2023 ELA Class Profiles

AIA Virginia’s award-winning Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA) program was developed in 2009 to jump-start the careers of young professionals. Conceived of and lead by a passionate steering committee of successful architects (ALL past ELA alumni!), the program was designed to share the things they wished they had learned in architecture school.

Each of the seven day-long sessions focuses on developing essential skills like community engagement, collaboration, firm creation, financial management, advocacy, public service, and much more. The remaining monthly sessions are dedicated to their class project from a region around the commonwealth.

Want to be a member of this elite group of leaders? The application for the 2024 class will be available later this summer. Contact Cathy Guske for information on how to nominate an emerging leader or with any questions about the program.

We asked members of the ELA class of 2023 the same five questions. Get to know them better by seeing their inspiring answers.

Mira Abdalla, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Last month for Ramadan my friends and I visited the Ottoman-style Diyanet Mosque in Maryland, and it was such a transformative experience for me. To be in a building that felt like the physical and spatial manifestation of something so inexplicable and divine was incredible. Upon entering, I was awestruck by the large void filled with light. The way the Qur’an recitation reverberated in this space seeped into my soul and stuck with me for days after. It was the most tranquil architectural experience I’ve had in a long while.

What is the last book you read?
Architectural Ornament: Banishment & Return by Brent C Brolin (lent to me by my lovely mentor, Julia!)

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
In high school, I was in an architectural drafting program while also taking AP Art History. I remember in Art History always being especially excited to discuss the works of architecture. I felt there was something so beautiful and poetic about these works of art that are experienced three-dimensionally and tell the stories of their inhabitants. I always loved storytelling, but it was then that I realized architecture is my favorite way to do it.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Anything where I can sit outside & soak up the sun! I love having picnics with friends, going to farmer’s markets, reading on my porch, and admiring Charlottesville’s beautiful scenery from any good spot I can find!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Architecture is subjective, don’t be afraid to have your own opinions. Think about what your unique background, interests, & experiences can bring to the world of architecture, and lean into it!

Emily Baker, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
A few years ago visiting Barcelona, I got to tour the famous Casa Mila. I ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time on the rooftop traversing the undulating walkways, peering around sculptural formations, and enjoying the vantage points created of the surrounding city skyline. It was like its own little fantastical world up there!

What is the last book you read?
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I’ve always been curious about how the built environment can influence how one lives, works, and plays. Coming from a small town, the complexity and sometimes chaotic nature of cities fascinated me. I found myself considering both architecture and urban planning for college majors. I ended up selecting architecture because I liked the idea of influencing a city’s built environment at a more micro level – one building at a time – and being able to physically stand within something that started with just a blank sheet of paper and my imagination.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Taking my two dogs hiking/camping. Allows time for silent reflection, while listening to the calming sounds of nature – plus it’s great exercise!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
There are a lot of career paths that an architectural education can lead you. Take opportunities to ask other architects about their educational/professional journey, as it may spark inspiration for your own path.

Lindsey Blum, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog and de Meuron. On a recent trip to London, I found myself captivated by the main stairwell. I spent around an hour chatting with a woman on holiday from her law firm in Boston. She said she’d never particularly loved the art in the Tate but had been back three times to enjoy this space.

What is the last book you read?
Taste by Stanley Tucci, “The Tooch”

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
At first, I had a simple love of making things. When I was young, I was building small towns for my stuffed animals from used detergent bottles and old pizza boxes. As I grew up, I was afforded several opportunities to make things for others – from large porch ramps to small home improvements. A slight dose of naivety led me to pursue architecture simply for the love of making things. I have been fortunate to find a great love of both design and community in architecture as a result.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Dare I say running? Without fail, my greatest moments of relaxation stem from the perfect balance of popcorn, peanut M&M’s, and some good tunes.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be cognizant of the architect’s role to know “a little bit about everything.” Prioritize and consume the things that get you excited about architecture and design.

Perry Hammond, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is pretty amazing. I felt transported to a different time and place when inside. The combination of plants, art, and low light made me feel like I was in a novel.

