Bedford Department of Economic Development’s School-to-School Project, Delegate Chris Hurst, Joan Becker Kelsch, and Shade & Wise will be awarded AIA Virginia Honors at the Visions for Architecture ceremony this Nov. 5, 2021.This recognition may be bestowed on non-member individuals or organizations that have inspired, influenced, or complemented the architecture profession in Virginia through practice of an allied profession, research, education, planning, legislation, architectural writing, the arts, or crafts.

The Bedford School-to-School (S2S) project exemplifies an outstanding community-driven planning process. Through an inclusive and collaborative team structure as well as an innovative public outreach approach, the S2S team maximized community engagement and helped residents envision new opportunities for development in three downtown areas along the Bridge Street corridor. The grassroots work by the citizen group was supported by Bedford’s Department of Economic Development under the leadership of Mary Zirkle. The Town’s Brownfields Assessment Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided resources.

The project takes its name from the two properties anchoring each end, Bedford Middle School and Susie G. Gibson High School. From the start, the Town and steering committee set a framework for a participatory and fully transparent community engagement process. In addition to project management meetings and presentations to local officials, unique events were held so that a diverse cross-section of the public could participate in the planning process, and online engagement tools allowed residents to weigh in on a preliminary development concept plan.

The input led to five guiding principles and a multi-faceted conceptual plan: The new Bridge Street positions downtown Bedford as the keystone nucleus of a region with significant visitor attractions balanced with attractive residential and commercial areas where people of all ages and abilities live, work, shop, learn, and gather. Implementation of many components has begun, and the team expects that the plan will be adopted into Bedford’s Comprehensive Plan.

Del. Chris Hurst
Del. Chris Hurst

Virginia Delegate Chris Hurst of Virginia’s 12th District is a true advocate for the architecture profession. During the 2020 General Assembly, he worked with the coalition of AIA Virginia, American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia, and Associated General Contractors of Virginia to successfully carry House Bill 1300, which enacted a 15-year statute of limitations on design and construction contracts for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to this legislation, architects were held liable in perpetuity for their design work on projects for a state agency or public university. Getting this bill passed took an enormous amount of advocacy, consensus building, and negotiation.

Del. Hurst continues to impact the profession and the built environment through his legislative committee assignments as well. He serves as the vice-chair of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization, which is assessing the Commonwealth’s school facilities and determining school construction and modernization funding needs. This work will bring equity to Virginia’s school buildings regardless of region or tax base. And as chair of the General Laws Professions – Occupations and Administrative Process Subcommittee, he hears proposed legislation that impacts licensure. Delegate Hurst understands the important role of architects and architecture in our communities.

Joan Becker Kelsch
Joan Becker Kelsch

Joan Becker Kelsch established a model for communities to take positive action to address climate change at the local level. As Arlington County’s Green Building Program Manager, co-leader of the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, and in countless volunteer and advocacy initiatives, her hands-on approach to combating one of contemporary society’s greatest challenges is rooted in Virginia. Over her 27-year career in Arlington, her leadership and insight have created significant civic policies and programs to combat climate change.

In organizations such as the George Mason University Institute for a Sustainable Earth, the Net Zero Energy Coalition of the National Capital Region, and the Built Environment and Energy Advisory Committee, Kelsch is establishing and supporting sustainable and resilient practices in the region and beyond. Her active board service in the U.S. Green Building Council across a decade expands her work. Indeed, she has become a nationally-recognized leader in advancing public programs and policies that place green initiatives at the forefront of public and private development.

Kelsch shares her enthusiasm and expertise with diverse audiences through presentations, public engagements, and meeting facilitations. With her passion and skill at delivering knowledge and creating understanding around climate change and practical solutions, she has singlehandedly informed, educated and influenced elected officials, local government staff, regional organizations, developers, local community groups, environmental organizations, and students of all ages.

Shade & Wise team donating supplies
Shade & Wise

Richmond masonry company Shade & Wise has served Virginia architects for more than three generations, consistently providing quality architectural and residential brick, block, hardscaping, and stone products. Their excellent service and expertise enhance the built environment; each Shade & Wise salesperson has been certified by the Brick Industry Association as a certified brick specialist. Shade & Wise’s support of the architecture profession extends to sharing extensive industry knowledge through AIA continuing-education seminars on topics such as masonry industry standards, construction details, masonry repair guidance, and best practice recommendations. Their helpful brick and masonry calculator is one of many tools they provide to help designers with cost and budgeting.

In direct AIA service, Robert W. Vaughn joined AIA Richmond’s board of directors as the allied member representative. He spearheaded the formation, implementation, and fundraising efforts to establish the chapter’s scholarship program. Shade & Wise is also the title sponsor of the AIA Richmond Golf Tournament. As longtime participants in Virginia AIA’s annual ArchEx, Shade & Wise has offered large booth presentations, discussions and live demonstrations, and has recruited other masonry manufacturers participate, expanding the masonry selections and knowledge base at the conference.

These valuable initiatives and partners will be recognized at the Visions for Architecture celebration on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and online.