Meet the ELA Class of 2024

Meet the Emerging Leaders in Architecture class of 2024! This year’s class of 15 comprises architects and associates from around the state and students from Hampton University and Virginia Tech. We will be traveling around the state throughout the year for our educational sessions and focusing on the Alexandria/Arlington area for this year’s class project. Would you like to support the class as they travel around the state? Contact Cathy Guske, cguske@aiava.org for more information. Be sure to follow the ELA Instagram account at ela_aiavirginia to follow their progress throughout the year.

KJ Ammon, Associate AIA (AIA Richmond nominee)
Philip Baxter, Associate AIA
Zachary Britton, Associate AIA (AIA Blue Ridge nominee)
Danielle Corbin, Associate AIA (AIA Central Virginia nominee)
Miguel Gereda, Associate AIA
Noor Hadi, Associate AIA
Ananth Jayaraj, Associate AIA
Tony Lin, Associate AIA (AIA Hampton Roads nominee)
Brynn McClatchey, AIAS (Virginia Tech)
Shukrullo Miruaydullaev, Associate AIA
Niki Pardakhti, Associate AIA (AIA Northern Virginia nominee)
Amari Ross, AIAS (Hampton University)
Emily Savoca, AIA
Irem Sezer, Associate AIA
Jessica Somgynari, AIA

ELA 2024 Applications Due Nov. 10

AIA Virginia announces the call for applications for the 2024 class of Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA): An Honors Academy of AIA Virginia.

The application and more information are available here>>
The application deadline is Nov. 10, 2023.

ELA is an intensive program of educational sessions structured around presentations, discussions, team exploration, analysis, consensus-building, collaboration, and case study activities undertaken over the course of a year by a small cadre of participants selected for their potential to be outstanding contributors to the profession and the community. Facilitators and mentors who are established leaders in the building, finance, non-profit, development, university, legal, consulting, and design professions and in the community at large develop and deliver the sessions, designed to provide participants with advanced knowledge and skills related to specific areas of leadership and practice.

The program consists of monthly, day-long seminars, work sessions, or class project presentations, culminating at a presentation at Architecture Exchange East in November.

The seminars are interactive, drawing on real examples and actively involving participants. They rotate among sites in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, Alexandria, and Norfolk in conjunction with the firms, schools, and the local AIA component in each area.

The class project for 2024 will be in Northern Virginia, so many sessions and the project workdays will be located in the Northern Virginia area.

How to Apply
The committee seeks applicants from three categories:

Component Nominees: Each of the five AIA Virginia local component Boards may nominate one or more individuals for admission to the program. One participant will be selected from each component for a total of five. If interested, please contact your local AIA chapter representative. Each chapter sets its own deadline and application requirements for these positions.

Student Nominees: Each Virginia Architecture School (UVA, VT, Hampton, and WAAC) may nominate one or more students for admission to the program. One participant will be selected from each school for a total of four. If interested, contact your department Chair/Dean.

Open Applications: Applicants may apply on their own or be nominated by someone else. Seven participants will be selected from among these applicants.

The application and more information are available here>>
The application deadline is Nov. 10, 2023.

If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Guske, Member Services Director, cguske@aiava.org

2023 ELA Class Profiles

AIA Virginia’s award-winning Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA) program was developed in 2009 to jump-start the careers of young professionals. Conceived of and lead by a passionate steering committee of successful architects (ALL past ELA alumni!), the program was designed to share the things they wished they had learned in architecture school.

Each of the seven day-long sessions focuses on developing essential skills like community engagement, collaboration, firm creation, financial management, advocacy, public service, and much more. The remaining monthly sessions are dedicated to their class project from a region around the commonwealth.

Want to be a member of this elite group of leaders? The application for the 2024 class will be available later this summer. Contact Cathy Guske for information on how to nominate an emerging leader or with any questions about the program.

We asked members of the ELA class of 2023 the same five questions. Get to know them better by seeing their inspiring answers.

Mira Abdalla, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Last month for Ramadan my friends and I visited the Ottoman-style Diyanet Mosque in Maryland, and it was such a transformative experience for me. To be in a building that felt like the physical and spatial manifestation of something so inexplicable and divine was incredible. Upon entering, I was awestruck by the large void filled with light. The way the Qur’an recitation reverberated in this space seeped into my soul and stuck with me for days after. It was the most tranquil architectural experience I’ve had in a long while.

What is the last book you read?
Architectural Ornament: Banishment & Return by Brent C Brolin (lent to me by my lovely mentor, Julia!)

