Marcy Giannunzio, AIA

Marcy Giannunzio, AIA is the founding Principal of DIAG Studios, PLLC, an architectural firm that delivers innovative and creative architectural solutions and specializes in institutional, commercial, and residential projects. Her professional work, spanning over 15 years, includes numerous award-winning projects in the Washington, DC metro area. Ms. Giannunzio is a firm believer in utilizing her architectural skills to support the community through serving on local committees as well as being actively involved in the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Ms. Giannunzio is also a recipient of the 2013 AIA|DC Emerging Architect of the Year Award and the 2020 Alexandria Chamber of Commerce 40 under 40 Award.

Nick Cooper, AIA

Nick Cooper, Principal and Design Director for HKS Richmond, has spent his 20-year career designing and leading projects of various scales locally and internationally. He specializes in Mixed Use, Commercial, Adaptive Re-use, Healthcare, and Urban Design projects emphasizing a cross-sector influence where he believes the most innovative solutions emerge. Nick has collaborated on projects located in eight countries and 30 cities over the course of his career, which has fueled his passion for travel and his interest in studying cultures throughout the world.

Nick has been recognized for his thought leadership and design excellence, but is most proud of his community-based work and service to the city of Richmond. He has spent the last 10 years with a local non profit called Storefront for Community Design mentoring and influencing various projects such as transforming an old greenhouse into an outdoor classroom, converting shipping containers into a bike storage/repair shop, and designing a cultural hub in historic Jackson Ward for a local entrepreneur.

Nick also serves as a Steering Committee member of Citizen HKS, the firms’ public interest design and community engagement initiative. In 2018, Nick saw an opportunity to impact his city in a profound way by combining the two organizations in the form of a project that support’s Storefront’s Highland Park Center: 6PIC. The project, “Re-imagining Benefield” will be a unique cowork/colive adaptive re-use project that will act as a catalyst for building equity in the entire neighborhood.

Nick is most passionate about mentoring and empowering the next generation of critical thinkers at HKS and throughout Richmond as he serves as the Chair for AIA Richmond’s Young Architects Forum (YAF) and as the Vice Chair for AIA Virginia’s ELA Program for 2020. Under Nick’s leadership, the YAF Committee has been transformed into a dynamic group of individuals focused on empowering each other to create opportunity for Richmond’s emerging professionals. The committee has been successful in implementing new programs such as the Design Challenge, ARE Series, Storytelling for Community and the YAIS Mentorship Series, fulfilling their mission of investing in AIA’s future and strengthening our local communities.

Above all else, Nick is grateful for his family’s continued support in his career and enjoys sharing his love of architecture and community service with his wife Erin and their two children, Colin and Emalyn.

Amber Book Payment

Congratulations in being a part of our First Class of 25 regarding achieving licensure through our Amber Book partnership. In light of COVID-19, we had temporarily suspended the program with Prometric centers being closed. Now, in light of recent information, we believe that the program can successfully continue and get you licensed expeditiously.

Please remember the original tenants of the program:

  1. The Amber Book will only be accessible for a two-month period. I will give you your personalized access code after you pay the commitment fee.
  2. Submit your payment of $50 online to AIA Virginia. This is the commitment fee. The regular cost for Amber Book as an individual is $390 per month which would total $780. One way to look at this is that this deal pays for two years of AIA Associate membership.
  3. You must commit to registering for all of your ARE exams within 30 days after the Amber Book enrollment ends.
  4. Send AIA Virginia a screenshot proving you have registered for all of your exams.
  5. Let us know how many exams you pass on your first shot. You are our success story!

Please contact me, with any questions or concerns you may have.

Amber Book Payment

  • Price: $50.00
  • $0.00
  • American Express

AIA Virginia Newsletter: June 2020

But Then There Was One
If you, as firm leaders, are committed to being bold about diversity, equity, and inclusion – then you must provide “But then there was one” moments to those who may otherwise never be exposed to these great opportunities.

