Meet David Keith, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C

David Keith, FAIA is a Design Principal and CEO of Hanbury in Norfolk, Virginia.David champions a model of practice driven by continuous talent development, creating a thriving culture of design excellence and transforming the firms that he leads and the communities and campuses in which he works.

David is a fierce advocate for growing the next generation of architects and professional leaders. Entering the profession in 1987, in the first Intern Development Program class, he observed that few firms had a clear approach to helping young architects grow professionally and personally. Ever since, he has analyzed how architects learn. Beginning with his first opportunity to mold practice culture, he has shaped teaching firms that deepen and accelerate that learning, providing intentional opportunities for growth with every project.

David structures his practice to create a continuum of education for young designers entering the profession. His expanding firm’s new offices are located near architecture schools. He works closely with schools to understand what students are looking for. Out of this exchange and his personal experiences, David developed his firm’s career development and talent recruitment programs.

David has created teaching practices that use these tools to ensure continuous professional and personal growth:

  • Research: David incorporates researchinto studio practice, to enable individuals to explore subjects(building systems, program outcomes, evidence-based design, sustainability and resiliency, etc.)about which they are passionate. David works to build each designers’ confidence that they can complete outstanding projectsthat reflect their passions and interests.
  • Mentoring:David’s Responsibility Matrix (presented as a case study inThe Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice) enables young designers to assess abilities, identify personal growth agendas, and communicate those agendas to teammates. This process takes place at every project phase kick-off, when young team members identify both the strengths they will bring to the project and five or six goals for professional growth. The project manager is expected to incorporate two or three of these goals into the team’s work plan, thus ensuring growth with every project and providing an opportunity for each employee to shape their career track in a personal way. This approach creates motivated and highly effective teams that often over-perform.
  • Expectations of Senior Staff: The incorporation of goals for growth into work plans is a core expectation of senior staff. Because it puts young people in unfamiliar situations, they will at times make mistakes. David closely guides how senior staff responds to such mistakes, enforcing a strict “No Assholes Rule”: no getting mad, no beating people up, no blaming. It is a moment for teaching.

Summer Scholars Research Projects

A pivotal element of David’s approach is the Summer Scholars program, which has brought young people from more than 25 prestigious schools of architecture throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, India and China to engage in research and design that achieves real-world significance.

Design Excellence

The outward fruit of systematic talent development is design excellence across a wide range of contexts, from conventional practice, focused on higher education, civic and commercial projects; to pro bono practice, advancing the missions of organizations like Operation Smile; to rigorous design-build work for the US military; to regional community development. 

Firm Transformation

The inward payoff of talent development is firm transformation. The most vivid measure of David’s success is the transformation of Clark Nexsen. In the 15 years he was its Director of Architecture and Design Director it won over 200 design awards — more than 40 of them from the AIA — and rose to #11 in the ARCHITECT magazine 50. His current firm, Hanbury, with David in his fourth year as President and CEO, is on a similar trajectory.

The profession has long sought better models for bridging between school and practice. David Keith’s teaching office, its success abundantly proven, is just such a model.

Where did you go to college? 

I’ve been a Virginian most my life. Born in Northern Virginia, grew up in Charlottesville, attended Virginia Tech and have spent most of my professional life in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

I have a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech (1987).

What does it take to be an architect?

Curiosity, passion, humility, and leadership mixed-in with a strong desire to learn and solve problems in creative ways.

Was there an architect that particularly inspired you?

I am most inspired and grateful for the many teachers/mentors that have influenced my career….Olivio Ferrari, Doug Gilpin, Marley Carroll/John Walters, Rohn Price/Dave King, Sandy Bond/Rob Comet/Doug Westmoreland, Brad Tazewell and Jane Rathbone along with many others. 

What are you currently reading?

I love books about art, architecture and design, however my reading has tailed-off dramatically…I’m currently reading Vishaan Chakravarti’sA Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America

and I found Henry Ayon’s book Egyptian Placesto be a delightful journey to a place I haven’t been.

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?

It’s not a single meal, but my favorite meal by far is Thanksgiving Dinner. We celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving with Turkey, Country Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Stuffing, Pumpkin Pie (with Cool Whip), Green Beans, and Yeast Rolls. Most of all, I enjoy the gathering of the family (and it’s always a 4-day weekend which more often than not includes a Hokie win over the Hoos).

Why do you volunteer with AIA?

I believe that our profession has much to offer the world, and the AIA is the one organization that brings together architects from all backgrounds and provides opportunities to make an impact beyond our projects. It’s important to be involved and volunteer with the AIA as it will be what we collectively bring to it.

Awards for Distinguished Achievement Announced for 2019

Michael Ermann, AIA, David Keith, AIA, and Kevin Sneed, FAIA, will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Achievement at the Visions for Architecture gala on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at the Hilton Downtown Richmond. The Award for Distinguished Achievement signals especially noteworthy achievement by an architect in any one of the following categories: design, practice, education, service as “citizen architect,” and service to the profession. This award may serve as an accolade for the work of an entire career or recognize the current accomplishments of a younger leader.

