We Walked Through Fire – But We Don’t Smell Like Smoke

AIA Virginia 2020 Year in Review

There is no question that we are starting to see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Those who are choosing to get vaccinated can now find access to several vaccine options. The Architectural Billings Index (ABI) in February showed that architecture firms are reporting an uptick in billings for the first time since the start of the pandemic over a year ago. Most believe that the worse of the pandemic crisis is over if we continue to exercise caution and follow the instructions of our public health experts.

As such, I am hopeful that each one of you has taken a moment to simply pause.

Pause for a second.

Reflect on the Year 2020 and what it meant to your personal life and your firm. Count your blessings.

We walked through the fire – but don’t smell like smoke!

Yes, we were inconvenienced. Greatly.

But most of us never had to wait in a four-mile-long line to get a free bag of groceries. You may have experienced a temporary pay cut or frozen salary, but the lights in your home stayed on. Somebody out here needs to hear this.

It is with a similar lens that I look back on the work of AIA Virginia in 2020 and cannot help but to smile from ear to ear. Our President at the time, Beth Reader, FAIA led with a steady tempo making sure our organization could fill the necessary gaps our members faced. For example, she played an instrumental role in our Operation: Reach, Retain, and Develop program with the national component of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). This offering was cobbled together and deployed faster than you could turn your head (Similar to how fast – in legislative terms – Congress passed the PPP bill).

This meant it was not perfect, but it was effective. It would not have been possible if it were not for the approximate 50 members who stepped up in a mentor capacity. I am forever grateful for you. You impacted lives and kept these recent graduates in the profession. Do not take my word for it – read the testimonials and talk to these young men and women yourself.

So, it is an honor and privilege to present to you the AIA Virginia 2020 Year in Review.

I hope you thumb through this document and at some point, say, Wow.

I hope you look at it and say, How can I be a part of this?

I hope you walk away being a proud member of this organization.

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA
Executive Vice President

Racing for Relevance

Lately, I have been reading “Race for Relevance” by Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers. It is truly a great read and discusses what membership organizations, such as the AIA, need to do to remain relevant. I thought it was so valuable that I purchased a book for each staff member. Soon, we are going to commence group discussions on each chapter together. Our President, Sean Reilly and I are doing the same thing.

A question you should ask yourself is how will you – as an architect – remain relevant to our society?

Our community leaders are still grappling with how to reopen schools. Our U.S. Capitol was stormed by thugs and now this symbol of our democracy is behind barricades. We continue to see our black and brown brothers and sisters claw through systems that were not necessarily designed for their success.

Again, how will you remain relevant as an architect? How about during a pandemic?

This answer becomes increasingly difficult during a public health crisis. However, it can be done. Let me tell you three things AIA Virginia is doing to remain relevant which I invite you to be a part of.

  1. Elevating the Voice of the Architecture Profession Through Strategic Industry Partnerships
    There is strength in numbers. This is why we are partnering with the American Council of Engineering Companies and the Associated General Contractors for our first ever AEC Virtual Symposium on March 17-19. Together, this coalition has enough prominence to attract the Governor of Virginia in accepting an invitation to be one of our keynote speakers. If the Governor thinks we are relevant, then I would say we are moving in the right direction.
    Please register at www.aecvirginia.com and join us for this event!
  1. Relentlessly Advocating for Architects to Receive Gubernatorial Appointments
    Architects play such a vital role in our communities through the design of spaces and places. As such, we should have a seat at the table on Boards and Commissions whose work focuses on these spaces and places – thus impacting the quality of life in our communities. Our nominees from AIA Virginia were chosen by the Governor to serve on the Fair Housing Board and the Secure and Resilient Commonwealth Panel. Reach out to me directly if serving in a capacity such as this is of interest to you. Your skills are needed and desired.
  1. Being a Part of the Solution in Making our Profession Better Reflect the Society we Serve
    The data says it all. For some demographics, there are leaks in our profession’s pipeline and sometimes even the entry to the pipeline seems obscure. I’m proud to say that we were an instrumental partner in the formation of Virginia NOMA and have a Memorandum of Understanding with the organization to memorialize our partnership well beyond its “start-up” phase. In addition, AIA Virginia was intentional about its fundraising efforts in supporting Hampton University – the state’s only HBCU architecture program. We are hopeful that you are standing with us in these efforts. Moving the needle on an issue like this takes time and perseverance.

