dirk denison, FAIA


Dirk Denison is founding principal of Dirk Denison Architects. Since founding the firm in 1990, Denison has built a national practice recognized for design excellence across a range of building types and scales, with a focus on residential, retail, hospitality, institutional, commercial, and campus planning projects.

He has been a leading member of the faculty in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology for over thirty years, during which he has fostered a recommitment to the university’s urban setting and architecturally significant campus through his research, teaching, and service. His teaching has emphasized community-based design, housing, campus planning, and transit-oriented development.

Denison also served as Supervising Campus Architect at IIT for eleven years. Under his supervision, the IIT Campus Architects collective developed a master plan for the campus, completed an assessment of historic buildings, conducted a study for the Urban Land Institute, promoted a landscape improvement initiative, and created a framework for the trajectory of future development. Of note, these efforts and initiatives led to the design competition for the McCormick Tribune Student Center, ultimately designed by Rem Koolhaas, as well as additions and improvements to on-campus student housing.

Under Denison’s direction, and with sponsorship by IIT, the biennial Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP) recognizes the best built work in the Americas. Through a highly developed network of individuals representing various fields and areas of expertise throughout the Americas, MCHAP reveals issues facing our urban environments and contemporary architectural practices and shapes new understandings of how design might impact our changing world. The prize serves as a platform for exchange and fosters a larger international dialogue among leading designers, scholars, and urban thinkers.

Beyond the office and university, Denison is actively engaged in the wider design and arts community, in particular with contemporary visual and performing arts. At the Art Institute of Chicago, he has served as president of the Architecture & Design Society and is the current board chair of the Society for Contemporary Art as well as member on the Committee on Modern and Contemporary Art. Denison is also a member of the National Advisory Council for the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the board of the Mies van der Rohe Society at IIT, the board of directors of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the City of Chicago Park District Public Art Committee, which oversees the Chicago Lakefront Sculpture Initiative. 

Denison received his Master of Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where he studied under Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eisenman, and Henry Cobb, and his Bachelor of Architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology. He grew up near Detroit, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and attended the Cranbrook Schools. 

Denison is licensed in Illinois, New York, Michigan, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin, and was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 2005.