It’s a Wrap: Art of Practice 2019

Nearly 60 firm leaders came together in Northern Virginia on March 22 to exchange ideas, enjoy fellowship, and learn at the second biennial Art of Practice.

The program kicked off with Message Book training presented by the AIA’s Caitlin Reagan and Frank Scanlan. The group learned the basics of communication philosophy and how to design effective messages. After hearing some excellent tips and watching good (and truly awful!) examples of public speaking, attendees took part in an interactive exercise on crafting message headlines. After that, the group dug into how to use these tools in business development and advocacy environments. Several brave souls volunteered to put what they learned into practice. Short mock interviews were conducted and played back for the group to critique.

Following robust conversations (and wine) over lunch, Michele Russo, the Managing Director of Research and Practice at the AIA, offered an economic forecast. After sharing current conditions and the top four business concerns in architecture firms, she offered a 2019/2020 outlook for the profession.  Predictions indicate that firms can expect growth in 2019 – but at a slower rate than last year. She shared several indicators that hint at slower economic growth in 2020.

Karl Feldman from Hinge offered emerging research and best practices for employee recruitment and retention. He shared generational differences in how candidates approach a job search as well as how they evaluate opportunities. Following a lively Q&A session, Karl moderated a Leadership Transition Panel Discussion featuring Donna Phaneuf, FAIA; Mark Orling, AIA; Bob Moje, FAIA; Tom Kerns, FAIA; and Rob Comet, AIA. Each of the panelists shared their approach to leadership cultivation and transition within their firms.

Art of Practice Video

Special thanks to Philip Moo for creating a video of highlights from the day.

Art of Practice Photo Gallery

Art of Practice

The second biennial Art of Practice is intended to elevate the business skills of firm leaders and cultivate connections between peers in a comfortable, retreat-like atmosphere. The day-long program takes place at the Winery at Bull in Northern Virginia.

Both seasoned and emerging leaders will come together to share and learn best practices, advance their business skills, and form a lasting network of peers.

Please join us in thanking our generous sponsors:

Pella Windows of Virginia
Hinge Marketing
VMDO Architects
MEB General Contractors

Art of Practice Agenda Announced

Current and future firm leaders from across the Commonwealth will converge on March 22, 2019, at the Winery at Bull Run for the second biennial Art of Practice summit. The program is intended to cultivate leadership skills, identify solutions to common business problems, and fuel collaboration across the profession.

Registration is now open for the day-long event in Northern Virginia. The venue was selected to nurture a retreat-like atmosphere and to encourage relationship building among peers. In keeping with this notion, space is extremely limited, so early registration is strongly encouraged. Tickets are available to members only and are $125 (lunch is included). Participants can earn 6 learning units.

Art of Practice is sponsored by:

Pella Windows of Virginia
Hinge Marketing
VMDO Architects
MEB General Contractors

About the Program

Advanced Communications Training
Effective communication skills are critical the success of any business leader. Take part in an intensive leadership communications program — developed specifically for architects — that was designed to improve your public speaking and storytelling skills. Learn advanced presentation techniques and discover more about your personal style and delivery. Come away with an understanding of how facial expression, eye contact, hand and body movement, and voice impact your message.

Lunchtime Roundtable Discussions
The learning doesn’t stop when we break for lunch. Taking a cue from the most popular part of AIA Virginia’s Firm Roundtable meetings, we’ve reserved time for peer-to-peer learning. Discover best practices and share your experiences with colleagues while you enjoy a catered lunch (carefully paired with sparkling water or a glass of Bull Run’s finest).

Employee Recruitment and Retention
Firm leaders are telling us that their biggest challenge right now is finding and hiring the right talent. Hear emerging research from the AEC industry and discover best practices for employee recruitment and retention.

Moderated Leadership Transition Panel Discussion
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Whether your firm is facing the retirement of a key leader, a merger, or simply considering how to nurture the next generation of principals, leadership transitions can often take years — even with advance planning and management. Hear how your colleagues faced a host of issues and positioned their firms for success in the face of change.


A limited room block is held nearby at the Hyatt Place Chantilly. Make reservations online or call the Reservations Center at 1-888-591-1234 using the group code G-AIAE. Complimentary shuttle service is available for those who wish to stay afterward and a enjoy tasting.

About the Art of Practice

The biennial Art of Practice was launched in 2017 with the purpose of providing current and aspiring firm leaders and with timely, relevant, actionable advice on how to grow and sustain their businesses.

Read the key takeaways from the 2017 event and see the photo gallery.

Practice Conference Takes Place on March 22

Registration is now open for AIA Virginia’s second biennial Art of Practice. The day-long event, which takes place on March 22, is intended to cultivate connections between peers in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Both seasoned and emerging leaders will come together at the Winery at Bull Run in Northern Virginia to share and learn best practices, advance their business skills, and form a lasting network of peers.

Participants in the program will consider the following questions:

  • In the face of a changing economy, what are smart firms doing to prepare for the future?
  • What are the leading trends that will impact practice?
  • What role should the AIA play in supporting firm leaders?

