2022 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 (now 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 2023 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 2022 the same five questions. Here are their inspiring answers.

Shahadah Allah, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I recently had the opportunity to study abroad in France and I was able to see some really beautiful, thought-provoking architecture. Of course, seeing Notre Dame in its current state was the most impactful. Centuries’ worth of work and craftsmanship brought us one of the most iconic cathedrals and being able to witness the restoration progress was a very cool experience. However, I will say it has left me pondering will it return to its former glory or will there come a time when the building takes on a new life and purpose

Shahadah Allah

What is the last book you read?
The last book I read was Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. I remembered skimming through it as an adolescent but decided to pick it back up for some design inspiration. It was a great read, and a reminder to always stay generous with your kindness.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?  
I come from a family of creatives (artists, curators, writers, etc). This coupled with my love for math and science led me to the field of architecture. From an early age, my elders would always mention that I was going to become an architect one day. It started with legos and forts and progressed to room planning and landscaping my backyard with my grandmother. When I got a little older, I ventured into graphic design. Once I began designing I instantly fell in love. The transition from graphic design to architecture was a smooth one. It was challenging and I felt I was able to express my thoughts in my work. After my first rigorous semester, the satisfaction that came with seeing my work on the wall is when I knew I discovered my niche.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Anytime I need to recenter myself and relax, I like to take the day to do all my favorite self care activities. I brew some tea and sit on the patio and listen to the sounds surrounding me. My fur friend, Saturn, tends to join me. It’s always refreshing to see the clouds and stargaze at night.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
My advice for aspiring architects is to be open to varying perspectives.I’m always pulling inspiration from the craziest of places because I find it keeps the work fresh and fun. 

Christopher Brown, AIA

Christopher Brown

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Chichen-Itza and the Mayan ruins.  I admittedly don’t know enough about the history or culture of the Maya, but the intentional way in which their world seems to be designed let me feel that something was important beyond my own comprehension.  That feeling resonated with me for quite some time.

What is the last book you read?
A Year of Playing Catch by Ethan D. Bryan

How did you discover your passion for architecture?  
In high school, I loved the structure of technical drawing.  I was attracted to the idea of putting something together on such a grand scale, so I pursued it.  I didn’t yet understand what it was I was drawing, but I knew it was a space I could dream within.  As my education progressed, I became more and more interested in the way the built environment was a reflection of our experience.  My interest had evolved to question why we build and why it matters.  As I pushed myself to satisfy this question I found such a beautiful answer that it shaped my outlook on the human experience and I knew that my place was in architecture. 

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Go for a long run, work on my garden/yard, or simply taking a step back and watching my family as they experience the world. 

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
No matter how public or private a structure may be, its architecture is a representation of culture and values in a specific period of time.  Take the time to discover what matters to you and the people around you, and find that idea in your design.  Be slow to judge, quick to learn, and always open to what your environment is telling you. 

Preethi Chitharanjan, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
One of the most evoking architectural masterpieces I have seen is the City Palace in Udaipur, India. This palace is one of the most intuitive and magnificent pieces of architecture I have ever seen in the most recent times. Historic architectural styles have always fascinated me. This palace was built in the 1600s and served as the home of the ruler of the city. The intricate detailing showcases the power of architecture in ancient India.

Preethi Chitharanjan

What is the last book you read?
Harlen Coben’s The Woods.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?    
As a kid, my parents used to take me and my brother on vacations all around the country. Every city had a unique style of building and urban fabric…. How do these buildings all look so different and unique?  India is a county filled with unique historic-style architecture. It was at that point that I got curious about how they are built and their unique styles of architecture. The more curious I got the more I read about the different styles of architecture. That was where my passion for architecture was evoked.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Play Badminton.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Follow your dreams. Curiosity can take you a long way, never shut it down until you answer your thoughts.

Cody Dodd, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Visiting the construction site of my own project for the first time this winter evoked a strong positive reaction. Not because it’s the greatest design or anything, but because I was able to see with my own eyes how our design decisions made as a team were actually carried out in the built world. Often times as architects we create designs that exist only in a digital space and never come to fruition, however in this case I was able to evaluate and critique my own work in person on site. Unforgettable.