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
In high school, I was in an architectural drafting program while also taking AP Art History. I remember in Art History always being especially excited to discuss the works of architecture. I felt there was something so beautiful and poetic about these works of art that are experienced three-dimensionally and tell the stories of their inhabitants. I always loved storytelling, but it was then that I realized architecture is my favorite way to do it.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Anything where I can sit outside & soak up the sun! I love having picnics with friends, going to farmer’s markets, reading on my porch, and admiring Charlottesville’s beautiful scenery from any good spot I can find!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Architecture is subjective, don’t be afraid to have your own opinions. Think about what your unique background, interests, & experiences can bring to the world of architecture, and lean into it!

Emily Baker, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
A few years ago visiting Barcelona, I got to tour the famous Casa Mila. I ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time on the rooftop traversing the undulating walkways, peering around sculptural formations, and enjoying the vantage points created of the surrounding city skyline. It was like its own little fantastical world up there!

What is the last book you read?
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I’ve always been curious about how the built environment can influence how one lives, works, and plays. Coming from a small town, the complexity and sometimes chaotic nature of cities fascinated me. I found myself considering both architecture and urban planning for college majors. I ended up selecting architecture because I liked the idea of influencing a city’s built environment at a more micro level – one building at a time – and being able to physically stand within something that started with just a blank sheet of paper and my imagination.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Taking my two dogs hiking/camping. Allows time for silent reflection, while listening to the calming sounds of nature – plus it’s great exercise!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
There are a lot of career paths that an architectural education can lead you. Take opportunities to ask other architects about their educational/professional journey, as it may spark inspiration for your own path.

Lindsey Blum, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog and de Meuron. On a recent trip to London, I found myself captivated by the main stairwell. I spent around an hour chatting with a woman on holiday from her law firm in Boston. She said she’d never particularly loved the art in the Tate but had been back three times to enjoy this space.

What is the last book you read?
Taste by Stanley Tucci, “The Tooch”

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
At first, I had a simple love of making things. When I was young, I was building small towns for my stuffed animals from used detergent bottles and old pizza boxes. As I grew up, I was afforded several opportunities to make things for others – from large porch ramps to small home improvements. A slight dose of naivety led me to pursue architecture simply for the love of making things. I have been fortunate to find a great love of both design and community in architecture as a result.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Dare I say running? Without fail, my greatest moments of relaxation stem from the perfect balance of popcorn, peanut M&M’s, and some good tunes.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be cognizant of the architect’s role to know “a little bit about everything.” Prioritize and consume the things that get you excited about architecture and design.

Perry Hammond, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is pretty amazing. I felt transported to a different time and place when inside. The combination of plants, art, and low light made me feel like I was in a novel.

What is the last book you read?
Designing The Forest by Lindsey Wikstrom.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
I think my relationship with architecture turned from interest to passion when I realized how connected the built environment is to the natural environment. Rather than seeing a division between buildings and ecology, I’ve come to accept the complex entanglement of the two with hopes of benefiting both equally through design. Architecture has tremendous power to change our communities and environment, and it’s up to us to decide what that change looks like.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I enjoy going on walks, whether in an urban environment or in nature.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Find what aspect of architecture makes you excited and pursue that above all else.

Ava Helm, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Recently,  I have not been inspired by one building, but the many I see while walking around the streets of DC where I work. The variety of different building types, colors, materials, etc all work in different ways, and you never know when you’ll stumble upon something inspiring!

What is the last book you read?
The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

How did you discover your passion for architecture?  
Long story short, I discovered my passion for architecture from a high school teacher. I had no interest in going into architecture and he convinced me to take his architecture class. I ended up loving it and decided to test the waters with the Syracuse University Summer Architecture Program. This opened the floodgates and I have not looked back since!

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I like to go on long walks with my dog. 

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
My advice is to trust yourself. Architecture is hard and it’s okay to make mistakes. You need to trust that you are doing the best you can. When it gets hard, take it one day at a time, but don’t forget to smile!

Anna Kniceley, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA.

What is the last book you read?
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I’ve always had a fascination with construction. This likely comes from having an engineer for a dad and growing up around uncles with hauling and excavating businesses. After my freshman year at Virginia Tech, I was on track to transfer from Business into the Interior Design program. However, in the summer transfer studio, my eyes were widened to the endless possibilities of Architecture. I owe a tremendous amount of thanks to Dr. Hilary Bryon for steering me into the Architecture program.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
You can usually find me going for walks with my dog, Emmie Kay while listening to an audiobook or podcast.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be curious about everything! Form positive relationships with engineering colleagues and find people who are willing to answer any type of question.

