AIA Virginia is pleased to announce the students recognized as honorees in 2021 AIA Virginia Prize competition. The competition — which took place over the weekend of Jan. 22–25 — was inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project and challenged students to design a pillar installation for the City of Alexandria’s Market Square. Each school’s faculty reviewed the submissions and sent up to 10 finalists for final consideration by the jury.

In a new initiative this year, AIA Virginia is convening a post-competition conversation with the students from the 4 schools, the jurors, and designers from the region. The virtual panel discussion takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 16. Register to join the discussion.

AIA Virginia Prize
The top award and $2,000 prize goes to Ryan Burnett, a student at Virginia Tech for their untitled submission.

2021 AIA Virginia Prize winner by Ryan Burnett
“untitled” by Ryan Burnett, Virginia Tech

The jury called it a strong, powerful idea that was beautifully rendered. “I loved the subtlety and the power. The walk — traveling that pathway — embeds you into the experience,” said one juror. Another commented, “Contextual monuments that are part of the events of our social fabric should also reference or be part of the physical fabric, while at the same time standing out enough to draw the attention necessary to bring awareness and, hopefully, engagement. What I’ve dubbed ‘Subtle Gestures’ does just that. What’s at the apex of these paths? Where do the paths go to or originate from in the opposite direction? Being able to follow each path and stand in the place where the lynchings took place, and then to look back at the pillar or monument could be a powerful experience.”

Hampton University Best of School
Best of School Award for Hampton University and $300 goes to Jarrett Thomas for “The Onlookers.”

2021 Best of School Award Hampton University by Jarrett Thomas
“The Onlookers” by Jarrett Thomas, Hampton University

The jury appreciated the consideration of sun and shadow, noting that the idea of being surrounded by a mob of oversized observers feels “relevant both to the past and today.”

University of Virginia Best of School
The Best of School Award for University of Virginia and $300 goes to Adam Johnson for “In Context.”

2021 Best of School Award UVA by Adam Johnson
“In Context” by Adam Johnson, University of Virginia

“The order, simplicity, and clarity are both sobering and powerful. The contrast of trees aligned along the landscaped edges softens and invites visitors to a field of tomb-like monuments referring the astounding number of places where lynchings occurred, all deferring to the single stroke of color rising above,” remarked the jury.

Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center Best of School
The Best of School Award for Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center and $300 goes to Ellie Cuthrell for their untitled submission.

Best of School Award WAAC by Ellie Cuthrell
“untitled” by Ellie Cuthrell, Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center

The jury said, “I liked the idea of the sun being involved and the shadows that the poles cast … There’s a tension expressed that is speaking to both the past and the present.” The jury also appreciated that the poles are intended to change over time.

The following were recognized with an Honorable Mention

Matias Montenegro Sandoval from Virginia Tech for their untitled submission.

2021 Honorable Mention VT Matias Montenegro Sandoval
“untitled” by Matias Montenegro Sandoval, Virginia Tech

“This is reminiscent of the data visualizations by W.E.B. Du Bois … The rammed earth pillars are brilliant ways to represent the centuries of slavery and terror. Like the rings in a tree, they dutifully measure or depict each year and the ‘conditions,’ but more importantly these layers bluntly indicate the length of time that our society allowed the atrocities to endure.”

Audrey Bolesta from the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center for their submission “Alexandria Community Plaza for Racial Justice.”

2021 Honorable Mention-WAAC-Audrey Bolesta
“Alexandria Community Plaza for Racial Justice” by Audrey Bolesta, Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center

“I liked that the student respected that this is already an active community space. I appreciated that the design was thoughtful, and the intent is clear.”

Pete Paueksakon from the University of Virginia for their submission “The Three Pillars.”

2021 Honorable Mention-UVA-Pete Paueksakon
“The Three Pillars” by Pete Paueksakon, University of Virginia

“Intentionally set in the otherwise bustling square, and beyond the careful planning of the order and placement of elements, this composition of monumental black stone planes would trigger curiosity and draw people in to explore – a critical factor in terms of engaging and then effectively informing and enlightening visitors.”

Andre L. Jackson from Hampton University for “Illuminating the Shadows of a Dark Past.”

2021 Honorable Mention-HU-Andre L. Jackson
“Illuminating the Shadows of a Dark Past” by Andre L. Jackson, Hampton University

“Beautiful, and powerful rendering! The somewhat obscure but beautiful nature of the image compels closer inspection — much like the sculptural composition would actually do — especially at night. Illumination and shadow work together in contrast to reveal the symbolic presence of the other.”

About the AIA Virginia Prize

Conducted simultaneously at Hampton UniversityUniversity of VirginiaVirginia Tech, and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, the competition is a design charrette that engages students at all of the accredited schools of architecture in Virginia. Students are given the competition program on a Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. They work over the weekend to create a design solution and submit it by 9 a.m. the following Monday.

Launched in 1980, the competition is intended to promote collaboration between the profession, students, and professors in Virginia.

Development of the competition brief rotates between the four schools annually — the 2021 Prize challenge was developed by the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center.

About the Jury

Robert V. Reis, AIA, Principal and Design Director, Hanbury | Jury Chair
Audrey Davis
, Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum
Brad Grant, Professor, Department of Architecture, Howard University
Sequoyah Hunter-Cuyjet, Design Advocate, Determined by Design
Chris Lee, FAIA, President, Johnson & Lee, Chicago
Ashley Montgomery, Assoc. AIA, Associate and leader of the Hanbury Resiliency Initiative, Hanbury