What is the last book you read?
Designing The Forest by Lindsey Wikstrom.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
I think my relationship with architecture turned from interest to passion when I realized how connected the built environment is to the natural environment. Rather than seeing a division between buildings and ecology, I’ve come to accept the complex entanglement of the two with hopes of benefiting both equally through design. Architecture has tremendous power to change our communities and environment, and it’s up to us to decide what that change looks like.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I enjoy going on walks, whether in an urban environment or in nature.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Find what aspect of architecture makes you excited and pursue that above all else.

Ava Helm, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Recently,  I have not been inspired by one building, but the many I see while walking around the streets of DC where I work. The variety of different building types, colors, materials, etc all work in different ways, and you never know when you’ll stumble upon something inspiring!

What is the last book you read?
The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

How did you discover your passion for architecture?  
Long story short, I discovered my passion for architecture from a high school teacher. I had no interest in going into architecture and he convinced me to take his architecture class. I ended up loving it and decided to test the waters with the Syracuse University Summer Architecture Program. This opened the floodgates and I have not looked back since!

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I like to go on long walks with my dog. 

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
My advice is to trust yourself. Architecture is hard and it’s okay to make mistakes. You need to trust that you are doing the best you can. When it gets hard, take it one day at a time, but don’t forget to smile!

Anna Kniceley, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA.

What is the last book you read?
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I’ve always had a fascination with construction. This likely comes from having an engineer for a dad and growing up around uncles with hauling and excavating businesses. After my freshman year at Virginia Tech, I was on track to transfer from Business into the Interior Design program. However, in the summer transfer studio, my eyes were widened to the endless possibilities of Architecture. I owe a tremendous amount of thanks to Dr. Hilary Bryon for steering me into the Architecture program.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
You can usually find me going for walks with my dog, Emmie Kay while listening to an audiobook or podcast.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be curious about everything! Form positive relationships with engineering colleagues and find people who are willing to answer any type of question.

Jason Lin, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s always invigorating to see works by Architects that you’ve studied in school. I was amazed by the identity of the spaces and just how much of the surrounding area was inspired by Wright’s work.

What is the last book you read?
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. The televised ending left me wanting more.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was watching How I Met Your Mother throughout my senior year of high school and really resonated with Ted Mosby, who was a, you guessed it, an Architect on the show. I had taken some drafting classes as well and enjoyed the craft, I applied and got into Virginia Tech for both Architecture and Engineering and made the decision to begin my journey.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Love playing volleyball and gaming with my friends.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Ask questions. You can never learn enough and don’t be afraid to take risks and go beyond your comfort zone.

Caitlin Morgan, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, VA. This historic downtown treasure has such rich stories within its architectural details, and as a Harrisonburg native, it makes these little details even more special. Since 1856, the Warren-Sipe House has served the community in many ways – Civil War hospital, rec center, family home, temporary court house, and finally the home of the Virginia Quilt Museum. Even the exhibits complement the 1800s-style gallery space where some of the quilts are older than the house itself. Every time I volunteer with the museum, I gain a new understanding of how valuable these historic treasures are to downtown neighborhoods and the adaptable longevity of architecture in society. 

What is the last book you read?
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It’s a fascinating mix of architecture, history, and culture rooted in the development of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. 

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I always share the cliché story of playing with Legos and building mini-cities as a kid (because it’s true!), but as I grew up and learned more about what architecture is, I found a love for how it incorporates anthropology, historic preservation, art and design, and more. There are so many facets to architecture that it feels like there’s something new to discover every day. 

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
My brain doesn’t know how to stay still, so I’ve been spending more time on activities where I can keep moving while letting my head focus on a single task… Painting, making music, golfing (new to this one but loving it!), sketching, and even quilting. 

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Find a way to set yourself apart! This is sometimes daunting, but once you find something you love, become a resource for others also interested in that trademark. Early in my career (i.e. during the global pandemic) I teamed up with three colleagues in architecture to create Emerge AEC, a passion project that connects emerging professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction. Every month, we host virtual events for AEC professionals at every experience level with topics that range from professional development to little-known AEC careers. Check out @EmergeAEC on Instagram and learn more at EmergeAEC.com!