Jason Lin, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s always invigorating to see works by Architects that you’ve studied in school. I was amazed by the identity of the spaces and just how much of the surrounding area was inspired by Wright’s work.

What is the last book you read?
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. The televised ending left me wanting more.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was watching How I Met Your Mother throughout my senior year of high school and really resonated with Ted Mosby, who was a, you guessed it, an Architect on the show. I had taken some drafting classes as well and enjoyed the craft, I applied and got into Virginia Tech for both Architecture and Engineering and made the decision to begin my journey.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Love playing volleyball and gaming with my friends.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Ask questions. You can never learn enough and don’t be afraid to take risks and go beyond your comfort zone.

Caitlin Morgan, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, VA. This historic downtown treasure has such rich stories within its architectural details, and as a Harrisonburg native, it makes these little details even more special. Since 1856, the Warren-Sipe House has served the community in many ways – Civil War hospital, rec center, family home, temporary court house, and finally the home of the Virginia Quilt Museum. Even the exhibits complement the 1800s-style gallery space where some of the quilts are older than the house itself. Every time I volunteer with the museum, I gain a new understanding of how valuable these historic treasures are to downtown neighborhoods and the adaptable longevity of architecture in society. 

What is the last book you read?
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It’s a fascinating mix of architecture, history, and culture rooted in the development of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. 

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I always share the cliché story of playing with Legos and building mini-cities as a kid (because it’s true!), but as I grew up and learned more about what architecture is, I found a love for how it incorporates anthropology, historic preservation, art and design, and more. There are so many facets to architecture that it feels like there’s something new to discover every day. 

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
My brain doesn’t know how to stay still, so I’ve been spending more time on activities where I can keep moving while letting my head focus on a single task… Painting, making music, golfing (new to this one but loving it!), sketching, and even quilting. 

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Find a way to set yourself apart! This is sometimes daunting, but once you find something you love, become a resource for others also interested in that trademark. Early in my career (i.e. during the global pandemic) I teamed up with three colleagues in architecture to create Emerge AEC, a passion project that connects emerging professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction. Every month, we host virtual events for AEC professionals at every experience level with topics that range from professional development to little-known AEC careers. Check out @EmergeAEC on Instagram and learn more at EmergeAEC.com!

Javius Richardson, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
During my first time at the African American Smithsonian last summer, the building overall and lighting qualities made a negative or sad reaction feel more like a connection to a timeline of history. The way the building was separated by open floors it was like a separation of emotional value but it became more positive as you traveled from floor to floor. It was a great opportunity to be able to see how the building formed the experience.

What is the last book you read?
Since I am still a student at Hampton University, it seems my day always ends by reading The Architects studio companion by Edward Allen and Joseph Iano

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture after discovering engineering wasn’t a path I wanted to take at Hampton and I was having trouble finding something I loved to do or really interested me. I had colleagues who were making beautiful projects that involved everything I loved to do and I grew up around it, and soon I realized my real passion was architecture. It felt like it was meant to be and I have loved it ever since.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I enjoy cooking and a slow night at home watching Netflix.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
For aspiring architects like myself, I’ve learned to stay humble and learn as much as you can from others and the profession in general, apply for any and all internships, and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith even if you are not confident. Everyone has a pace in this profession but you do what’s best for you.

Adam Schultz, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Tate Modern, London

What is the last book you read?
Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture through a school assignment in 4th grade. We were presented with several text descriptions of theater set designs to select from and to design what it might look like. Immediately after painting the materials and atmosphere imagined as the perfect set for the play, I thought and felt that designing spaces was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Draw and paint.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Slow down. Make beautiful things.

Veena Shah, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I recently attended the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Theater, a centerpiece for the Dominion Energy Center for the performing arts. I felt that the impressive façade with intricate details and terracotta decorations immediately reached out to the artistic side, giving me a taste of what was to come. The auditorium features richly colored tapestries, stunning paintings, and intricate statues, which helped create a complete and immersive experience. I found the whimsical and enchanting atmosphere created by the décor to accentuate the tonal works of the symphony by transporting me to a different dimension. The Carpenter Theater (and the performance) truly left a lasting impression on me, and I can’t wait to experience it again.

What is the last book you read?
Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less, written by Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz. With clear, practical advice and relatable examples, the book is a truly impactful guide toward effective communication in today’s digital world. I enjoyed reading the book and have since tried to keep my emails to the point!