As the Board of Directors developed the current Strategic Plan, it was clear from member feedback that there was a desire for programming, tools, and resources to help elevate the business skills of AIA Virginia members. In response to that need, the Art of Practice was launched in 2017 with the explicit purpose of providing current and aspiring firm leaders and with timely, relevant, actionable advice on how to grow and sustain their businesses.

Registration is open to AIA members only.

Read the key takeaways from the 2017 event and see the photo gallery.

Sponsored by:

Pella Windows of Virginia
Hinge Marketing
VMDO Architects
MEB General Contractors

Maggie Schubert, AIA

A native of a small town in the Virginia Piedmont, S. Maggie Schubert, AIA, received her Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech in 2008. During her collegiate studies, Maggie received the Lucy and Olivia Ferrari scholarship and was awarded the opportunity to study at the Center for European Studies in Architecture in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. Also while at Virginia Tech, Maggie studied for and successfully completed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) exam. Virginia Tech’s missions of learning, discovery, and engagement through its motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) guides Maggie to strive to serve others to promote positive change and to build a better community through the work of the profession. She’s a graduate of AIA Virginia’s Emerging Leaders in Architecture program, the recipient of AIA Richmond’s Richard L. Ford Award and the AIA Virginia Emerging Professional Award.

In 2014, as AIA Virginia celebrated 100 years at it’s Centennial Luncheon at the Jefferson Hotel,  Maggie was asked to Toast the Future of the profession which she used as a call to action:

“We must redefine architecture’s place in the community and continue
to evolve in the way we present ourselves to the public. We must have
courage to face vulnerability and imbalance, and strive for diversity in our profession to better reflect the demographics of our society.

I ask that each one of us continue to be the visionary, so that we may
create a common language and a common goal … may we as leaders
and emerging professionals continue to have the passion and courage to create design that inspires to make our vision for resiliency a reality.”

Maggie has championed the evolution of the architecture profession through leadership, education, mentorship, and her service as the voice of emerging professionals in the Commonwealth. Her work will help to define the trajectory of the profession for years to come.

She has served on the AIA Richmond Board of Directors, as co-chair of the Young Architects and Interns Forum, and as chair for Richmond Women in Design. Schubert’s leadership and passion for the profession continue beyond her local chapter as well. She has served as Associate Director on the AIA Virginia Board and chaired AIA Virginia’s inaugural Art of Practice conference.

Reflecting on Firm Culture

“We must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance, and truly begin to live our dreams.” ~ Les Brown

Friday, March 31 brought the first Art of Practice Conference to AIA Virginia firm principals.  It was a pleasure to welcome so many of the profession’s leaders to the inaugural experience.  I especially want to again thank Maggie Schubert, AIA.  Maggie graciously accepted her appointment as the chair of this first-ever event and has been dedicated to its success since that moment.  We all have her to thank for envisioning and executing such a special member-focused conference.

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA

The day centered, as the title suggested, on matters of import to architectural practice, particularly firm culture.  It was (and will be) intended to complement the focus on design that is afforded by the ever-popular Virginia Design Forum.  Art of Practice will take place on alternating years (odd years) with the Forum (even years).  This program promises to be transformational for our profession within the Commonwealth, particularly as it grows and develops in the coming years.

In anticipation of the session, I recalled the inspiring words of noted African-American speaker Les Brown, quoted above.  If we apply Mr. Brown’s admonition to ourselves, it reminds us that WE ALONE have the capacity to be the architects, the designers, of an enriched firm culture … of a transformed culture for the profession … and of an enhanced, “big-C” Culture for the public we serve.  The Art of Practice Conference is our chance to design that future as it relates specifically to our practices.  It offers the perfect opportunity for us to work collectively and collaboratively to chart a course toward a preferred future for this profession.  As our firms grow stronger, the profession at-large in our state will be elevated as well.

Some 14 years ago, the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) rightly shown a spotlight on “studio culture” through their Studio Culture Task Force Report.  We have all become sensitized to “studio culture” as a result of their great research and reporting.  Schools now have stated expectations for the way students will be treated in the studio and in the classroom.  The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) has included the requirement for a policy on studio culture in their Conditions and Procedures, and schools are ‘dinged’ if they don’t have a policy in place.

But what have WE, as a profession, done to transfigure firm culture?  That is OUR part to determine and be dedicated to.  Aspects of firm culture certainly impact our emerging professionals, yes.  But, firm culture that is constructive, positive, and supportive inures to the benefit of all office team members, not only those just entering practice.

For this year, our conference focused on the aspects of firm culture that get at the heart of how individuals in this profession are engaged within their respective practice settings.  I hope that beginning with Art of Practice, we’ll have a new and different conversation that leads to a new and different place.  Better firm culture for ALL firms.  Better experiences for all employees.  Better outcomes for all clients.  We can especially anticipate a more amazing future as a result of our efforts on behalf of our practices … and the profession.

