In 2013 Architectural Record awarded him with the Design Vanguard Award, a prize given to ten practitioners internationally. The same year, Wallpaper* named him one of the top twenty emerging architects in the world, and included him in the 2013 Architects Directory. He is the recipient of the 2012 - 2013 Rome Prize Fellowship in Architecture awarded by the American Academy in Rome. He was awarded the 2011 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers. In 2010 he was a finalist for the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program and was recognized as a winner of the Design Biennial Boston Award. His parallel collaborative practice, Collective–LOK won the Van Alen Institute international competition to redesign the institute’s headquarters in 2013, and was a finalist for the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program in 2014.
O’Brien has taught previously at The University of California Berkeley as the Bernard Maybeck Fellow and was the LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at The Ohio State University. Before joining MIT, for two years he was Assistant Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, where he taught advanced theory seminars and design studios in the graduate curriculum. At MIT O’Brien currently holds the Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Chair and teaches design studios in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. He was the recipient of the 2010 Rotch Traveling Studio Scholarship which funded research and travel for an advanced graduate design studio in Iceland.
O’Brien pursued his graduate studies at Harvard University where he was the recipient of the Master of Architecture Faculty Design Award. Prior to graduate school he attended Hobart College in New York where he studied architecture and music theory and was the winner of the Nicholas Cusimano Prize in Music. After completion of his graduate work he studied in Austria as the recipient of the Hayward Prize for Fine Arts Traveling Fellowship in Architecture under the sponsorship of The American Austrian Foundation. He has been named a MacDowell Fellow by the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and a Socrates Fellow by the Aspen Institute.
John has been a member of WOJR: Organization for Architecture since 2013. He became an Associate in 2017. Since joining WOJR, he has overseen a number of key projects in the development of the office, including the Mask House, Dwelling, Fortress, Other Masks, and Room for Artifacts, the first monograph of WOJR.
In addition to his involvement in WOJR, John is engaged in independent research and teaching. His proposal, Dualism, was a winner of the 2017 Burnham Prize by the Chicago Architectural Club, awarded the 2nd Place Prize in an international competition, and is part of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Since 2015, John has taught design studios at Northeastern University.
John is a graduate of the Master of Architecture program at Harvard University with commendation. During his time at the Graduate School of Design, he studied under and worked with Toyo Ito and Atelier Bow-Wow in Japan, including on the Home-for-All Project. Prior to his time at Harvard, John earned a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, cum laude, from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was the recipient of the Excellence in Scholarship and Design Award and the Floyd A. Naramore Fellowship.—
William O'Brien Jr., John David Todd, James Murray, Marianna Gonzalez, Gabrielle Piazza Patawaran, Masoud Akbarzadeh, Enas Al Khudairy, Majda Al Marzouqi, Cathy Braasch, Eric Chin, James Coleman, David Costanza, Iman Fayyad, Justin Gallagher, Cecilia Ho, Li Huang, Juan Jofre, Bhujon Kang, Lina Kara’in, Kyungsik Kim, Lindsey Krug, Jasmine Kwak, Sunnie Lau, Neil Legband, George X. Lin, Carl Lostritto, Alan Lu, Alex Marshall, Lauren McClellan, David Miranowski, David Moses, Sarah Anne O'Brien, Nicholas Polansky, Ali K. Qureshi, Francis Redman, Ruben Ruckman, Katie Sutton, Karine Szekeres, Koharu Usui, Nicole Wang, Aaron Willette, Travis Williams, Kian Hiu Lan Yam, Linda Yifei Zhang, Xiaoyan Zhou