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I have always been curious about human psychology and behavior. One of the most memorable moments in my life has been living on a stunning houseboat made of all-wood interiors. The juxtaposition between the enclosed spaces in the houseboat and the openness of the lake left was quite fascinating. I believe it was curiosity towards this evocative and experience-based nature of architecture that drew me towards studying architecture.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I find comfort in spending time with the people I love. I also find playing board games, exploring new places, sitting by a water body, and watching sunsets quite soothing.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Each person has unique skills and perspectives that make them an effective architect. Try to figure out your strengths and ways to leverage them. I find experiences to be the best teacher so jump in and try out different things. For example, participating in the ELA program has offered me opportunities to discover my working style in a non-hierarchical environment.

Cat Smith, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Virginia Tech WAAC building in Old Town, Alexandria. Being in graduate school evokes a lot of strong feelings over the widest possible spectrum of emotion.

What is the last book you read?
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. I’m designing a cemetery and funeral home for my graduate thesis, which has led to some fun reading material. This is a great book for getting an inside perspective of the death industry.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
Honestly, I don’t think I fully discovered my passion until I started working in an office on real projects. A lot of my experience so far has been with affordable housing projects in Virginia. I’ve been honored to build a partnership with a group of residents in Charlottesville who are working to redevelop their current neighborhood. It’s been really exciting to be involved in projects where architecture is being used to solve real-world problems and improve people’s lives.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
When I have the time, I love to go hiking or just walk through nature.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Try everything you can! Work on different building types, go to networking events and building tours, talk to peers and mentors about their experiences, and join different professional groups and organizations. The field is so broad, and there are a million different ways you can fit in, so don’t limit yourself, especially when you’re just starting out.

Briana “Bri” Smith-Stiff, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
One of the most recent buildings I visited that sparked my design engine was the WAAC building. (Washington Alexandria Architecture Center). An extension of the Virginia Tech architectural program. I was able to visit during one of our ELA Sessions and I was so inspired and blown away by the variety of specialty design workshops the students could participate in. I was inspired by all the creativity, the patterns, and the material choices of the decor which also served as the projects of former students.

What was the last book you read?
Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story by Angie Smith

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my interest in architecture during multiple puzzle nights with my mother. When working on complex puzzles she would share a dream about a house she would love to live in. She would go into much detail explaining her desired experiences in each room and space of the house. As she spoke, I would begin to start sketching out what that would look like. I would then create little models of each space and began to piece these spaces together like a giant puzzle.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I enjoy being in or near water. I enjoy swimming, relaxing at the beach, and my newfound joy canoeing. Throw a full body massage at the spa in there then I’m in my peaceful place.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
It’s a wonderful thing to establish a love for architecture, but don’t forget to give yourself room to explore the many avenues architecture can guide you to and through. The journey of architecture is a whirl of endless opportunities. Enjoy trying new things!

John Sturniolo, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
While on a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, I ended up seeing some really rural building details. Some of them were incredibly unique and intricate and brought me immense joy; like finding a shiny gem beneath a mountain… And yet some elements were so incredibly bad that I could not help but wonder what the person may have been thinking! To me, architecture is about the little details, so that is where my eyes are drawn to.

What is the last book you read?
Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda (Graphic Novel)

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I wish I could say it was Legos because I’ve been utterly obsessed with them since I was a child and still am to this day. But in reality, I took several technical drafting classes in high school, one being more architecture focused. There was a project where we had to hand-draft a house floor plan that we designed ourselves. My design was utterly horrible, but I stayed up late into the early hours of the morning to get it done, simply drawing and poche-ing along, completely engrossed in the project. Eventually, I realized, “Yeah, I could probably do this for a living”, and decided to pursue architecture as a career.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
In no particular order: Reading, Legos, disappearing into video games, attempting to catch up on sleep, visiting a local brewery, making a new dish in the kitchen, finding a park or hiking trail to explore.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be willing to learn. Be willing to make and admit your mistakes. Do try your best. Always have a favorite pen.

Kelsey White, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I’m currently planning a trip to Chicago this summer and researching the buildings I want to go see, as one does. I’m most excited to see the Aqua Tower by Studio Gang. I love how she created an organic, sculptural facade with a functional element.

What is the last book you read?
The Scholomance Trilogy by Naomi Novik

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
Through my family. My Dad and brother are architects, we always nerd out at family get-togethers and bore the rest of the family.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Spend time with friends or be a happy introvert at home with a puzzle and my dog.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
The advice I have to remind myself occasionally: you’re always learning, especially in this field where building science is constantly evolving. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what stage you’re at in your career, it’s impossible to know everything. Don’t let imposter syndrome take hold.

