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Michael Willis



Michael Willis, FAIA, NOMA, founded MWA Architects Inc. in 1988 and served as a principal until his retirement in 2016.

MWA has built a national reputation for creating thoughtful and comprehensive design solutions for numerous municipal clients throughout California and the West, and for neighborhood revitalization projects in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, St. Louis, and Memphis. Those projects include several transit-oriented development projects that combine housing at transit stations, including a recent study for a housing site at the MWA-designed Central Subway Yerba Buena/Moscone Station for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. In New Orleans, MWA was the architect for the 400-plus house Faubourg Lafitte project after Hurricane Katrina and participated in the Lafitte Greenway project along the front doors of the Faubourg Lafitte from City Park to Louis Armstrong Park.

In infrastructure, Willis has served as principal on large public projects for transportation, water treatment, and municipal-level electrical distribution, including the current Oakland International Airport Terminal 1, the New International Terminal and Terminal 2 at the San Francisco Airport, and several others.

Notable water projects include the ongoing 55-acre Southeast Plant Digester Project, a redesign of San Francisco’s largest wastewater treatment plant; master planning and architectural design services for the Joseph Jensen Water Treatment Plant Oxidation Retrofit Program, a 750 million gallons per day (mgd) facility in Granada Hills, California; master plan design guidelines and architectural services for the Robert B. Diemer Filtration Plant, a 500 mgd facility in Yorba Linda, California; and several water quality testing labs.

Willis has presented papers to WateReuse Conference, the American WaterWorks Association, several universities, and San Francisco’s Green Festival. He has been principal for three new electrical substations for San Francisco’s municipal utility.

Willis served as president of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIASF) in 1995. He was elevated to Fellowship in 1996. He chaired the AIA Professional Interest Area national council, served on the AIA Regional and Urban Design Committee, was a juror for the 2005 AIA Austin and AIA New England Design Awards; and served as the chair for the 2005 AIA Urban Design Awards, and as a member of the 2020 AIA and HUD AIA Housing Design Awards. Willis also served as a juror for “Designing Recovery,” an ideas competition for rebuilding sustainable and resilient post-disaster communities.

After his retirement Willis has been a design consultant, and has taught at his alma mater of Washington University in St. Louis in fall 2015 and spring 2017, in addition to the current spring 2020 semester. He has received Distinguished Alumni awards from Washington University, He is a Distinguished Alumni at the University, the Sam Fox School (then the School of Architecture), and the Brown School.