmentally responsible design.

what she'd be if she weren't an architect
A structural engineer.

...what she does when she's not designing
Spending time with friends and family, traveling, hiking, exploring Chicago—basically experiencing the world. I think a good architect needs to continually bring new experiences back into the design process.