Design Awards Call for Entries
AIA Virginia’s Awards for Excellence in Architecture recognize outstanding design, built and unbuilt, from the past eight years. More>>

Show Us Your Sketches
Since its inception, we hoped Inform would be a place to exchange ideas and art. We’ve been lucky enough to have Virginia legend Carlton Abbott, FAIA be the first to share his sketch of a Nelson County Barn. Now, we’re hoping you’ll share your work too! More>>

Joint Statement
Virginia’s state and local chapters of the AIA and Virginia NOMA issue a joint statement on racial injustice. More>>

Virtual SAP Training
June’s Safety Assessment Program training has been rescheduled to July 10th. Register today>>

Can You Hear Me Now?
An Open Memo to My Colleagues in the Community of Architecture. More>>

Designing a Successful AIA Virginia Honors Nomination
Ready to nominate a deserving individual or organization for an Honor Award, but not sure where to start? Hear an overview of each AIA Virginia Honors Awards category, see examples of successful past nominations, and learn about your role as a nominator. More>>

Paycheck Protection Program
Read about the favorable changes made to the PPP loan forgiveness. More>>

Welcome These New Members
Please help us welcome these new members to the AIA as architects and associate members, transfers, and AIA Virginia Allied Members. More>>

Contribute to Inform’s Upcoming Travel Issue
Do you have a favorite destination in Virginia? Do you work in the hard-hit hospitality sector? Share your insights through Inform Magazine. More>>

Associated Thoughts
How can we, who care so much about the beauty in our built environments, imagine and act to bring a better world into being? More>>

Dreiling Honored
Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA has been recognized with 2020 NCARB President’s Medalist for Distinguished Service and 2020 Laudatory honors.

Aging in Place Survey
You can help a team working on developing construction-related “Aging in Place” recommendations for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development by taking this 10-minute survey>>

Listening Theatres: The Sounds of Iconic Landscapes and Architectural Spaces
A new exhibition exploring the aural qualities of created spaces opens at The Branch July 16, 2020. More>>

Virginia NOMA
An exciting update for our anticipated new Virginia NOMA chapter. More>>

Working Towards Licensure?
Ready to take the ARE? Testing centers are opening back up. We still have 3 seats available for our $50 Amber Book promotion. Sign up here>>

Featured Member
Want to be featured on Complete this simple form. More>>

O’Hagan Meyer – Free Legal Consultation
AIA Virginia and O’Hagan Meyer Attorneys + Advisors have partnered together to provide up to 30 minutes of Employment Law Counseling for AIA Members during this time of uncertainty. More>>

New Architect
Congratulations to the following member for passing her exams and gaining licensure. More>>

Meet the Fellows
Meet another one of the 2020 inductees into the College of Fellows. More>>

Reopening Resources for your Clients
As states are beginning to reopen for commerce, your clients may be seeking additional guidance. Go to our COVID-19 resource page for resources we have been collecting that address various business types and industry sectors. More>>

Combined Event Calendar
Looking for one place to find all the free webinars and architecture events in the region? AIA chapters across Virginia and West Virginia are contributing to a combined calendar on Inform Magazine. More>>

Five Steps to Thrive
Architects have always had intrinsic value in improving the quality of our lives. Economic trouble won’t diminish this fact, but it does signal the time for architects to demonstrate their relative value to clients and potential clients. More>>

Looking to Serve?
Nominations are open for 2021-2022 At-large Representative(s) to the AIA Strategic Council. More>>

Listening Theatres: The Sounds of Iconic Landscapes and Architectural Spaces

The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design is pleased to announce, “Listening Theatres: The Sounds of Iconic Landscapes and Architectural Spaces,” an exhibition exploring how listening to created spaces can inspire creativity, imagination, and discovery of the surrounding world. The exhibit (July 16 – September 13, 2020) will include sound, animation, and drawings by Karen Van Lengen and Jim Welty. It will feature work using recordings and interpretive drawings, presented in active animations that celebrate the aural personalities of iconic architectures. Photographs of the drawings and stills of the animations are included in a colorful display that demonstrates the artists’ process. 