Javius Richardson, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
During my first time at the African American Smithsonian last summer, the building overall and lighting qualities made a negative or sad reaction feel more like a connection to a timeline of history. The way the building was separated by open floors it was like a separation of emotional value but it became more positive as you traveled from floor to floor. It was a great opportunity to be able to see how the building formed the experience.

What is the last book you read?
Since I am still a student at Hampton University, it seems my day always ends by reading The Architects studio companion by Edward Allen and Joseph Iano

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture after discovering engineering wasn’t a path I wanted to take at Hampton and I was having trouble finding something I loved to do or really interested me. I had colleagues who were making beautiful projects that involved everything I loved to do and I grew up around it, and soon I realized my real passion was architecture. It felt like it was meant to be and I have loved it ever since.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I enjoy cooking and a slow night at home watching Netflix.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
For aspiring architects like myself, I’ve learned to stay humble and learn as much as you can from others and the profession in general, apply for any and all internships, and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith even if you are not confident. Everyone has a pace in this profession but you do what’s best for you.

Adam Schultz, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Tate Modern, London

What is the last book you read?
Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture through a school assignment in 4th grade. We were presented with several text descriptions of theater set designs to select from and to design what it might look like. Immediately after painting the materials and atmosphere imagined as the perfect set for the play, I thought and felt that designing spaces was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Draw and paint.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Slow down. Make beautiful things.

Veena Shah, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I recently attended the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Theater, a centerpiece for the Dominion Energy Center for the performing arts. I felt that the impressive façade with intricate details and terracotta decorations immediately reached out to the artistic side, giving me a taste of what was to come. The auditorium features richly colored tapestries, stunning paintings, and intricate statues, which helped create a complete and immersive experience. I found the whimsical and enchanting atmosphere created by the décor to accentuate the tonal works of the symphony by transporting me to a different dimension. The Carpenter Theater (and the performance) truly left a lasting impression on me, and I can’t wait to experience it again.

What is the last book you read?
Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less, written by Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz. With clear, practical advice and relatable examples, the book is a truly impactful guide toward effective communication in today’s digital world. I enjoyed reading the book and have since tried to keep my emails to the point!

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I have always been curious about human psychology and behavior. One of the most memorable moments in my life has been living on a stunning houseboat made of all-wood interiors. The juxtaposition between the enclosed spaces in the houseboat and the openness of the lake left was quite fascinating. I believe it was curiosity towards this evocative and experience-based nature of architecture that drew me towards studying architecture.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I find comfort in spending time with the people I love. I also find playing board games, exploring new places, sitting by a water body, and watching sunsets quite soothing.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Each person has unique skills and perspectives that make them an effective architect. Try to figure out your strengths and ways to leverage them. I find experiences to be the best teacher so jump in and try out different things. For example, participating in the ELA program has offered me opportunities to discover my working style in a non-hierarchical environment.

Cat Smith, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Virginia Tech WAAC building in Old Town, Alexandria. Being in graduate school evokes a lot of strong feelings over the widest possible spectrum of emotion.

What is the last book you read?
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. I’m designing a cemetery and funeral home for my graduate thesis, which has led to some fun reading material. This is a great book for getting an inside perspective of the death industry.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
Honestly, I don’t think I fully discovered my passion until I started working in an office on real projects. A lot of my experience so far has been with affordable housing projects in Virginia. I’ve been honored to build a partnership with a group of residents in Charlottesville who are working to redevelop their current neighborhood. It’s been really exciting to be involved in projects where architecture is being used to solve real-world problems and improve people’s lives.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
When I have the time, I love to go hiking or just walk through nature.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Try everything you can! Work on different building types, go to networking events and building tours, talk to peers and mentors about their experiences, and join different professional groups and organizations. The field is so broad, and there are a million different ways you can fit in, so don’t limit yourself, especially when you’re just starting out.

Briana “Bri” Smith-Stiff, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
One of the most recent buildings I visited that sparked my design engine was the WAAC building. (Washington Alexandria Architecture Center). An extension of the Virginia Tech architectural program. I was able to visit during one of our ELA Sessions and I was so inspired and blown away by the variety of specialty design workshops the students could participate in. I was inspired by all the creativity, the patterns, and the material choices of the decor which also served as the projects of former students.