Cody Dodd

What is the last book you read?
Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
I’m from a small town with hardly any buildings you might call “architecture”, however, my parents took us on many summer trips up and down the east coast. It was on these trips that I became fascinated with the built environment.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Sitting on the beach in the sun is my favorite relaxation activity.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Don’t be afraid to be a specialist. The practice of architecture is vast and there are many avenues to pick from. Find what makes you tick and channel your efforts in that direction.

Steven Foster, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Getty Center in Los Angeles.  My wife Caitlin and I spent hours just exploring the buildings and surroundings in awe.  There were plenty of exhibits when we visited, but the architecture was so captivating that we didn’t even have time to see any of the art on display!

Steven Foster

What is the last book you read?
The Storyteller by Dave Grohl.  I’ve been a Foo Fighters fan for as long as I can remember.  He’s the greatest rock star of my generation and seems like a really interesting guy.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?  
I always loved drawing and building things ever since I was a kid.  However, I never really made the connection to architecture until later in life.  I began my education studying engineering, but the moment I switched to architecture, I truly fell in love with the profession.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love to play golf with my friends.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Keep learning and always be open to new ideas.  Architecture is constantly evolving, and it’s really important to be able to evolve with it.

Cedric N. Gilliam, Associate AIA

Cedric N. Gilliam

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?         
The Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. On a recent trip to Chicago, I took some time to carve out an architectural photography tour for myself and the Hyde Park landmark was my first stop.

What is the last book you read?                
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

How did you discover your passion for architecture?       
Mrs. Bailey, my 7th-grade mentor/teacher always had us do projects from problem-solving matrices to constructing building models and doing research. Her husband was an architect and I would always “sneak over” to look at his blueprints whenever he stopped by…he always knew I did and eventually realized my interest in it and would bring in current project documents to show me what he was working on. 

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?           
Playing some records while sketching or planning out an art project. A trip to the record shop always gets me in a creative mindset.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?              
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone early on, the earlier you do the more exposure and opportunity will be available for you. No growth comes from a place of complacency. 

Brian Gore, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
This wasn’t recent but while in grad school my class visited The Fisher House by Louis Kahn. Kahn is a master of light and shadow and the quality of light in that house was simply amazing. We had to take our shoes off while in the house and because the house isn’t open to the public the space was cold. It was an overcast day, but when the sun peeked from behind the clouds the living room and kitchen lit up in a way that made you forget about how cold it was. Being in that house is one of my favorite experiences.

Brian Gore

What is the last book you read?
I have recently started reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard and Missing Middle Housing by Daniel Parolek

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture by helping my dad with the numerous projects around the house. As a kid, many Saturday mornings were spent at Lowes picking up materials for whatever we were working on that weekend. My brothers and I were digging footers, framing, hanging drywall… you name it we did it. There was nothing in our home that we didn’t have a hand in installing. I didn’t know it then, but I was getting an education on the building process. It was that experience that helped me discover my passion for architecture.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Two things. I LOVE to cook! To me, it is very therapeutic, and it is another creative avenue for me outside of architecture. If you show or let me try a plate of food I’ve never had before I can figure out how to cook it (slight flex). I also enjoy going on walks. I love being out in nature breathing fresh air. It is very relaxing to me, and it is also a way for me to think through problems and ideas.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
My advice would be to find a mentor whether they are inside or outside your office. Architecture can be difficult for young professionals to navigate. It’s great to have a person who you can go to for advice, lessons learned, or just to hear you vent about any frustration you have. Shoutout to Rasheda!

Darian Henry, Associate AIA

Darian Henry

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Rotunda at the University of Virginia. After hearing and learning so much about it in school, it was like standing in front of a celebrity and seeing it for the first time.

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

How did you discover your passion for architecture? 
My love for architecture started with HGTV marathons with my family. When it was time to decide what to study in college, I went on this path not knowing what to expect. After my first year,
I was hooked. It felt as if I had just gotten a deeper understanding of the world around me.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love baking, especially chocolate chip cookies.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Even after graduating, always be in student mode. There is so much to learn and that’s what keeps architecture exciting.