The spatial animations included in this exhibition are The Academical Village at the University of Virginia, and New York City spaces of Grand Central Terminal, The New York Public Library, The Seagram Building, Rockefeller Center and the Guggenheim Museum.

Karen Van Lengen is the William Kenan Professor of Architecture and former dean (1999-2009) at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Van Lengen began her professional career as a design Associate at I M Pei & Partners before forming her own firm in New York City. Her recent projects have focused on the aural aspects of architectural space, bringing awareness to the comprehensive experience of ‘place’. This work developed during her University Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities resulted in the Soundscape Architecture website that displays creative interpretations and analytic drawings of the characteristic sounds of iconic buildings.  The University of Virginia Jefferson Trust supported the Listening to the Lawn website and the Open Gates animation project.

Jim Welty is an accomplished artist who created the animations for Soundscape New York and Open Gates as well as the Soundscape Architecture web site. Welty began his career as an artist working with Frank Stella as Master Printer and collaborator for over 10 years. He has exhibited his sculptures nationally, including a major exhibition entitled “A Short History of Decay,” at the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. He is currently developing a new interactive body of work incorporating sound, animation and sculpture, extending the current project’s mission to foster genuine listening and engagement with our environment.

The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design is located at 2501 Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia’s historic Fan District. The Branch Museum inspires current generations to appreciate, support and create exemplary architecture and design. The Branch is dedicated to the advocacy and stewardship of our rich regional heritage and invites the public to envision a world enriched by architecture and design. The Branch is open to the public Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. Learn more at

Virginia NOMA Update

As you may recall, the NOMA Exploratory Committee was formed in the Fall of 2019 to do the following:

  • Evaluate the requirements and resources it would take to start a Virginia NOMA chapter
  • Determine interest in the minority community
  • Obtain insight on lessons learned from those who have undertaken such an initiative

We are proud to report that a group of dedicated individuals have been meeting regularly to advance this cause and the profession is in arms reach of having a statewide NOMA chapter!

The Committee has completed the following tasks:

  • Completed its first draft of the proposed Bylaws and received review comments from NOMA National
  • Obtained an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Executed a Memorandum of Understanding with AIA Virginia to solidify a unified partnership
  • Determined a banking institute and moving forward with its establishment
  • Established dues rates
  • Identified its provisional Officers to obtain a charter from NOMA National (names must be provided to get a charter and its inaugural Officers will be voted on by its membership)

A charter is expected to be granted to Virginia NOMA in 2020. Thank you to Joel Mieses for chairing the Exploratory Committee and demonstrating exemplary leadership. If you are interested in being a part of this professional community, please complete this interest form accessed at

Can You Hear Me Now?

An Open Memo to My Colleagues in the Community of Architecture

A cellular company once popularized the commercial phrase, “can you hear me, now?” For years, there has been a credible, audible but unheard plea from the depths of the soul of a segment of the American family that there is an injustice that has been perpetual and persistent. America has not listened because it only impacted a small number of our family members. Occasionally there was an uprising when tensions from the injustice rose to a boil, but they were quickly squashed.

Robert L. Easter, FAIA, NOMAC

In the struggle for equity, diversity, and inclusion, we must understand that the powerless will never be in a position to make real substantive change. Our American family, and my Architecture family, has a real problem with racism; it is an evil and ugly virus that has plagued our nation for 401 years.

Our nation was built on many principles, most of them laudable and admirable. But one undeniable fact is that America’s prosperity has been borne and continues to thrive on the idea that some lives are not valued as much as others. It is why Black men, women, boys, and girls can be brutalized and murdered with impunity, whether or not they present a threat to those who are better armed and better trained to address injustice or challenges to authority, whichever they chose to hear. Racism is real and unrelenting; unfortunately, those who are victimized by this insidious disease are not the ones infected by it. It is a family disease and its morbidity uncommonly impacts one segment of our family. It is in our genes, running unrestrained through our national DNA with no scientist seeking cures or treatments because those with power have the disease and those with the disease not understanding how they could ever suffer from it… until there is unrest.