What was the last book you read?
Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story by Angie Smith

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my interest in architecture during multiple puzzle nights with my mother. When working on complex puzzles she would share a dream about a house she would love to live in. She would go into much detail explaining her desired experiences in each room and space of the house. As she spoke, I would begin to start sketching out what that would look like. I would then create little models of each space and began to piece these spaces together like a giant puzzle.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I enjoy being in or near water. I enjoy swimming, relaxing at the beach, and my newfound joy canoeing. Throw a full body massage at the spa in there then I’m in my peaceful place.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
It’s a wonderful thing to establish a love for architecture, but don’t forget to give yourself room to explore the many avenues architecture can guide you to and through. The journey of architecture is a whirl of endless opportunities. Enjoy trying new things!

John Sturniolo, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
While on a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, I ended up seeing some really rural building details. Some of them were incredibly unique and intricate and brought me immense joy; like finding a shiny gem beneath a mountain… And yet some elements were so incredibly bad that I could not help but wonder what the person may have been thinking! To me, architecture is about the little details, so that is where my eyes are drawn to.

What is the last book you read?
Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda (Graphic Novel)

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I wish I could say it was Legos because I’ve been utterly obsessed with them since I was a child and still am to this day. But in reality, I took several technical drafting classes in high school, one being more architecture focused. There was a project where we had to hand-draft a house floor plan that we designed ourselves. My design was utterly horrible, but I stayed up late into the early hours of the morning to get it done, simply drawing and poche-ing along, completely engrossed in the project. Eventually, I realized, “Yeah, I could probably do this for a living”, and decided to pursue architecture as a career.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
In no particular order: Reading, Legos, disappearing into video games, attempting to catch up on sleep, visiting a local brewery, making a new dish in the kitchen, finding a park or hiking trail to explore.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be willing to learn. Be willing to make and admit your mistakes. Do try your best. Always have a favorite pen.

Kelsey White, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I’m currently planning a trip to Chicago this summer and researching the buildings I want to go see, as one does. I’m most excited to see the Aqua Tower by Studio Gang. I love how she created an organic, sculptural facade with a functional element.

What is the last book you read?
The Scholomance Trilogy by Naomi Novik

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
Through my family. My Dad and brother are architects, we always nerd out at family get-togethers and bore the rest of the family.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Spend time with friends or be a happy introvert at home with a puzzle and my dog.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
The advice I have to remind myself occasionally: you’re always learning, especially in this field where building science is constantly evolving. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what stage you’re at in your career, it’s impossible to know everything. Don’t let imposter syndrome take hold.

Jury Selects 2023 Virginia Prize Winner 

Five architecture students have been selected as recipients of the 2023 AIA Virginia Prize. The jury named University of Virginia’s Lydia Cartwright as the competition’s overall winner of the $2,000 prize. Alyssa Stephenson, Hampton University; Brandon Meinders, University of Virginia; Brynn McClatchy, Virginia Tech; and Twishi Shah, Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, were recognized as the winners from each school and received $300 awards. 

This year, University of Virginia professors Phoebe Crisman and Maria Gonzalez Aranguren authored the brief for the design challenge. The 2023 competition – which took place Feb. 10-13 – challenged students to design a house for two artists that included their workshop and a public program in the form of an exhibition space and an educational space. Each school’s faculty reviewed the submissions and sent up to 10 finalists to Richmond for final judging. The jury convened April 10 to determine this year’s overall winners. 

The jurors were Forrest Frazier, AIA, chair; Azadeh Rashidi, AIA; and Everald Colas, AIA. Frazier is the founding director of Two Street Studio’s Richmond office. Rashidi is a project manager at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners in New York. Colas, an award-winning Haitian American architect, educator, and storyteller, is the founder of Storyn Studio for Architecture in St. Petersburg, Fla. 

While the number of people primarily working from home has tripled since 2019, historically the workplace and the home were not separate locations until the industrial age. As the current digitalization of many professions and the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the acceptance of teleworking as a viable option, residences must adapt to accommodate the working program again. The Virginia Prize competitors explored this live/work social reality as they designed a short-term residence for artists staying between three months and one year, located at a specific site along the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Va.  

