September 13, 2019

Luke Johnson Named a Top Young Designer in BD+C's 40 Under 40 List

We are excited to share that Luke Johnson, AIA, was recently named to Building Design + Construction’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2019. This national award program recognizes rising leaders in the commercial design and construction industry.

Luke is the design leader for CannonDesign’s nearly 200-person Buffalo office. His career is defined by an unwavering commitment to improving the human condition. He’s led projects that provide equitable education, address urban blight, destigmatize mental illness and provide healthcare to veterans. He’s the Vice President of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation and the chair of the Architecture + Education program — an in-school outreach program serving underserved communities. He received the AIA Western New York/Buffalo Community Service Award in 2015 and co-launched a program aimed at introducing the architecture profession to Native American students — one of the least represented minorities in the AIA.

And at age 36, he’s just getting started.


Luke has been a board member of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation (BAF) for five years. BAF is a not-for-profit, public charity dedicated to inspiring the exploration and appreciation of architecture and how it shapes our lives. Luke currently serves as their Vice President and Chair of Education Programming, which includes running the nationally recognized Architecture + Education (A+E) Program.

The goal and vision of the A+E program is twofold: to use design as a liberal art where design concepts can be used to complement common core curriculum mandated by New York State, and to build greater awareness of design professions and the built environment for children. It’s no surprise that the diversity within the AEC world is not aligned with the diversity of our communities. Although this isn’t something that can be solved quickly, A+E addresses the problem “in the sandbox” — showing underserved children the possibilities that exist and helping the profession address its current diversity challenges.

Luke has served for three years as a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the state’s largest grant provider for arts; in 2018, the organization awarded more than $41 million to 2,400 organizations throughout New York State. His depth of experience in architecture, educational programming and not-for-profit managerial duties have made him a sought-after leader within the NYSCA, serving on a variety of panels including Architecture + Design, Facilities Projects, and Arts + Education Programming. As a panelist, Luke is responsible for reading a large number of grant proposals from across the state of NY.


In college, Luke began to fully understand the role design plays in creating community.

During graduate school, the Buffalo resurgence was just beginning to pick up steam and the city was quickly shedding its downtrodden image. Eager to play a role in the city’s rebirth and within just two weeks of graduating, Luke joined Buffalo-based CannonDesign as an architectural coordinator. And without any time to catch his breath, on day one, he began work on a significant mental health center — Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care — just north of the Buffalo/Ontario border. This project — which serves an underserved and marginalized community — had a tremendous impact on Luke’s life and influenced his philosophy on design.

“What I quickly learned on Waypoint is that every building we design is an opportunity to deliver a better version of life for the people who will use it,” Luke said. “It’s not about starting the design process by sketching design gestures. It’s about taking the time to understand the challenges of end-users and then designing solutions firmly backed by the experiences of the people and communities we’re designing for.”

In the eight years since Luke joined CannonDesign, he’s applied this philosophy while supporting projects throughout the country, and while leading multiple design projects in Western New York. Here are a few below:

Addison Central Schools, Junior/ Senior High Scool

Role: Lead Designer

Collaborating with the community on weekends as well as during evening school board sessions, Luke led the design of a facility that not only takes the district into the forefront of education but also simultaneously captures the history and culture shared by this rural community.

University at Buffalo, One World Cafe

Role: Lead Designer

Luke has been integral in the process of gathering student and faculty feedback on the design, including in one round of focus groups where nearly 1,300 members of the UB community participated.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, New Hospital and Medical Office

Role: Lead Designer

Luke has become the conduit between the many subject matter experts, users, and executive administrators for UPMC to ensure their creative vision for this acute care facility may be ultimately realized.