Today, we are at another boiling point. Tempers are heightened, and the cry for justice is overwhelming. And America, our family, is watching with anxiety and concern. We deplore the violence; we are shocked at the level of unrestrained looting and destruction; we want something to be done to make things safe in our cities like we had become accustomed to. Our world is already reeling with COVID-19 and our businesses are suffering; this unrest is not going to help!

So, where do we go from here? I suggest that there are three priorities that must be embraced by our professional community: the architecture family. The first is the simple reality that one of the primary reasons that so few African Americans practice architecture is racism. That is a hard first step, but let’s examine racism by its definition. It is the active or inactive effort employed by a dominant race to exert its position of power over another race to subjugate or control the opportunities that the latter can participate in. It is using race as the marker to disenfranchise another race. It is not always done consciously and may even be unintentional. Race is the result of bias and bigotry. We are not all bigots, but we all have biases.

Overcoming racism requires that we acknowledge and confess our biases and explore how those biases may have adversely affected an entire segment of our community family. Much of the positive discussion in our profession was generated by a growing and prosperous economy that afforded the privileged the opportunity to be generous. But fighting racism isn’t how you respond in good time; it is what you do in the moments of heat, confusion, anxiety, and fear. It is how you respond when your commissions are in limbo and your profits are at risk.

Secondly, if we can identify those conscience and unconscious actions, we must make a determined, thoughtful, and committed effort to undo both the actions and their impacts. Our efforts must be intentional and embedded in the culture of our workplaces. Diversity, inclusion, and equity can’t be buzzwords. Empty rhetoric and pious platitudes created the chaos and unrest that we see on our streets. Those of our family who sit in more privileged seats at the table (meaning that those who are able to influence the political, social, and economic structures) must acknowledge that they have a responsibility to be advocates for immediate and substantive change. That change must be in policy and practice. We must be willing to hear the voices of the marginalized and victimized, but not just hear them, we must listen with open hearts, open minds, and open wallets. Change is never free, and it costs more than change.

We must demand that our Human Resource professionals embrace a sense of educational and cultural preparedness. We must train our staff to recognize and root out bigotry in the workplace, in all of its forms. They must employ measures to address the systemic concerns of their African American employees. Many of the large firms in our family are located in large metropolitan areas where the daily ritual of life can be a torment. As employees are relocating to our city, we must let them know that there is a network that they can depend on and go to for relief, support and backup when they are confronted with the adversities of being Black in America. Our place of business must be a safe haven, not a sweatshop; for young men and women who, right now, can’t always discern ally or enemy, friend or foe.

Finally, we must make it clear that we will always be advocates for justice, no matter how it impacts our bottom lines. We have to pick up our signs and march. We have to register and vote. We have to make our political contributions count; those who receive our support and must know that how they legislate will determine how we give. Justice isn’t black or white, it isn’t liberal or conservative, it isn’t even left… it is only right. Most architects are influential and respected members of the communities where we live and practice. We have to capitalize on our community status for the wellbeing of our family. We must make sure that the journey from home to work and back home is safe, and that there are no communities that our family members aren’t allowed to call home or journey to, without being harassed, targeted, or treated with suspicion.

Well, family, what are the streets telling you? What message do you hear from the broken glass and looted shelves? What are the ashes of burned-out buildings screaming to you? Are those shattered businesses telling you that they need protection? Are they suggesting that they need armed and militarized aid to keep them secure? What do the thrown bottles and bricks say to you about the struggle they are experiencing when flung through the air by mindlessness? Are they asking for our elected leaders and their agents to get tougher on the perpetrators?

That is what most of our family members hear. We continue to be deaf to the voices of those whose lives were terminated by injustice. We don’t hear the voices of the young marginalized men who feel We want justice; but, for who? Martin L. King, Jr. once said in a speech denouncing rioting, that “riots are the cries of the unheard.” And those who have been crying out for days, years, months… even centuries that have landed on deaf ears, want to know, simply, can you hear me, now?

