Michael Spory, Assoc. AIA

For the last 200+ days, I have done my job as a designer alone in an empty room. Just me, a second monitor, too many open drafting views in Revit, and several friendly succulents gamely trying to figure out floor plan diagrams, code subpoints, and all the various things that we do in order to get a building designed and built.

Like it has been for many of us, the design process has been almost exclusively virtual, and—if you are anything like me—it has also been quite lonely. No looking over shoulders at whimsical sketches or precedent projects, no chatter about weekend camping excursions and football games, no slouchy staff meetings around conference tables, scratching out to-do lists on complementary graph paper from a window vendor. None of the joy of working alongside more talented coworkers, or seeing someone’s beautiful graphic presentation, or getting help figuring out a key flashing detail or massing option. In this way, the pandemic has snuffed out one of the most important things I love about design—working alongside other designers trying to make our built world more beautiful.

I find inspiration in bouncing ideas off other people, testing my own against thoughts of colleagues much smarter than I. The profession of architecture is inherently collaborative, and for me, the isolation of work-from-home can be a drag on the creative spark that keeps me coming back from the clutches of my warm, comfy bed.

In the creative doldrums of 2020, I am particularly looking forward to our AIA Virginia gatherings over the next few weeks—YAFcon, ArchEX, and Design Forum—even if these sessions will be virtual as well. I’ll be attending talks on storytelling and intentional leadership, and leading a panel on unconventional clients and how to practice with more empathy (come listen in!). Design Forum’s dynamo lineup includes ​Steven Holl​ speaking about his design for Richmond’s ICA, alongside discussions about light and shadow from principal leaders at ​Olson Kundig​, ​LTL Architects​, and local design leaders in Richmond. And finally, the intriguing workshops on design analytics, research, the 2030 commitment, and resiliency at ArchEX wrap up this year’s magnificent trio of AIA Virginia’s annual programmed gatherings. It’s not too late to sign up! Come join us. It’ll be great.

I have noticed that my sketchbook has been more empty than normal this year. Here’s to hoping you can join me in finding a little less-lonely inspiration from our corners of Virginia at the virtual Foresight 2020 this year, and share a couple of new sketches of what inspires us to keep working away (at our home desks) towards a more beautiful, just, and equitable future.

In solidarity and action,
Michael Spory, Associate AIA

Just a Few Fun Things to Click On

Some pretty buildings: ​AIA Virginia held its awards gala (complete with virtual cheering) and celebrated some truly awesome projects and people with awards. Check them out ​here​.

A truly remarkable man​: ​John H. Spencer​, FAIA, was honored with the William C. Noland Medal for his decades of leadership, advocacy, and mentorship in the architectural profession, particularly for Black students and architects. Spencer is a pioneering leader for Black architects in America, a distinguished teacher who influenced thousands of students, and a committed educational administrator who created countless programs, initiatives, and pathways for growth and mentorship.

A virtual conference worth paying for (it’s not too late!)​: AIA Virginia’s signature annual events–ArchEx, Design Forum, and YAFCon–are combined under the banner of ​Foresight 2020​ this year, and they’ve gone virtual, with a killer lineup, with lots of discounted options for educational, professional, and networking programs during the next several weeks. Take special note of the speaker lineup for ​Design Forum​ on Thursday, November 5–with presentations from partner Kristen Murray from Olson Kundig​ and David Lewis from ​LTL Architects​, and a keynote from ​Steven Holl​ himself.

Something for Virginia emerging professionals: ​Join us for ​YAFcon 2020: The Empathic Architect​, which is a week-long virtual ​series of engaging conversations about designing and practicing with intentionality. Join your fellow EPs the week of Oct. 26–Oct. 30 for a daily series of peer-led discussions over lunch, and presentations by purposeful — sometimes unconventional — leaders each evening. Registration is intentionally kept low-cost to make it easy to attend–​it’s only ten bucks for students!

*YAFcon is an annual gathering of the Young Architect’s Forum (YAF), which promotes the professional growth and leadership development of emerging professionals, including early and mid-career architects and unlicensed professionals on both traditional and non-traditional career paths.

Some info about the ARE testing updates​: Testing in person is coming! NCARB is releasing information that by November 16, 2020, candidates can schedule remote-proctored appointments, while still being able to test in-person at Prometric test centers. The actual ARE content and division structure will not change–but there are tweaks to exam procedure, breaks, scratch paper usage, and question strategy that we should be familiar with. NCARB has released updated ARE Guidelines, ARE Handbook, and a new demo exam in October. These changes will keep the exam’s rigor, while providing candidates with greater flexibility and accessibility. In summer 2021, NCARB is slated to switch to a new test administration vendor, for both in-person and remote testing. Visit​ ​NCARB’s website​ for details, and watch this ​Q&A session​ to find answers to some of the more thorny questions related to the changes.