ELA Class of 2020 – Our Journey

Our journey as the AIA Virginia ELA Class of 2020, was unprecedented for many reasons. Tasked with finding ways to transform the city Portsmouth and create an equitable, vibrant and a resilient downtown was a challenge from afar. With the social and political crises and the challenges that the Coronavirus pandemic brought to test how the in-person program functions, our team managed to match the scale of the hurdles with the amount of dedication and passion we all brought to the table. This program is designed to bring select designers and architects from across the state of Virginia to hone their skills as future leaders, give the the opportunity to widen networks, all while meeting with other designers from varying points in their careers. As a group, we gained much more than we initially expected, and we experienced much more than we could have ever imagined. As the class of 2020, (Ariana Arenius, Catherine C. Hendrick, Paris Casey, Kenneth Johnston, Christopher Cheng, Kristin L. Jones, Amanda Ferzoco, Mert Kansu, Michael Lawson, Zach Robinson, James Vidoni, Jacob Sherry, Gabriela Orizondo, Matt C. Stevison, Allison Powell, and Randa Malkawi) we are thankful for all the individuals and organizations who have made this program possible, and how it helped us improve as designers, architects, and citizens.

Emerging Leaders in Architecture – Class of 2020 in Portsmouth, Virginia.

We started with bi-weekly tele-conferences for group and distributed tasks early in order to best coordinate. This made the transition to working from home and conducting the class fully virtually as smooth as possible. From the initial stages of the project research, we understood that any architectural intervention should reflect what the community desired. We did not aim to reform, transform, or rebrand the city without their involvement and accompaniment along the way. We believe what Portsmouth has in its local culture, history, and soul is invaluable. All we needed to do was make the right supporting moves as designers to reveal and compliment what was already present. Since we were not able to meet community members face-to-face, we utilized digital tools such as online surveys, social media advertisements, and digital flyers to reach out to the residents in survey form to get their opinions on what they feel was missing or could be improved in the city. With this survey data, site analyses, and research from past master planning efforts, we were able to pinpoint three main sites to focus our energy. We have selected two anchor sites, connected between with a re-envisioned street (High Street). These sites would help attract residents as well as visitors to the city, bringing a pedestrian friendly atmosphere to boost the commerce along High Street. This in turn could help kickstart a chain of development improvements throughout Portsmouth.

The Green Street Crossing site, located at the intersection of High and Green Streets, was an abandoned site of a former Church, since burnt down. Housing a large building mural of the Battle of Craney Island, this site has been envisioned as a park that includes green spaces, resting areas, a playground, and a community center. On redesigned High Street, more room for green space gives way to slowing traffic with pavement interventions and a more pedestrian and bike friendly setting. The High Street Landing site sits at the end of High Street at the waterfront. This development, already partially constructed in downtown Portsmouth, has been a commendable success, however the connection to the business corridor is lacking. An inlet housing music events and a dock for small boats is improves into an urban park with an educational and bio-diverse terrace containing oyster beds. This move  brings back the local biome to the water’s edge, helping with stormwater runoff. An improved dock and a new pavilion building on the edge of the waterfront brings a dynamic stronghold to the coastline view from across the river. As the pedestrian walks inland towards the High Street corridor, the street is pedestrian oriented, but still allowing one way traffic. This area is flexible, with Farmer’s Market stalls in place for public use except during market hours.

Efforts were organized into parcels and concepts that can be individually phased to be more realistically funded and built. The intention was to have a multi-scale approach to our design. As a part of this effort, we wanted to zoom in to the human scale, the daily life of a person that is walking or driving around Portsmouth. With Wayfinding & Signage studies, we developed a package that included a vision of what wayfinding objects, street furniture, signage, and city art could look like, in order to reinforce the Portsmouth brand. As this design could spread farther away from the core downtown, we looked into redesigning the look of the tunnels, to instill a strong impression of the city for those traveling through.

With the art installation, named “The P” (as in Portsmouth,) iterations of a steel P shaped object have been created that could exist in different locations throughout the city. Made from oxidized steel, a familiar material to this historic naval city, we imagined this object could be a way for the community to come together, gather their expertise in artisans, and build a branded object which would be placed along the streets that are walked everyday.

Our work has been extensive, but we could not be happier with the results of this challenge. We have worked passionately to present something that could help improve Portsmouth. We gathered our work for this year into a book and gave multiple presentations to the community members, local organizations, and city officials. Months after our official graduation from the program, we are still in touch with the City, and working hard as a group to keep the conversation going to get construction started. We love the excitement that has resonated with the locals who have heard about the work. Our dream is that the city benefits, and in some way the work we have done can catalyze action among officials and developers to help realize the great potential that the city contains already.