I have a 27-year-old son who recently moved to Los Angeles. From his ancestors, he inherited a brilliant mind. From his mother, he inherited good looks and compassion. From me, he inherited a sharp tongue and brown skin. I pray every day that I did not confer upon him a death sentence. He has an occasion to speak his mind to people he has no influence over. Wherever he has lived in the past, be it his birthplace of Richmond, VA, or Boston, MA, where he received a stellar education, he has been confronted by those sworn to protect and defend him and treated like he doesn’t belong.

Many of my American family members don’t know that fear of wondering where your child is every evening or is he still alive each morning. They don’t understand how a young man graduating from a prestigious school with a 3.6 GPA, can be a threat to anyone. I can’t afford to be patient, because of my son’s life, and the lives of the students I teach to be of value to our profession, hang in the balance. My son needs you to be his advocate because his father is totally powerless to ensuring that he is heard, respected, and valued. My son needs to know that when he and his peers speak, you can hear him.

by Robert L. Easter, FAIA, NOMAC
Copyright 2020

Associated Thoughts

I had this month’s update for associates all planned out. Real nice and tidy. It was going to be about getting started—with your career, with your AXP record, with raising your hand and getting involved in your community—and simple ways for emerging designers to do that. And sometimes our nice and tidy plans get pushed aside, rightly so. As I type out these words, helicopters buzz low over my Washington DC neighborhood, and massive crowds stream through the streets in protest of the injustices perpetrated against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so, so many in the black community over the last 400+ years. Injustices both outrageously specific and overwhelmingly systemic, and we grieve them.

And so we center these words from the May 31 statement by the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA):

The air in our nation is thick with a profound sense of grief and despair. Our collective air is so very thick that it’s literally hard to breathe. We struggle to grasp for air as we all navigate a global pandemic coupled with the deadly and pervasive virus called racism that has plagued America for over four centuries…As architects, how can we protect the health, safety and welfare of the public if our country is not properly including Black Americans as full members of our society?

photo courtesy of Michael Spory

We as architects serve the public. Not just the paying, powerful, or polite public. The ENTIRE public, in all its messy, complicated, and challenging complexity. And in serving the entire public as designers, we imagine environments and worlds that do not yet exist, and we help make them visible. How can we, who care so much about the beauty in our built environments, imagine and act to bring that better world into being, a world that repairs the systemic injustices enveloping our black brothers and sisters for the last 400 years? How can we as professional architects address racial issues within our own profession? How can we hold this in our gaze, and not look away?

Ultimately, this newsletter is still about getting started (and you can certainly find links for job boards, AXP advice, and community service opportunities below) but with a renewed focus on racial justice in our design offices and in our neighborhoods in our diverse, complicated, beautiful Virginia. This work has been going on for a long time, but the pressing reality begs us as emerging professionals to partner with our elders in clear-eyed reckoning with how race and architecture are colliding, in this moment in 2020. 

In the coming weeks and months, there will be a variety of opportunities to sustain this priority, so watch out. Read things like the links listed below, and share them with your friends and supervisors. Listen to diverse voices. Listen to your black and brown friends and colleagues, who have to come to work every day and try and smile and finish their task list. Get involved in our newly-established NOMA chapter. Donate to our PAC, and to trusted organizations doing justice work in our communities. 

We will keep moving. 

In solidarity and action,
Michael Spory, Associate AIA

Just a Few Fun Things to Click On

Some Statements about Racial Injustice from AIA and Design Leaders: Read statements from the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), the AIA, and AIA Virginia. Ask if your firm or institution has drafted any statement. 

Someone You Should Know: Jeffrey Butts is the Regional Associate Director for the Region of the Virginias for the 2019-2020 term. A graduate of Howard University and a designer at Hanbury (Norfolk), Jeffrey is an incredible resource between our regional chapter and AIA National. He’s doing big things, folks. 

