Published: Feb. 19, 2021

Acrylic buffalo awardThe University of Colorado Boulder Program in Environmental Design has announced the recipients of the 2020 Environmental Design Alumni Awards. This year’s honoree for the Distinguished Alumni Award is Sarah Broughton and The Young Designer Award has been awarded to Mike Blea. 

The Environmental Design Alumni Awards honor individuals who have demonstrated leadership and made significant contributions to the design and architectural professions.

Sarah BroughtonDistinguished Alumna Awardee:

“The amazing faculty throughout my time at ENVD, starting with Juana Gomez in my first studio. Her favorite saying was “it is a good start.” That was very motivating for me because it kept me reaching and pushing design. As I have progressed through my career, I am thankful that through the curriculum at ENVD, I honed my critical thinking skills. This has proven invaluable to me as our projects continue to be more complex and challenging.”

Sarah Broughton, AIA, NCIDQ and principal of Rowland+Broughton, brings over two decades of experience in the architecture and interior design industry. She is the champion of R+B’s design philosophy and rigorous quality control standards, as well as a leader to her design staff. In addition, she is a highly respected colleague in the design community and among clients.

Sarah leads the studios in participation and management of all phases of the design process, including client relations and proposals, project programming, conceptual design, design development, architecture and interior design, project budgeting, construction documentation and contract administration. Sarah is very active in her community. She served as Chair of the City of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission, is involved with multiple non-profits and is serving her second year as the AIA Colorado West Director. Sarah helped rewrite the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission guidelines and the Aspen Commercial Design Guidelines. R+B frequently provides feedback to the City of Aspen on land use regulation.

R+B has been the recipient of multiple City of Aspen Historic Preservation Commission Awards for its historic preservation work. Both Aspen and Denver studios are located in historic buildings that have been lovingly preserved by R+B. With Sarah’s leadership, the firm has received numerous AIA, ASID and IIDA awards for excellence in design. The team is especially proud to have won AIA Colorado’s 2020 Firm of the Year. Sarah was awarded the Defy Ordinary award from the City of Aspen Chamber and the Aspen community and was named an Outstanding Woman in Business by the Denver Business Journal. Both of these awards recognize Sarah as a champion of the community and a leader to her colleagues.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Sarah attended the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree in architecture, with honors in 1996. Sarah is a licensed architect and a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Sarah is also a licensed interior designer and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

"Sarah Broughton is a great example of the progressive and broad thinking that is leading the architecture profession forward. The design work that she leads at Rowland + Broughton combines the awareness of user needs with the elegance of a design philosophy that captures the natural beauty of Colorado and the progressiveness of the west. I believe Sarah is a great example for the next generation of designers who are looking at bringing the natural environment into a central role in their design solutions. It is an honor for CU Boulder to have played a part in Sarah’s successful career."

–Paul Chinowsky, director, Program in Environmental Design

Mike BleaYoung Designer Awardee:

“When I reflect on my time at ENVD, I often remember the feelings of opportunity and excitement that seemed to live inside of the design studios. As someone with no formal or informal design training, I was constantly amazed with the ingenuity & creativity that my peers embodied. Being surrounded by people that were motivated by good design was intoxicating. For me, being exposed to the CINC [Creative Labs Center] put me on a different trajectory than a typical architect and I feel very lucky to have had that opportunity. 

While in school I met my wife, my business partner (both of whom were ENVD students), and multiple mentors who I have continued to stay in contact with and who have helped me develop into a better designer/fabricator/builder/architect. I am very thankful for my time at ENVD as it provided a crucial foundation for how I think about design and the built environment.”

Mike Blea, AIA and co-owner of Raw Creative, received his environmental design degree in 2010. He then earned a certificate of construction management from Colorado State University and later pursued a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Colorado Denver. Before Blea established himself as an NCARB-certified architect, a licensed general contractor and a local leader in digital fabrication, he was learning the ropes from his uncles on construction sites across the Denver metro area. 

Today, he is regularly welcomed as a featured lecturer in the architectural and design community. Blending years of hands-on site supervision experience with a passion for crafting intentional spaces, Blea’s multi-disciplinary background continues to shape the unique design, build and install capabilities of the Raw Creative studio.

"Iconic is a word that is often overused. However, iconic is the perfect word to describe the work that Mike completes with Raw Creative. Mike has brought together the concepts of design, the pragmatism of construction, and the innovation of fabrication into a unique vision that is fundamentally changing our perspectives on what design can bring to critical details of projects. Whether it is a restaurant interior, an exterior entrance, or a park, Mike’s distinct voice can be seen in its iconic features. CU Boulder is honored to have Mike as an alumnus and we look forward to watching Mike continue to create new paths in the design industry."

–Paul Chinowsky, director, Program in Environmental Design