Being relevant does not mean you have to be super-human. Just pick one thing to do. And let AIA Virginia help you.

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA
Executive Vice President

Use Your Voice – Being Silent isn’t an Option

In less than 2 weeks, the American people will decide who should be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States for the next four years. During every presidential election, someone almost always says that this is the “most important election of a lifetime”. For many years, there was a segment of our population who were not legally permitted to vote – and when the law was changed – they cast a vote at the risk of losing their life.

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA

There was a moment where this was made very real to me about five years ago. Every since this interaction, my heart has never been the same on this topic.

My wife and I were traveling to Florida and the route we were taking put us in Birmingham, Alabama for an overnight stay. Less than 60 years ago, the racial tension in this city was so great, it was dubbed the name “Bombingham”. While there, as an interracial couple, we wanted to take a few hours to soak in the history that elders in our lifetime recall vividly. One landmark that we visited was the 16th Street Baptist Church.

This church was sadly enshrined in the pages of history on September 15, 1963. It was a Sunday morning where families and children were gathered inside for worship service. Five young African American girls, ages 14 and under dressed in their Sunday best, were in the restroom located in the church’s basement. Giggling and chatting about school, they were preparing to go upstairs for service. It was just before 11:00 in the morning.

KA-BOOM!

A bomb that had been placed under the church’s steps by local Ku Klux Klan members detonated killing a mass number of people including four out of the five little girls. As my wife and I walked in this church, there was a small shoe encased in masonry rubble on display. It was real and not a recreation. It was the real show of one of the little girls who were killed in the bombing on September 15, 1963. The bomb lifted her out of her shoes and the shoe she left behind has become a reminder of some of our painful past.

This is one of many examples, where people were told their voice did not matter. Even if you were an innocent little girl, your voice nor life mattered. It was on this day that my eyes were truly awakened, and I realized it would be blasphemous to remain silent.

Our vote is our voice.

Make sure you use it. Do your research on the issues and support the candidate that you feel will provide the greatest America. Voting is the one way that all AIA Virginia members can participate in advocacy. Because of the many lives that were lost in the quest for equality, we all can partake in the inheritance provided by our democratic process.

See you at the polls.

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA
Executive Vice President

“This is hard. But we are going to be OK in the end”

Full transparency. Pandemic-life is hard for me. Arguably the hardest professional season that I have had to endure in my career (the ARE was very tough but I was blessed to make it through without failing any section).

We recently held our August Board meeting via Zoom. Prior to the pandemic, I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming our 26 Board members from all corners of Virginia to our sleekly designed space in Richmond. Many of these members I have known for a number of years dating back to when I was one of them – a practitioner and fellow volunteer Board member.

Our office’s open floor plan places the kitchen island with three elegant pendant light fixtures as the entry’s focal point. But it is more than just a kitchen island. It is where we gather as professional family. During our Board meeting breaks, this is the space where members congregate to refill coffee, confiscate seconds from the breakfast offerings, and build relationships with one another. The air is typically filled with chatter and laughter. And five-minute breaks would turn into 12-minute breaks requiring the President to slam their gavel on the table to restore a sense of focus. No one seemed to mind. It was a sign that we authentically enjoy each other’s company.

This kitchen island has been vacant for five months now. Our Zoom Board meeting breaks entail clicking the “mute” button, turning off the camera, and heading to the restroom.

Outreach, bringing people together, and presenting with my colleagues at conferences are some of my favorite aspects of this position (some of the best conversations happen at 10:30 p.m. at the hotel bar). My calendar has been wiped clean from meetings in Los Angeles, Omaha, Memphis, and Washington to name a few. I foresee it being this way well beyond the boundaries of 2020.

Now I realize this outlook is a personal one. My introverts out there are thriving right now – living their best life. And as I ponder what the future looks like, there are some bright spots.