Someone Else You Should Know: Robert Easter, FAIA is one of the newest AIA Fellows from Virginia (recently awarded in January!), the chair of the architecture program at Hampton University, and one of the most prominent voices for increased black and minority participation in Virginia and in the country. He serves as Hampton University’s representative to the AIA VA Board of Directors. 

Someone to Ask NCARB Questions: Michael Hammon, AIA is the NCARB Licensing Advisor for Virginia. He knows all things NCARB and is appointed by AIA Virginia to help you. Reach out to him at He is happy to respond to big and small questions about how licensing works, how to navigate tricky situations, and how to help you get that stamp!

Something to Talk about with Your Boss and Coworkers: AIA has developed Guides for Equitable Practice, for resourcing architects to make the business and professional case for ensuring more equitable practices in our firms, particularly towards black and minority individuals and clients. This is an important baseline, especially the personal stories in this section. Ask your supervisors if your firm has discussed and implemented these guides. 

Something to Donate To: The Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson, supports criminal justice reform, racial justice, and public education about racial inequities and the residual structures and legacy of the enslavement of African-Americans. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, it’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice is a heartbreaking and architectural wonder to the legacy of lynching and racial violence. 

Something to Sign Up For: AIA Virginia is forming a joint and supportive relationship with our newly-launched NOMA Chapter. This is an important step, and is an effort that needs people of all skin colors to actively support minority architects. Fill this form out to show your support and interest; it’ll take less than 60 seconds.

Something Else to Sign Up For: Due to the loss of networking and internship opportunities, AIA VA is responding creatively to provide mentoring relationships between rising students and young professionals and working architects. I signed up–you should too! Only 2 hours per month. Forms for mentees & graduates are here, and forms for possible mentors are here

Something to Put on Your Calendar: Join other engaged folks for our Emerging Professionals Roundtable + Happy Hour. June 10 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Register online

Some Free Stuff for the ARE Exams: AIA National is offering their ARE prep course ArchiPrep FOR FREE for associate members until August 31. If you’re taking your exams, or thinking about taking them, this should push you over the starting line. 

Something if You’re Looking for a Job: For those on the job hunt, take a look at the job board on the AIA Virginia website — with employment opportunities all across Virginia. And check out AIA’s resource for navigating the 2020 job market. 

Something Inspiring: Past winners of the AIA’s Whitney M. Young Jr Award, which distinguishes an architect or architectural organization that embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness, or universal access.  

Dreiling Honored by NCARB

2020 NCARB President’s Medalists
for Distinguished Service

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, of Massanutten, VA, is recognized for her outstanding leadership of both the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). As interim executive director of the NAAB, Dreiling led the organization through a period of critical reflection and restructuring. Her efforts transformed the NAAB and built lasting partnerships both within and outside the realm of architectural education. Her commitment to efficiency and professionalism facilitated a new dynamic with NCARB, its staff, and its volunteers. In addition, Dreiling was elected the 90th president of the AIA after over 18 years of service with the organization. During her tenure in 2014, she oversaw a repositioning of the organization with a focus on cultural transformation, while also promoting efforts to support students, emerging professionals, and young architects.

The highest honor bestowed upon architectural professionals by NCARB—the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service—is awarded each year to individuals in recognition of their outstanding contributions and dedication to the Council and the architectural profession.

2020 Laudatories

NCARB wishes to express its sincere appreciation to Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA for her invaluable contributions to the Board of Directors, the Council and its mission, and the regulation of the architecture profession.

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA
Helene Combs Dreiling stepped away from her role as the interim executive director of the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) after leading the organization through a critical restructure, re-energizing its focus on the accreditation of architecture education programs, and strengthening the relationship between NAAB and the Council. She helped guide the development of the groundbreaking 2019 Accreditation Review Forum, ensuring the contributions and collaboration of each of the five collateral organizations for the betterment of the education continuum. NCARB President Terry Allers is awarding Dreiling the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service in 2020.