Helen Jadlowski, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
There’s nothing like going to a job site and seeing the project you spent months or years pouring over finally rising out of the ground. It’s a labor of love and a major commitment. Recently I visited Arbor Acres in Winston Salem, NC where SFCS designed two apartment buildings currently under construction that are full steel and concrete structures. It was important to achieve ten-foot ceiling heights for the lower floor levels and up to fifteen-foot ceilings for the top floor units, so the buildings are colossal. Standing on the top floor of the partially framed building and looking out at the city skyline took my breath away.

Helen Jadlowski

What is the last book you read?
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. It spoke to me on a molecular level and revolutionizes everything I thought a leader was. It made me want to become a leader. The book emphasizes being brave through vulnerability. Vulnerability isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.  

How did you discover your passion for architecture?     
I always thought I’d be an artist until my seventh-grade art teacher taught us about Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. A light bulb went off in my mind when she made the relation between art and architecture. Before this, I hadn’t imagined architecture as a profession. At that moment I was irrevocably in love with architecture.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love to paint and garden. When I paint, my mind is completely transported and focused on the task of creation. I feel connected to myself and centered in those moments. Gardening is a physical connection to nature that doesn’t require much thought. I feel joy and excitement when a plant grows and thrives.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be a sponge. The architecture field is vast and that can be daunting. Never stop learning and believe in your abilities. Be bold and brave!

Christina Jeyaseelan, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I just LOVE historic buildings! I feel they provide a unique sense of place and connection to the past world. The most evocative building I came across after moving to the States from India is the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The form represents the style of the greek doric temple is just marvelous and I also admire the way it creates a sense of destination for the national mall. My favorite thing to do around the national mall is to watch the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool at dusk with the hues of twilight shades in the sky. And yes the Capitol building too, I struggle a lot to choose between these two!

Christina Jeyaseelan

What is the last book you read?
The recent book I read was Life between Buildings by Jan Gehl and Writings on Architecture & Identity by Balakrishna Doshi. The book by Gehl gave me a new perspective on how public spaces play an integral role in the life and evolution of cities. As an aspiring Urbanist, I love the way this book explains strategies for creating more lively, vibrant, and healthy public spaces which is very much enlightening to me personally. Writings on Architecture & Identity is a curated set of anthologies by Indian architect Balakrishna Doshi who is also the 2018 Pritzker Laureate. His works shifted the dynamics of postcolonial architecture in India. After reading this book, I realized how important an architectural narrative is in a design. The simple yet beautiful sketches in this book explain the thought process behind each of his projects from the 1950s till the present day, which I admire the most!

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I have always been a science and an art person since my childhood. My passion for architecture began especially during my high school history classes. Learning about the past while designing for the present and the future is the one thing I love most about my profession. The way architecture strives and adapts itself to create better livable spaces for the users in a constantly changing world is the notion that keeps me curious to learn something new every single day!

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love reading books in my leisure time, mostly historical fiction and science fiction. I am also more of an outdoor person, love to go on bike rides, and short hikes, and love to do picnics in the parks around!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Architecture and its tenets are timeless. It requires endurance depending on the various context and dimensions which is highly subjective. Thrive, Learn, Adapt, and more than everything, be confident about your own potential!

Isabella Nassar, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
During a recent trip to Sri Lanka, we decided to climb Sri Pada, a holy mountain where at the top sits a Buddhist temple. While the temple itself is not the most glamorous or ornate, the arduous trek up those 5500 stairs, the religious significance of the site and the shared joy of the pilgrimage made it such an incredible journey. Being able to experience the sunrise over the mountains from that temple was one of the most moving experiences of my life. 

Isabella Nassar

What is the last book you read?
Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. I went through a psychology phase during quarantine and I just finally got around to finishing it! It’s an incredible read, I highly recommended it.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture sophomore year of college – at the time I was majoring in electrical engineering and minoring in architecture. It was my first time experiencing studio culture and I found the creative process addictive. Let’s just say my grades definitely reflected where my interests were and it’s a great thing I switched majors! 