Landscapes of Learning: A Panel Discussion about The Heights Building

Join the AIA Northern Virginia Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) and AIA Virginia at noon on Friday, March 5, 2021 for a virtual tour and panel discussion about the new Heights Building, an Arlington Public School (APS) facility in Northern Virginia.

The structural masterpiece is inspired by the values and educational mission of APS and serves as a model example for innovative solutions to school design. Green terraces at each floor become an extension of the classrooms, creating an indoor-outdoor learning landscape for both students and teachers — an educational oasis rather than a traditional school setting, addressing the academic needs of the school’s program while forming a vertical community within its dense urban context.

The panel discussion features speakers from Bjarke Ingels Group, Leo A Daly, Arlington Public Schools, Silman, and Gilbane.

About the Panel

Tony-Saba Shiber AIA | Senior Architect, Designer at Bjarke Ingels Group
Daniel Sundlin | Partner, Bjarke Ingels Group
Aran Coakley, AIA | Project Manager, Bjarke Ingels Group
Tim Duffy, AIA, LEED AP, CSI | Vice President, Leo A Daly
Andrew Graham, AIA | Associate, Leo A Daly
Dr. Casey Robinson | Principal, Arlington Public Schools
Jason Myers, PE, SE, LEED AP BD+C | Associate, Silman
Tyler Swartzwelder, DBIA, LEED AP | Senior Project Executive, Gilbane
Jenine Kotob, AIA | Chair, AIA Northern Virginia CAE

Explore the AIA Northern Virginia Virtual Tour site.

Earn 1.0 AIA LU | HSW. This event is free.

To learn more or get involved with CAE NoVa email cae@aianova.org. Follow CAE NoVa on Instagram to stay up-to-date with the latest news and activities.

Bjarke Ingels Group logo

After attending this event, attendees will be able to: 

  1. Discern the programmatic and spatial challenges associated with designing a large secondary school for a tight, urban site.
  2. Illustrate innovative structural solutions to design a complex, yet, sophisticated building that requires close collaboration between engineers and architects. 
  3. Apply concepts of resiliency and sustainability to support healthy schools, especially in an urban context. 
  4. Recall protocols and procedures to curate robust community engagement in the design process for localized and appropriate solutions.

AEC Virtual Symposium: Registration is Open

The 2021 AEC Virginia Spring Symposium will be hosted virtually by the Virginia chapters of the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Institute of Architects, and the Associated General Contractors on March 17-19. Its vision is to bridge together architecture, engineering, and construction professionals to collaborate, create, and build for the future. The symposium will give participants a preview of the 2022 in-person conference being planned for Virginia Beach.

Register through the symposium’s website here>>

The following speakers have been invited* or have already confirmed participation:

The Honorable Ralph Northam
The 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Chris Chmura, Ph.D.
Founder of Chmura Economics & Analytics

Jason El Koubi
Executive Vice President of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership

The Honorable Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.*
Senate of Virginia – 24th District
Finance and Appropriations Committee

The Honorable Mark D. Sickles
Virginia House of Delegates – 43rd District
Vice-Chair of Appropriations Committee

2021 Student Design Competition Launches Jan. 22

The 2021 AIA Virginia Prize competition kicks off the spring semester by offering students the opportunity to win a $2,000 prize. Three additional $300 “Best of School” prizes will also be awarded. The competition is a design charrette that engages students at all the accredited schools of architecture in Virginia.

The 2021 AIA Virginia Prize launches on Friday, Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. and runs through Monday, Jan.25 at 9 a.m.

Conducted simultaneously at Hampton UniversityUniversity of VirginiaVirginia Tech, and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC), students work over the weekend to create a design solution. Each school’s faculty reviews the submissions and sends up to 10 finalists to AIA Virginia for judging by a statewide jury.

Development of the competition brief rotates between the four schools annually — the 2021 Prize challenge was developed by faculty at WAAC.

The competition was launched in 1980 and is intended to promote collaboration between the profession, students, and professors in Virginia. Watch for announcement about the winner in the coming months.

To see the winners of last year’s competition, check out the 2020 Prize announcement.

Interested in supporting the AIA Virginia Prize by becoming a sponsor? Contact Jody Cranford.

ELA 2021 Class Announced

Here’s the 2021 class of Emerging Leaders in Architecture.

Barbara Benesh, AIA, B. Grace Design
Marcos Alberto Borjas, Associate AIA, HKS Inc.
Kayla Bromley, Associate AIA, Reader + Swartz Architects, P.C.
Haley DeNardo, Associate AIA, Niles Bolton Associates
Maggie Dunlap, Associate AIA, WAAC
Alexandra Marie Foster, Associate AIA, MTFA Architecture, PLLC
Gary Glinsey, Hampton University
Aria Hill, Virginia Tech School of Arch + Design
Iroda Karimova, Associate AIA, HBA Architecture & Interior Design
Sasha A. Light, Associate AIA, Jacobs Engineering Group
Ashley Montgomery, Associate AIA, Hanbury
Hayley Owens, Associate AIA, VMDO Architects
Marium Rahman, Associate AIA, KGD Architecture
Stephanie Smid, Associate AIA, Jacobs
Lisette J. Stone, Associate AIA, SFCS Inc.
Taylor Terrill, Associate AIA, TKA Architects

If you are interested in supporting this group through a sponsorship, please contact Cathy Guske at cguske@aiava.org.