I never knew I had so many neighbors. There are hundreds of homes in my neighborhood and prior to the pandemic, I might would see one person while on a morning run. Their duties outside had nothing to do with exercise, but more so allowing their dog to take a bio-break. Today, I habitually see nearly a dozen neighbors walking or biking on my running loop. My family time has increased dramatically which is allowing me to form a relationship with my three-year-old daughter that I never knew was possible. And in a sense, setting up virtual coffee meetings with colleagues around the country is becoming the norm on my schedule opposed to seeing each other at an annual event.

Take this opportunity, to strengthen your relationships with family, friends, and professional colleagues. Recently, a friend shared on Facebook that we should make sure we take a picture with all our siblings. Once you lose one, it is never the same. Let us not look back on these challenging days and have regrets about how we invested our time with and into others.

This is hard. But we are going to be OK in the end.

Be encouraged,

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA
Executive Vice President

AIA Virginia and ACEC Virginia Acknowledged by General Assembly

AIA Virginia and our legislative advocacy partners ACEC Virginia were acknowledged on the House floor of the General Assembly on Feb. 26, 2020.

Below are the remarks made by Del. Betsy Carr:

Thank you, Madame Speaker, I rise for an introduction. Today joining us in the gallery are representatives from the American Council for Engineering Companies of Virginia and the American Institute of Architects Virginia Chapter. If they would please stand…

These organizations are present today to represent the important work that architects and engineers do for the Commonwealth, whether it is the design of buildings, parks, roadways, public utilities, electrical grids or renewable energy sources, or the next generation of the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. Architects and engineers have a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all Virginians through designing equitable, resilient, and healthy communities. They take an oath and must be dedicated to protecting the public health, safety, and welfare in performing their professional services. 

Today, as Virginia responds to a changing climate, both architects and engineers are working together to respond to these effects by designing sustainable and resilient structures that reduce their impact upon the natural and built environment, and protect the life and property of all Virginians.

Madam President I ask that members of the body please stand and give them a warm House welcome.

Pictured in photo
Bottom row, left: Lynden Garland, AIA; Kathy Galvin, AIA; Corey Clayborne, FAIA; Rob Comet, AIA; Chris Stone, PE
Top row, left: John Stuart, PE; Eric Burke, PE; Nancy Israel; Paul Anderson, PE

What’s Your Ripple Effect?

Towards the end of last month, the world received the shocking news that pulled our hearts deep into the pits of our stomachs.

Kobe Bryant. Dead. Age 41.

A fatal helicopter crash snatched the lives of all passengers, including his 13-year-old daughter.

The world is still processing this heart-wrenching news. Men and women. Young and old. Athletes and those who have never stepped foot on a basketball court. There is still chatter in the air at the local grocery store, church, and barbershop.

Those in my generation, felt like they knew Kobe personally. We didn’t. But his contributions on and off the court were so great that you could not ignore them. Even if you rooted against the Los Angeles Lakers, there was not one person who did not realize that the sport was better with Kobe than without him. And after basketball, the community benefited beyond belief from his contributions. He was enshrined as a Legend.

R. Corey Clayborne, AIA

So, what does this have to do with architects and architecture?

As the Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia, it is my goal that our members have the resources and support that allow them to make contributions to our communities and built environment that are undeniably positive. Every project you take on as an architect has great value, regardless of the size, scope, and fee. Yes, some projects are “glamorous” and win Design Awards. That’s cool and it is important to recognize design excellence, however that is defined.

But don’t you think for one moment that the sidewalk repair you did for your community’s Public Works department or the bathroom renovation for the local soup kitchen isn’t valuable or important. I would argue that these projects can potentially impact more lives than the projects that get bright lights and recognition at black-tie events. For example, someone who has been ordered by a doctor to get more exercise, because their life depends on it, requires that sidewalk. That bathroom for the soup kitchen may be the only opportunity an individual has to experience a clean space with natural daylighting daily. A space, no matter how public or private it is that says, “you matter.”

Don’t take any day for granted.

It is so easy to get into the “work” routine. Come in and get coffee. Bang out a reflected ceiling plan and wall details, take a meeting or two, finish a specification section, wash out your coffee cup and go home. What’s going to be your legacy when you are no longer on this Earth? Are you going to be selfish with your talents or share them with others?

