Design to make the world a better place

We believe that happiness and well-being are intrinsically linked to the quality of our environment.

Our studio is dedicated to making extraordinary spaces, no matter the scope or scale, through inventive and integrated design. The built space we inhabit has a profound impact on individual lives and our shared environment.

By approaching each assignment holistically we discover unique, environmentally responsive, and equitable solutions.

Our work is iconic and transformative.

Our Story

Ross Barney Architects is an architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture studio. Established in 1981 by Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, the firm enjoys a reputation for creating innovative, environmentally responsible, user focused architecture and civic space that stands the test of time. Chicago, Illinois is our home base and laboratory.

From our inception, the studio has operated under the belief that the experience of exceptional space is a right that all society should enjoy. The firms’ diverse portfolio lends proof to the idea that great design solutions can be developed for any building type. At the heart of this success is a collaborative and holistic design process that actively engages the client, users, and community of a project in order to discover a diverse range of possible solutions. The best design happens when these synergetic interactions and open exchange of ideas are allowed to flourish.

Our Process

01 Research

Thorough research into place, function, and materiality provides an opportunity to push a solution beyond the confines of what is merely satisfactory. From building program to the materials used in construction, all aspects of a design benefit from focused investigation.

02 Collaborate

Exceptional work is accomplished when the client, design team, project users, and community are able to confidently engage in a thoughtful, candid exchange of ideas.

03 Design

Holistic design addresses the project at all levels, from environmental context to door hardware. For any design solution there are a multitude of right answers, we define and explore the subset of answers that respond most directly to project goals.

04 Iterate

Good design is iterative. A diverse range of study and exploration is an essential step in assuring that a project achieves its full potential. Through the use of design alternates, the team is able to explore and discover a project’s full potential.

05 Synthesize

From presenting design concepts to producing construction documents, we take great care and pride in the quality of our work. Our broad knowledge and experience in building design and construction produces clear and concise documentation for all of our projects.

06 Deploy

Construction oversight, making sure that the project is built as designed, is extremely important to the success and longevity of a project. After the design is complete and construction is finished a great building is a living, ever changing environment; a beloved space to work, live, and think.

Our Beliefs


Architecture and space contribute to systemic systems of racism and inequity. We are dedicated to empowering a sense of place, pride, and belonging; in our work and in our studio.

Environmental Stewardship

We have adopted a policy of maximum sustainability in our work. We design to preserve the planet for future generations. Ross Barney Architects is a signatory of the AIA 2030 Commitment and Architects Advocate.

Societal Aspirations

Architecture should inspire a contemporary vision of today’s society, emphasizing that design excellence is a right, not a privilege.

Never Commit too Early

We are always in love with three or four ideas, recognizing the fact that there is more than one answer. We never commit to one idea too early.

Urban Sensitivity

We believe that great places and buildings can strengthen community and nurture redevelopment.

Take Risks

Our diverse portfolio allows us to no be tied down by conventions. Instead, we aim to rethink project relationships to maximize potential.


Ross Barney Architects’ ideas and projects have been recognized by organizations from around the world. Most recently, Fast Company named Ross Barney Architects one of the World’s Most Innovative companies. The studio’s work has been exhibited in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco; and has received more than 200 design awards, including:

Institute Honor Award for Architecture  American Institute of Architects. 2018, 2002, 1994, 1991.

Institute Honor Award for Regional & Urban Design American Institute of Architects. 2018.

Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture  American Institute of Architects. 1999

Prix Versailles Special Prize Exterior UNESCO/UIA. 2019.

Global Award for Excellence Urban Land Institute. 2018.

National Honor Award  American Society of Landscape Architects. 2018.

Silver Medalist  Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. 2017.

Distinguished Building   American Institute of Architects Chicago Chapter. 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2002 (2), 2010, 2009, 2008, 2003, 1999, 1997 (2), 1996, 1992, 1989.

Divine Detail   American Institute of Architects Chicago Chapter. 2019, 2017,2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2005, 2003, 1997, 1995.

COTE Top Ten Award   American Institute of Architects. 2013, 2009.

American Architecture Award   The Chicago Athenaeum Museum and Design Center. 2020, 2019, 2017, 2012.

Patron of the Year   Chicago Architectural Foundation. 2012, 2009.

Interior Architecture Award   American Institute of Architects Chicago Chapter. 2009, 2005, 2003, 2002 (2), 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994.

Design Award   General Services Administration. 2006.

Architectural Excellence in Community Design   Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. 2006, 2002, 2001.

Firm Award   American Institute of Architects Illinois Component. 2000.

Firm Award   American Institute of Architects Chicago Chapter. 1995.

Federal Design Achievement   National Endowment for the Arts. 1992.

Our Services


The realization of a typical building requires millions of yes/no decisions by the design team. This overwhelming number demands an effective process with excellent communications. Through our flexible and responsive team structure, we find the solution that best balances the demands of program, building codes and site, context, technology, cost, and schedule.

Urban Design/Planning

We always look to the site, whether it is for the design of a building or in a broader urban context.  We provide planning analysis, land use and complete streets recommendations, and streetscape, public space, and schematic design for new and re-development.

Landscape Architecture

Our work pairs architecture and landscape design in a harmonious response. From traditional landscapes to public parks, the spaces beyond a building’s walls have the opportunity to be equally as supportive to a project’s vision and objectives.

Interior Design

The envelope of a building is only where it begins. From custom finishes and furnishings to the newest trends in collaboration spaces, we have a well balanced understanding and commitment to a holistic experience.

Community Engagement

Our preferred process is to look, listen, learn, speak, and revise. We have extensive experience engaging communities in an equitable process of co-creation for buildings, public spaces, and shared visions.

Feasibility Studies

Building projects are expensive. As the owner or developer, you need to assess whether the project is worthwhile. We provide the information you need to develop a convincing financial package, including site analysis, conceptual design, zoning assistance, and construction/operating cost estimates.


We will assist you in determining your project’s goals, the activities to be accommodated, and any special requirements or considerations. Defining the program of a building or space is an essential part of ensuring a project’s success..

Site Evaluation

Site analysis is a vital step in the design process. We help identify opportunities and constraints that have a direct impact on the cost of construction, including climate, topography, geotechnical characteristics, utilities, zoning, and regulatory requirements.

Project Management

We observe construction for conformance to design intent, drawings, and specifications; process shop drawings, materials, and product samples; review the results of tests and inspections; evaluate requests for payment; handle requests for design changes; and administer the completion, start-up, closeout, and commissioning process for you.