ELA Class of 2023

Meet the Emerging Leaders in Architecture class of 2023! This year’s class of 15 comprises architects and associates from around the state and students from Hampton University and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. We will be traveling around the state throughout the year for our educational sessions and focusing on the Charlottesville area for this year’s class project. Would you like to support the class as they travel around the state? Contact Cathy Guske, cguske@aiava.org for more information.

Bottom row: Noah Bolton (2023 Chair), Emily Baker, Ava Helm, Mira Abdalla, Anna Kniceley, Haley DeNardo (2023 Vice-Chair), Middle row: Lindsey Blum, Caitlin Morgan, Perry Hammond, Veena Shah, Adam Schultz. Top row: Cat Smith, Jason Lin, John Sturniolo, Briana Smith-Stiff, Kelsey White, Javius Richardson.

Meet the 2022 ELA Class

The 14th Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA) class started the year virtually last Friday with our first session and look forward to getting together in person in February in our project area of Roanoke, Virginia.

Shahadah Allah, AIAS, from Hampton University
Christopher Brown, AIA, from Moseley Architects
Preethi Chithranjan, Associate AIA, from AECOM
Cody Dodd, Associate AIA, from Hanbury
Steven Foster, AIA, from DBI Architects
Cedric Gilliam, Associate AIA, from Jacobs Engineering Group
Brian Gore, Associate AIA, from Quinn Evans
Darian Henry, Associate AIA, from HBA Architecture
Helen Jadlowski, AIA, from SFCS
Christina Jeyaseelan, AIAS, from the Washington-Alexandria Architecture School (WAAC)
Isabella Nassar, Associate AIA, from KGD Architecture
Bronwyn Redd, Associate AIA, from Jacobs Engineering Group
Cody Solberg, AIA, from VMDO Architects
Katrina Van Orden, Associate AIA, from Hanbury
Sarah Weiner, from Virginia Tech
Alec Woletz, AIA, from Alloy Workshop Architecture and Construction

The 2022 leadership team is:
Breanna LaTondre Helms, Associate AIA, ELA class of 2019, Chair
Noah Bolton, AIA, ELA class of 2018, Vice-Chair
Nick Cooper, AIA, Past Chair
Chris Warren, AIA, ELA class of 2016, Emeritus Advisor

For more information about the ELA program or to help financially support this program, please contact Cathy Guske at AIA Virginia.

Emerging Leaders in Architecture @ Architecture Exchange East

Celebrate the achievements of the 2021 Emerging Leaders in Architecture and hear about this year’s class project.

Tickets are free with a suggested donation to AIA Virginia’s Hampton University Scholarship Fund Campaign.

Donate online or text GIVE or DONATE to (202) 410-2150

If you’d only like to attend ELA @ ArchEx, register online. If you’d like to add other programs to your agenda, please use the registration form below.


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.

2021 ELA Class Nominations Open

AIA Virginia announces the call for applications for the 2021 class of Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA): An Honors Academy of AIA Virginia.

The application and more information is available here>>
The application deadline is Nov. 6, 2020.

ELA is an intensive program of educational sessions structured around presentations, discussions, team exploration, analysis, consensus-building, collaboration, and case study activities undertaken over the course of a year by a small cadre of participants selected for their potential to be outstanding contributors to the profession and the community. Facilitators and mentors who are established leaders in the building, finance, non-profit, development, university, legal, consulting, and design professions and in the community at large develop and deliver the sessions, designed to provide participants with advanced knowledge and skills related to specific areas of leadership and practice.

The program consists of monthly, day-long seminars, work sessions, or class project presentations, culminating at a presentation at Architecture Exchange East in November.

The seminars are interactive, drawing on real examples and actively involving participants. They rotate among sites in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, Alexandria, and Norfolk in conjunction with the firms, schools, and the local AIA component in each area.

The class project for 2021 will be in Richmond, so many sessions and the project workdays will be located in the Richmond area.

How to Apply
The committee seeks applicants from three categories:

Component Nominees: Each of the five AIA Virginia local component Boards may nominate one or more individuals for admission to the program. One participant will be selected from each component for a total of five. If interested, please contact your local AIA chapter representative. Each chapter sets its own deadline and application requirements for these positions.

Student Nominees: Each Virginia Architecture School (UVA, VT, Hampton, and WAAC) may nominate one or more students for admission to the program. One participant will be selected from each school for a total of four. If interested, contact your department Chair/Dean.

Open Applications: Applicants may apply on their own or be nominated by someone else. Seven participants will be selected from among these applicants.

The application and more information is available here>>
The application deadline is Nov. 6, 2020.

If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Guske, Member Services Director, cguske@aiava.org