Al Cox, FAIA, Christopher Gordon, AIA, and Mel Price, AIA, will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Achievement next month by AIA Virginia. The Award for Distinguished Achievement recognizes the accomplishments of one or more architects each year in design, practice, education, service as “citizen architect,” service to the profession, or initiatives to advance social justice, equity, diversity, or inclusion.
Al Cox, FAIA, retired in March after 28 years as Historic Preservation Manager for the City of Alexandria, which is home to no fewer than six National Register historic districts and nine African-American historic places containing dozens of significant and contributing structures. Cox conceived and implemented several processes to streamline development review and build consensus between city officials, architects, developers, and citizens. By building relationships with all stakeholders and encouraging constructive public participation in the regulatory process, he became respected as a fair-minded, effective mediator, guiding development teams to the most appropriate design solution and consistently pushing them to accomplish their best work.
It was Cox’s conviction that the city is a living, evolving organism and not a museum frozen in time. In that vein, he fostered many successful new infill projects in Alexandria as well as many thoughtful and sensitive adaptive reuse projects throughout the city’s 15 square miles. A passionate preservationist, he was also a proactive advocate for good design, regardless of style. His philosophy, education and private sector experience was grounded in historic preservation for its cultural, economic and environmental benefits without limiting creative, appropriate modern design alternatives. The role of City Architect and the design review processes created by Mr. Cox provides a model that can, and should, be repeated in local governments throughout the country.
Christopher Gordon, AIA, is a national leader who collaborates with developers and zoning authorities to create affordable housing that advance the vision of a diverse, inclusive, and sustainable community. His comprehensive approach from concept through crafting innovative strategies to obtain financing through the whole life-cycle of the building, itself, shapes the efficacy of high-performing and affordable solutions for people. Gordon transforms lives, and as a founding principal of KDG Architecture in 1995, he has directed his firm to award-winning success while remaining anchored in the needs of clients and communities.
Chris’ 2018 Columbia Hills project for Columbia Pike in Arlington is one of dozens of examples of his design leadership over the last quarter century. The $91 million, 330,000 square foot project consisting of 229 units for low-income families, recently won a ULI Washington Trends Award as a national case study that blends a novel hybrid financing model with an EarthCraft Platinum certification with a host of amenities that bring richness and community to one of the areas largest apartment buildings. “Chris advances the profession of architecture resulting in lasting impact on society,” says Manoj Dalaya, FAIA, in his nominating letter, “and he is highly deserving of an Award for Distinguished Achievement.”
Mel Price, AIA, has spent nearly two decades building a strong reputation for designing and leading numerous successful projects at all scales. When Mel Price and her partner, Thom White, opened their Norfolk firm Work Program Architects in 2010, they also pushed a different sort of philosophy of firm management through transparency about finances and salaries, prioritizing collaboration and openness above all in projects, and reserving 10 percent of firm profits to cover pro-bono service. In short, Price built a practice worth emulating with an unrelenting focus on community.
Price has also built a practice that’s helping secure Norfolk’s future. Coastal resilience is an urgent challenge that will affect the lives of millions of Americans, 1.7 million of which live in the Hampton Roads region. By forging close ties to her home city, Mel and WPA have steered several projects to completion that are born of a focus on resilience, will help ensure a sustainable future, and will repair communities long derelict or suffering. The Elizabeth River Project’s Resilience Lab, the Elizabeth River Trail, government grants for the Ohio Creek Watershed encompassing Norfolk State University and the Chesterfield Heights neighborhood, OpenNorfolk, and the Selden Market are all prime examples of Price’s valuable contribution to the region.