“I am pleased to have been a colleague of his, and continue to be impressed with his selfless approach to the education of professionals, young and old.”

Jack Davis, FAIA
Michael Ermann, AIA

Since 2001, Michael Ermann, AIA, has made significant contributions to the profession as an educator and researcher. During his time as a professor at Virginia Tech, he has taught design studio, building systems, architectural acoustics, materials and methods, architectural structures, and even a walking tour class for non-majors titled “Design at Every Scale.” For this work, he has been recognized with numerous teaching awards, including the university-wide Virginia Tech Teacher of the Week award and the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design Lecture or Seminar Teaching Excellence Award, twice. He has received perfect student evaluations in six different courses.

In addition to his more than 18 years teaching at Virginia Tech, he launched an ARE prep program that has benefited thousands of practitioners around the country. His Amber Book and video series, have transformed the understanding of critical information on life safety, site design, construction, structures and mechanical and electrical systems aiding countless professionals along the path to licensure. He has also conducted vital architectural acoustics research which was published in Architectural Acoustics Illustrated (Wiley, 2015), and recognized with the AIA Virginia Prize for Design Research and Scholarship.

He has further been recognized as an accomplished designer, winning several design awards from AIA Blue Ridge.

“David has a visceral enthusiasm for every step of the design process. People want to work with him, work for him … Throughout his career, he has raised the bar for what qualifies as ‘good design’ all across Virginia.”

–Eric Keplinger, AIA
David Keith, AIA

David Keith, AIA, is a design principal and the Chief Executive Officer of Hanbury. Throughout his 30 year career, he has left a tangible impact on some of Virginia’s most well-known architecture firms as well as cities and institutions across the state. Recognized for his unwavering commitment to design excellence, he has worked on more than 250 projects, amassing an impressive number of Design Awards.

In addition to his service as Vice President on AIA Virginia’s Board of Directors and the Editorial Advisory Board for Inform Magazine, he has also served on the Hampton Roads Design Build Institute of America and the Virginia Beach Planning and Design Review boards.

A leader who is deeply committed to education and mentorship, he has delivered dozens of lectures and talks and has contributed numerous articles to nationally-recognized publications. Deeply engaged in Hanbury’s Summer Scholars program, he has helped to identify research areas that frequently reveal opportunities in communities that could profoundly impact their shape, vibrancy and economy.

Kevin G. Sneed, FAIA, is an architect passionate about the profession who, early in his career, engaged in
groundbreaking activities that have become mainstream initiatives for guiding the future of the profession.

John Burns, FAIA
Kevin Sneed, FAIA

OTJ’s Kevin Sneed, FAIA, has approached his career with a clear dedication to public and professional service.

Since joining the AIA in 1987, right out of school, he has been an enthusiastic advocate and engaged participant. In addition to serving as secretary, treasurer, and president, he also co-founded AIA Northern Virginia’s Young Architects Committee, setting a precedent for organizing activities to nurture emerging architects that now thrives in components throughout the Commonwealth — and across the country. He later served on AIA Virginia’s board and at the national level on the Young Architects Forum, Diversity Committee, Brand Advisory Committee, and the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community. In 2004, he was recognized with the National AIA Young Architect Award for his substantial contributions to the profession.

He used his role as a leader in the AIA to forge connections within the industry. He strengthened ties between the AIA and the National Organization of Minority Architects and leveraged his chairmanship of the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community to improve collaboration with interior design organizations, the Construction Specifications Institute, and the U.S. Green Building Council.

He has also been a model for community service.  Canstruction, Habitat for Humanity, the Board of Architectural Review for the City of Alexandria, the Maryland State Board of Interior Designers, and the Maryland State Board of Architects have all benefited from Kevin’s generous donation of his time and expertise.

2014 Prize for Design Research and Scholarship Announced

The jury for the Virginia Society AIA Prize for Design Research and Scholarship, chaired by Brad C. Grant, Director of the School of Architecture and Design at Howard University, has voted to award the 2014 Prize to Virginia Tech associate professor Michael Ermann’s work Architectural Acoustics Illustrated.

The jurors recognized that Ermann’s submission covered an interesting and important subject, noting that the content has great depth and could become a standard text book for architecture education.

The Prize will be awarded during the Annual Meeting of the Membership on Thursday, Nov. 6 in room E11b and Earmann’s work will be presented that same day during Architecture Exchange East in session 306 at 4:15 p.m.

Additionally, the jury awarded Honorable Mention to Clark-Nexsen’s David Keith for The Sustainability of Materials. The jury praised the work’s excellent graphic representations, “a key component in getting the public, especially a young public, to engage.”

This Prize is intended to encourage theoretical awareness, educational exchange, thought and research in architecture, both within academic institutions and within the offices of practicing architects who participate in theoretical pursuits.