The students were asked to design living spaces for two artists with both individual private and shared areas, including sleeping areas, kitchen, bathroom(s), living area(s), and personal storage. There should be outside spaces for working and living, and the home’s working spaces must accommodate the potential range of art manifestations, from large paintings to sculpture to digital art. And the residence must have exhibition spaces open to the public, as well as educational space available for workshops and lectures open to the Charlottesville community. 

Jurors said that overall winner (pictured above) Lydia Cartwright “seemed to understand the history of the downtown mall, extending it into the site.” The design’s “incorporation of art reinforced the program concept with a legible and believable story,” they said.  

The jury noted that Hampton University’s winner Alyssa Stephenson’s design featured a “nice distribution of public vs. private program elements,” while the Virginia Tech winner, Brynn McClatchy, submitted a “beautiful collection of old-school drawings imbued with originality.” 

Brandon Meinders, the University of Virginia winner, was praised by the jury for the “graphic clarity and sequence of construction.”  They noted that Twishi Shah, of the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, presented particularly appealing curtain roof and curtain wall sections, and a design with “thoughtful life and spirit.”  

2023 AIA Virginia Prize Jury Announced

AIA Virginia is pleased to announce the jury for the 2023 AIA Virginia Prize. The competition — which took place over the weekend of Feb. 10-13 weekend —challenged students to design a house for two artists that will include their workshop and a public program in the form of an exhibition space and an educational space.

The AIA Virginia Prize is a design charrette that engages students at all of the accredited architecture programs in Virginia.  Conducted simultaneously at each institution, students are given the competition program Friday at 5 p.m. They work over the weekend to create a board presenting their design solution by 9 a.m. the following Monday.  The competition is intended to promote collaboration between the profession, students, and professors in Virginia.

Each school’s faculty reviewed the submissions and sent up to 10 finalists for final consideration by the jury which will be chaired by Forrest Frazier, AIA.

About the Jury

Forrest Frazier, AIA studied Architectural History and Design at the University of Virginia before receiving his Master’s in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was the recipient of the Stephen Lenci Award and Chester Miller Traveling Fellowship. He has over fifteen years of broad professional experience at award-winning design firms including Mark Cavagnero in San Francisco, Alterstudio in Austin, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien in New York. Prior to founding Two Street Studio, Forrest worked on high-end residences in Manhattan and the Hamptons with the acclaimed boutique architecture/development firm founded by Cary Tamarkin. Forrest is the director of Two Street Studio’s Richmond office. 

Azadeh Rashidi, AIA is a Registered Architect and Project Manager at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA).  She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Architecture from the University of Virginia, where she has also taught.  Since joining TWBTA in 2008, she has managed several of the firm’s projects from conception to completion.  Her expertise working with cultural buildings for the firm began with the David and Reva Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. Azadeh has also overseen the renovation and expansion of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Most recently, she completed TWBTA’s renovation of David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, home to the New York Philharmonic. Prior to her work at TWBTA, she was an associate at WG Clark Architects in Charlottesville, VA, and was involved in the design of the award-winning addition to the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. Beyond her practice as an architect, Azadeh is devoted to creating opportunities for young designers of diverse backgrounds and spearheads TWBTA’s mentorship program.

Everald Colas, AIA is an award-winning Haitian American architect, educator, and storyteller and is the founder of Storyn Studio for Architecture. He has led a variety of internationally acclaimed projects during his time as an architect and specializes in projects that require a sensitive approach to integrating mixed-use buildings in a historical context. As a practitioner, he is committed to civic engagement and how design can promote stronger communities, create more inclusive spaces, foster place-making in a neighborhood, and be identity-affirming to individuals within a community and greater city. He is motivated to find solutions for designing equitable spaces for all voices and believes that design is a tool for social change. Before creating Storyn, Everald was a senior architect for Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Everald holds both a Master of Architecture degree and a Master of Science in Architectural Pedagogy from The University of Florida. In 2018, he co-founded and organized the annual University of Florida School of Architecture COMING HOME Alumni Lecture Series. He has been awarded the Garcia Award for Design Excellence by the Tampa Bay AIA, Florida’s Young Architect Design Award, and the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Florida.