I’m challenging you to take your God-given abilities and use them to the fullest. If it is design, then do that. If it is service, then consider serving on a Board or Commission in your community. They truly need your problem-solving abilities. AIA Virginia has the tools and resources to help you be that architect whose contributions are undeniably everlasting. That, my friend, is the value of membership.

Corey Clayborne, AIA, MBA
Executive Vice President

Where’s Corey

Executive Vice President, Corey Clayborne, has pledged to travel around the state and visit firms, components, partner organizations, and universities.

Here’s his recent travel schedule:

AIA Local, Regional, and National Engagement
AIA National Secretary’s Advisory Committee Meeting
Washington, DC
February 6 – 7

AIA National Grassroots Leadership Conference
New Orleans, LA
February 17 – 20

AIA Central Kentucky Guest Speaking Engagement
Louisville, KY
February 24

AIA Virginia Board of Directors Meeting
Richmond
February 28

Ambassador Engagement
University Guest Speaking Engagement
Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design
February 13

Virginia Department of Emergency Management Disaster Readiness Meeting
Richmond
February 27

Where’s Corey

Executive Vice President, Corey Clayborne, has pledged to get around the state and visit firms, components, partner organizations, and universities.

Here’s what is on his travel schedule:

AIA Local, Regional, and National Engagement
AIA DC Board Retreat Dinner
Richmond
January 3

AIA Virginia Executive Committee Retreat
Staunton
January 17-18

Ambassador Engagement
Legislative Reception with Delegate Wampler
Richmond
January 2

Legislative Reception with Senator Reeves
Richmond
January 6

Legislative Reception with Delegate Ward
Richmond
January 6

Legislative Reception with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus
Richmond
January 6

Legislative Luncheon with the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus
Richmond
January 7

Legislative Reception with the Virginia Joint Democratic Caucus
Richmond
January 7

Legislative Reception with the Virginia House Republican Caucus
Richmond
January 7

Virginia General Assembly Prayer Breakfast
Richmond
January 8

Blues, Brews, and BBQ General Assembly Reception
Richmond
January 15

Where’s Corey

Executive Vice President, Corey Clayborne, has pledged to get around the state and visit firms, components, partner organizations, and universities.

Here’s what is on his travel schedule:

AIA Local, Regional, and National Engagement
Architecture Exchange East
Richmond
November 6-9

Council of Architectural Component Executives Leadership Transition Meeting
Boston, MA
November 11

AIA Blue Ridge Annual Meeting
Roanoke
December 4

NCARB Licensure Advisory Forum
Oklahoma City, OK
December 5-7

AIA Virginia Board of Directors Meeting
Richmond
December 12-13

AIA National 96th Presidential Inauguration
Washington, DC
December 13

Ambassador Engagement
ACE Joint Owner Forum with ACEC and AGC
Roanoke
November 13

Preservation Virginia Board of Trustees Meeting
Richmond
December 4

Where’s Corey

Executive Vice President, Corey Clayborne, has pledged to get around the state and visit firms, components, partner organizations, and universities.

Here’s what is on his travel schedule:

AIA Local, Regional, and National Engagement
Council of Architectural Component Executives Leadership Continuity Meeting
Washington, D.C.
October 6-7

Firm Visit
Richmond
October 8

AIA Virginia Board of Directors Meeting
Virginia Tech – WAAC
October 11

AIA Richmond Front Porch Event
Richmond
October 17

AIA Disaster Assistance Bootcamp
Washington, DC
October 21-22

AIA Northern Virginia Autumn Social
Arlington
October 22

Firm Visit
McLean
October 23

Ambassador Engagement
Legislative Luncheon with Delegate Miyares
Richmond
October 1

Legislative Reception with Delegate Davis
Richmond
October 1

Legislative Reception with Senator Vogel
Richmond
October 2

Department of General Services
Statute of Limitations Industry Meeting
Richmond
October 3

Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design Advisory Board Meeting
Blacksburg
October 9-10

Legislative Reception with Senator Obenshain
Richmond
October 17