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Sustainability Director and Global Principal Aiolova Named Woman of Year

portrait of a woman

Maria Aiolova, LEED AP (Photo credit: Don Hamerman)

Innovator, administrator, educator, architect, urban designer, and community builder Maria Aiolova, LEED AP, is Wentworth Institute of Technology’s 2024 Woman of the Year. 

Aiolova, a Class of 1996 Architecture major, will be honored as part of the 17th Annual Women @ Wentworth event, where she will also serve as the keynote speaker. 

Based in New York City, Aiolova’s work is focused on environmental design, sustainable development, and resilience for cities. In 2021, she joined AECOM as the Sustainability Director and Global Principal of ILAB, an Integrated Research Development and Innovation Initiative pioneering the future of Net Zero Carbon within the Buildings and Places Global Multidisciplinary Practice. Her role is to lead research and innovation initiatives across market sectors and practices and execute strategic initiatives that support the development of the culture of innovation.  

Aiolova is currently the Sustainability Advisor for COP28 in Dubai, where she developed a comprehensive framework for carbon management that involves the implementation of optimal management practices which will be used to establish a sustainable legacy for future COPs and other major events. 

She additionally co-founded Terreform ONE, an internationally recognized non-profit architecture and urban design research-based group to combat the extinction of all planetary species through pioneering acts of design. Aiolova was the inaugural Arup University Leader for ARUP in the Americas, where she was responsible for strategic planning, curating, and performance in the areas Learning, Research & Development, Foresight and Innovation.  

As the institutional adviser to New Lab, Aiolova helped raise $45 Million to build a state-of-the-art research and fabrication facility. She served as the Academic Director of Global Programs at CIEE, where she created the Global Architecture and Design, Sustainability and Environment Programs to meet the requirements of advanced US students in Berlin, Barcelona, Prague, Shanghai, and Cape Town. She is also an inventor, holding 18 technology patents. Maria lectures and teaches internationally about environmental design principles, emergent practices, and sustainable development.  

Recently, Aiolova taught at Parsons School of Design, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, Cornell University, and Pratt Institute. She has won a number of honors including “Woman of the Decade in Science and Design Leadership” at the Women Economic Forum 2020 in Cairo, Egypt, the AIA New York Resilient Urban Design Award, the Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award, and the Zumtobel Group Award for Sustainability. In 2019, Maria curated the American Pavilion at the XXII Triennale de Milano.  

Her work has been the official selection at the Venice Biennale and has been exhibited at MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New Institute in Rotterdam. Her design work has been published in many edited volumes, journals, book chapters and periodicals including MIT Press, Springer, Rizzoli, Actar, Routledge, NY Times, Dwell, Wired, Good, Popular Science, and Architectural Design 

Aiolova received her Master of Architecture in Urban Design with a Nonprofit Management Concentration from Harvard University, her Bachelor of Architecture from Wentworth, and a diploma from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria. She is currently a Doctoral Candidate working on her dissertation in Organizational Leadership at Northeastern University. 

Aiolova’s latest book, Design with Life: Biotech Architecture and Resilient Cities, was published by Actar Publishers in 2020.