The Art of Practice

Every other year, AIA Virginia convenes a diverse cadre of decision-makers, from firms of all sizes, for a one-day forum designed to cultivate strong leaders and advance business practices. With a focus on creating and fostering a healthy firm culture, both seasoned and emerging leaders will come together to share and learn best practices, be challenged, and be celebrated by their peers.

headshot of Sonya Ravindrath Waddell

The 2023 Art of Practice will take place on Friday, June 23, at Common House Charlottesville. This year the theme will revolve around the concept of stress. Of course, there are various forms and degrees of stress, and they’re not all “bad.” Maybe your firm is stressed by having more work that your staff can manage! Our focus will include assessing your readiness for and planning for times of economic stress, as well as considering the range of factors “stressing” our members. For example, some have observed that the private sector is being shepherded into a kind of recession, while those in the public sector are awash in unprecedented funding. 

Our keynote speaker is Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, vice president and economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. She will provide a macroeconomic view of where the practice of architecture fits into the U.S. economy and how federal policies impact Virginia firms.  

headset of Joseph Cooch

Attorney Joseph Cooch of Lee/Shoemaker PLLC will dig into issues of liability and risk management. How can firms gain resiliency through flexibility? What safeguards can be built into contracts?  

A representative from Atlantic Union Bank will address the specifics of readying a firm’s financial position, from securing lines of credit to paying down or eliminating existing debt. Attendees will learn how banks assess their businesses when considering making loans.  

Take a look at what the day holds on June 23:


  • Breakfast and welcome
  • Poll of participants regarding economic outlook
  • Macroeconomist keynote: the broad perspective
  • Banker keynote: how to prepare your financial posture
  • Lawyer keynote: what’s your liability?

Midday Lunch


  • Panel discussion: Battening down the hatches, featuring Charles Piper, AIAJeanne LeFever, AIA, and Stephen Halsey, AIA
  • Roundtable discussions by firm size, led by Maggie Schubert, AIA, (small); Andrew McKinley, AIA, (mid-size); and Charles Piper, AIA (large)
  • Reports back to the group

Register today for the fourth biennial Art of Practice business symposium!
Earn 6 elective LUs.
Registration closes June 9.

Art of Practice is generously sponsored by Bamforth, Gropen, Keith Fabry, Lee/Shoemaker PLLC, McGriff Insurance, Moseley Architects and O’Hagan Meyer PLLC

If you would like to sponsor the Art of Practice conference, contact Jody Cranford.

The 2023 AEC Virginia Spring Conference

Strategic partners are highly valued. For architects, these include, most especially, Professional Engineers and General Contractors. This year’s AEC Conference provides an excellent opportunity to connect with these allies. The event will be held 25 and 26 April at the Hilton Downtown Richmond.

Speakers, presentations, and roundtables will address important issues such as leadership, business development, legislative advocacy, risk management, recruitment and retention, and the economic forecast for the industry. Presenters from the architectural delegation include Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, Caitlin Morgan, Assoc. AIA, Hana Nguyenky, AIA, and Eric Keplinger, AIA. Learning Units will be reported. I am already registered and look forward to seeing you there.

Additional information on the conference and the hotel, as well as the registration form can be accessed here.

Paul Battaglia, AIA

Knowledge Community Grants

Do you have a passion for one of these knowledge communities? AIA Virginia launched new knowledge community grants last year by awarding $1,000 to the Historic Resources Committee (HRC) and $1,000 to the Committee on the Environment (COTE).

Are you interested in re-invigorating an AIA knowledge community throughout Virginia? Do you need some seed money for a special speaker or an in-person statewide event? A new grant program is available to any statewide knowledge community (new or already up and running.) Your knowledge community could be awarded up to $1,000 to remove programmatic barriers and to enhance the quality of programming. $2,000 in total grants are available each year.