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA | EVP, AIA Virginia

Art of Practice Wrap

AIA Virginia’s new conference focused on the practice of architecture kicked off for the first time on March 31st. The conference, titled Art of Practice, brought together firm leaders and emerging professionals from throughout the state to discuss firm culture topics ranging from equity and diversity to leadership development and building effective teams. The Mid-Sized and Small Firm Roundtables were also launched during the Art of Practice.

Conference Chair Maggie Schubert, AIA, welcomed attendees to the conference along with AIA Virginia President for 2017 Bill Brown, AIA, and AIA Virginia Executive Vice President Helene Dreiling, FAIA. Each spoke to the importance of the Art of Practice going forward and how the Art of Practice can grow to help reach our Strategic Plan goal of advancing the knowledge and expertise of our members with a focus on educational opportunities surrounding the business of architecture. Firm Culture breakouts followed along with a regulatory update by Kate Nosbisch from the APILSCIDLA Board and legislative update from Patrick Cushing from Williams Mullen.

The afternoon focused on building knowledge communities within the profession with the ongoing dialogue at the Large Firm Roundtable and the founding of the Mid-Sized and Small Firm Roundtables. AIA Virginia sees these Roundtables as an important piece of the future of the profession as we continue to promote the sharing of ideas on how to grow and strengthen the profession. If you would like to be a part of any of the Firm Roundtables in the future, please contact Helene Dreiling at

Great Minds … Great Ideas

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

AIA Virginia is convening a diverse cadre of decision-makers, from practices 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. Roundtable discussions will focus on leadership development, team building, diversity, inclusion and equity, and legal challenges faced by firms.

On March 31, AIA members from around the state will gather as “great minds” to “discuss ideas” for advancing our profession within the Commonwealth. We invite all firm leaders to be part of the inaugural Art of Practice forum. This forum will center, as the title suggests, on matters of import to architectural practice, particularly firm culture. It is intended to complement the focus on design that is afforded by the ever-popular Virginia Design Forum and will take place on alternating years (odd years) with the Forum (in even years).

In early 2015, under the leadership of President-elect Nick Vlattas, AIA, we convened key leaders from the state’s largest firms to discuss issues and items that were relevant to their practices. The Virginia Large Firm Roundtable has since met on four occasions to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. Their sessions have become an integral part of their engagement with AIA Virginia and we’re pleased to have nearly 100% attendance at almost every meeting.

In that spirit, and in response to our members’ requests and needs, we shall now convene a Small Firm Roundtable as well as a Mid-sized Firm Roundtable. These two, along with the Large Firm Round Table, will meet for the first time at the Art of Practice conference.

Firm principals should watch for a special e-mail and invitation from me on behalf of conference chair Maggie Schubert, AIA. We anticipate that after these initial sessions, these groups will convene twice during each year, once in the spring and again at Architecture Exchange East (November 3, for 2017). We hope this will continue for some years to come. (Please note that the Sole Practitioners Roundtable will meet for the first time in June under a separate invitation.) In order to keep the event FREE to attendees, it will take place at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design in Richmond. Space is limited, so you’ll want to register right away to ensure a spot in this exciting launch event.

For this year, our schedule looks like this:

9 a.m.        Welcome reception and coffee
9:30 a.m.   Opening remarks and keynote presentation
10:00 a.m. Firm Culture Breakout Sessions (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion;
Succession Planning and Leadership Development; and Building Effective Teams)
11:45 a.m.   Lunch, with regulatory and legislative updates
1:00 p.m.    Knowledge Community Breakout Sessions
(Large, Mid-size and Small Firm Roundtables)
2:45 p.m.    Roundtable Report Outs and Closing Discussion
4:15 p.m.    Happy hour reception

Our conversation promises to be transformational for our profession within the Commonwealth, and we hope you’ll take time from your busy schedules to attend this important conference. In fact, we expect the discussion to be quite rich, making this is an event you won’t want to miss. Please register here.

We look forward to seeing you on Friday, March 31!





Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA | Executive Vice President

Art of Practice

We have heard from our members and colleagues that the recession has caused a gap in professionals at your firm that we might consider “the middle.” You are looking for ways to enhance the skills of your younger professionals and accelerate them into firm leadership roles. At the other end of the spectrum, there is also a need for preparing the existing firm leadership for their exit when the time is appropriate.

To meet this need, we are creating a new one-day conference to be held in the opposite years of the well-loved Design Forum and held at various locations throughout the state.



The Art of Practice is designed to build skills required by our profession. Topics for discussion will include firm culture, marketing, new technology trends, and how to grow your practice. With relevant content for both small and large firms, no matter what stage in your career, we are sure there will be something for everyone.

Put it on your calendar: March 31 in Northern Virginia. Come to build your practice skills; come to be inspired.

If you have any questions or want to know how you can be involved in the Art of Practice Conference, contact Event Chair Maggie Schubert, AIA, or Marshall Dreiling, Education Manager.