HRC Storytime: My Weird Project

If you’ve worked in historic preservation, you’ve come across some pretty weird and wonderful stuff. To kick off the re-constitution of Virginia’s Historic Resources Committee, we’re hosting a social event on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. Got an unusual case study? A fascinating discovery? A horror story? Let’s hear ‘em!

Join us to hear strange but true tales from the world of historic preservation and get to know some of your preservation colleagues from around Virginia.

Register online and let us know if you’d like to share a story (or have us share one on your behalf).


You are Registered, Now What?

You’ve completed your attendee registration for the 2020 Foresight events: YAFCON, Architecture Exchange East and Design Forum (click here if you haven’t!), now you are wondering “how do I access the events?”

You should have gotten an email with all the Zoom join links for the courses you added to your agenda (from rgeorge@aiava.org). We’re finding that this is going to junk mail for some, but sometimes it’s being rejected by email servers altogether. If you don’t have this email – send an email to cguske@aiava.org.

Another easy way of joining is through our virtual event space here: https://event.crowdcompass.com/foresight2020

You’ll have to login the first time, but from there you can visit our virtual exhibit hall, connect with other attendees, and join all your courses by clicking “My Schedule” on the upper left-hand side. (Screenshot below)

And remember to visit and connect with our exhibitors and sponsors who make these Foresight 2020 events possible! You’ll find the virtual exhibit hall when you select “Exhibitors” from the left side of the online event portal or along the top of the app.

We look forward to seeing you!

Webinars from The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design

Welcome to a new day at The Branch Museum! We are excited to announce new virtual experiences through our two new webinar series (https://branchmuseum.org/webinars/). We particularly think that you will enjoy revisiting the old home of AIA Virginia, the Branch House, as it undergoes several phases of restoration.  The Branch House Restoration Series will bring you into our ongoing work on the beautiful 101-year-old Branch House. Through five webinars we will provide an opportunity to go where the public generally cannot explore: the roof and chimneys, the beautiful plaster work, and even the inner workings of the pipes and plumbing, as well as the history of the House. The first 3 of the 5 planned webinars in the series are available for registration now.

Others will follow:

  • The Branch House Roof, Wood Trim & Windows | Wednesday, December 2
  • The Branch House Brickwork & Mortars| Wednesday, January 13
  • The Restoration Dialogue – Solving the Unknowns of Preservation and Restoration – The Branch House Pipes | Wednesday, February 3

Architecture in Dialogue explores the architectural design process, which must begin in dialogue. The consideration of multiple issues and the inclusion of all voices is necessary to ensure that the built environment truly serves and uplifts the entire community. This need for input and involvement is especially important at a time when, whether through shifts in social norms or more sudden upheaval due to climate or disease, the built environment must change to be at once resilient and sensitive. All webinars in the series are available now for registration.

Virginia Women in Design

Evidence of a Treasure:
For the Future – Creating Constellations, Celebrations, and the Tracery of a Network.

Thursday, Oct. 22, noon-1:30 p.m.

Come and find out how you can be a part of the ongoing work of the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) to create a beautiful mosaic of women’s involvement in architecture with three glimpses into the IAWA constructing an invitation to you.

Earn 1.5 AIA LU

The event is free but registration is required.

Virginia Women in Design is using this platform to raise funds for the ACE Mentorship Program in Virginia. Please join us in making a donation today!

Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Ambassador?

Are you a social butterfly? Are you professionally curious? Are you hoping to expand your professional network? If the answer to any (or all) of these questions is yes, consider becoming a Foresight Ambassador!

The job is simple. You’ll join us for Foresight 2020 programming (for FREE!) and in exchange we just ask that you do the following:

  • Encourage your colleagues to register for Foresight 2020
  • Attend Foresight 2020 programming
  • Engage with your fellow attendees
  • Ask questions during panel discussions and Q&A periods
  • Thank sponsors and exhibitors

Essentially, you’ll help serve as hosts of this party – making sure everyone feels welcomed and connected.

This is a great opportunity for job seekers or anyone whose professional development budget has been cut.  

If you are interested, please complete the form below no later than Oct. 1. Ambassador positions are limited. We’ll be in touch later to confirm the details of your participation and offer training.


This form is now closed. If you're interested in becoming an Ambassador, contact rgeorge@aiava.org.