Eligibility requirements

  • Must be an AIA recognized KC either currently organized or newly formed. (Virginia Women in Design is also eligible.) Grant monies could be used to start a recognized KC.
  • KC volunteer committee must have statewide representation.
  • Program/initiative goal should be to reach members across the Commonwealth.
  • Grant monies to be used for honoraria, materials, venue, technology, and/or something that advances the efforts of the KC.
  • Any grant recipients agree to submit a follow-up article/pictures (30 days after event) to show how the grant helped advance the mission. This article will be shared with the AIA Virginia membership through email, social media, Inform Magazine, etc.

Application process

  • Applications will be open now through April 28, 2023.
  • Applications can can be submitted by the KC chair or committee members.
  • Complete online application here>> https://www.aiava.org/knowledge-community-grant/
  • Monies will be awarded and available starting July 1, 2023.

ELA Class of 2023

Meet the Emerging Leaders in Architecture class of 2023! This year’s class of 15 comprises architects and associates from around the state and students from Hampton University and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. We will be traveling around the state throughout the year for our educational sessions and focusing on the Charlottesville area for this year’s class project. Would you like to support the class as they travel around the state? Contact Cathy Guske, cguske@aiava.org for more information.

Bottom row: Noah Bolton (2023 Chair), Emily Baker, Ava Helm, Mira Abdalla, Anna Kniceley, Haley DeNardo (2023 Vice-Chair), Middle row: Lindsey Blum, Caitlin Morgan, Perry Hammond, Veena Shah, Adam Schultz. Top row: Cat Smith, Jason Lin, John Sturniolo, Briana Smith-Stiff, Kelsey White, Javius Richardson.

Procrastinator Series

Join AIAVA for our Procrastinator series – a series of Lunch and Learn sessions for those of us who couldn’t get around to it before now. These sessions are for you if you happen to be running behind on your learning units for the year or waiting till the last minute.

Because we get it.

Each approved course is worth 1 AIA | HSW credit.

We hope you’ll join us below:

(click the date to be taken to registration link)

December 5: Design Green & Healthy Built environments with Natural Wood Flooring with Walter Laurie

December 8: Maximizing Tile Installation Using Profiles with Gustavo Tovar

December 9: Using High Pressure Laminate (HPL) Compact Panels for Drained and Back-Ventilated Rainscreen Wall Systems with Dan Brown

December 12: Interior Non- Load Bearing Partitions with Anthony Stazzone

December 13: Waterproofing Roof Decks and Balconies with Walkable PVC Membranes with Nathan C. Heavel

December 14: Meeting LEED v4.1 Acoustical Requirements for Schools with Scott Harvey

December 15: Structural Mulling for Fenestration with John Pugh

Experience lots of NEW and lots of COOL at Architecture Exchange East!

How amazing it will be to return to our annual gathering of friends and colleagues in November as we assemble for Architecture Exchange East 2022! For the post-pandemic ArchEx, we are retaining the best bits from the past, refining other bits, and adding new bits to create (and curate) a lighter and brighter ArchEx as we explore the conference theme of “(re)Building Community.”

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”

 ~ Eliel Saarinen

As I contemplated possible topics for this month’s newsletter article, I decided that concentrating on our largest gathering of architects was well worthy of the space and attention. Mr. Saarinen’s quotation seems the perfect representation of our intentional ‘redesign’ of Architecture Exchange East. We are doing more than reinvigorating this significant member event; we are enlivening it in a way that will have our members and stakeholders departing genuinely uplifted, with their batteries fully recharged. 

Energizing all aspects of the conference aligns with our desire to make it more aspirational and inspirational for everyone through enhancements to the exhibit hall, educational programming, marketing and promotions, hospitality, social events, and other major components. Foremost in our minds, in each and every way, is elevating your experience as an attendee.

Arriving in your inbox this week was your invitation that explains all of the opportunities for networking collegially, growing professionally, and rebuilding societally. We hope this stimulates your interest in participating in a wholly redesigned user experience – one that promises to be awesome for attendees, vendors, exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers alike.

Join in the newness … join in the coolness … November 2-4 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. I cannot wait to see you there for “(re)Building Community!”

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA
Interim Executive Vice President