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Without fail I always find I am most relaxed when I’ve gone for a long drive somewhere playing my favorite music, eventually finding a good spot for a walk and sitting out in nature. 

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Nurture your curiosity and try hard to never lose that sense of childlike wonder. 

Bronwyn Redd, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Mildred B. Cooper Chapel by E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jeanings. While in school I always appreciated and researched the design of the famous Thorncrown Chapel by E. Fay Jones, and I recently had the pleasure of attending a wedding at its sister chapel, the Mildred B. Cooper Chapel. It was a beautiful and serene space. The wood and river rock textures as well as the tall windows, clerestories, and skylight immersed you in the natural wooded environment surrounding the chapel. The tall, curved wood structure felt light, soft, and airy. It was a refreshing space to visit and signified harmonious and fruitful beginnings for my friends’ marriage.

Bronwyn Redd

What is the last book you read?
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

How did you discover your passion for architecture? 
My passion for architecture started at home. Growing up, I had many influences surrounding me.  Most notably, I was encouraged by my parents and influenced by the two major renovations/additions done to my childhood home.  Watching the house grow and evolve over the years to fit my family’s needs heavily influenced my appreciation for design.  In addition to the house renovations, I always enjoyed art, drawing, and building from a young age.  My curiosity and imagination often led me to build forts and draw floor plans of my future home, and I think architecture and design combine art and building by emulating artistic conceptual thought in the built environment.

 What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Taking leisure walks to clear my head and ponder everyday thoughts is a favorite, relaxing activity I typically enjoy.  In addition to walks, I have recently and surprisingly enjoyed taking care of my house plants as well.  I feel relaxed by the controlled yet fast, developing condition of a plant’s evolution.  Plants are strong and resilient, and they play an important role in our mental and physical health.  Everyone should own a plant!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
As an aspiring architect myself, I have received a lot of great advice from mentors and peers in recent years.  Their advice has helped me learn and grow as I have experienced new and challenging situations.  Here are some key takeaways from my experiences as an aspiring architect:

  • Be Confident.  Don’t be afraid to try new things and challenge yourself.  You will only grow from new experiences.  
  • Be Humble.  Be respectful and open to new ideas.  Take the time to listen to others because you might learn something valuable from their differing perspective.
  • Be true to yourself.  Pursue your interests and do things that make you excited and happy.  Your happiness will lead to your own success.

Cody M. Solberg, AIA

Cody Solberg

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I was just recently in Joshua Tree National Park and was fascinated by the many diverse contemporary homes on the outskirts of the park. Driving up to the park’s west entrance felt like driving through an architectural playground.

What is the last book you read?
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. After wrapping up my ARE’s last year I have been head down in some truly wonderful, albeit heavy, fiction books. This book was beautiful, raw, and emotionally captivating in all the right ways.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
I was always creative at a young age with drawing, photography, etc, and architecture felt like a logical step in combining a lot of my passions.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Jump in a pool and swim the day away.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Explore as many outlets as you can, especially while in school! Act like a sponge and absorb as much as you can and then continue to pursue your own individual creative outlets outside of the profession.

Katrina Van Orden, Associate AIA

Katrina Van Orden

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?

What is the last book you read?
Living Queer History by Samantha Rosenthal 

How did you discover your passion for architecture?      
I had the amazing privilege of visiting Spain in 8th grade and I was so impressed with how much better the cities were designed to navigate and experience. The buildings were beautiful and intentional. 

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Knit!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Chase the “why” within your passion for architecture. Figure out who you want to make for, and why you want to make it. 

Sarah Weiner

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I recently did a case study of Villaggio Matteotti, a housing development by Giancarlo di Carlo. I love how he worked to design it with the factory workers who would be living there.

Sarah Weiner

What is the last book you read?
I am currently reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. It is a gripping and dramatic detailing of how our economic structure drives the progression of climate change. Klein presents a radical call of action to drastically change that economic structure in order to save our planet. Her book scares me to my core, but it is an excellent reminder of what my purpose as an architect is.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?     
Back in high school, I started urban spelunking. Some people might call it trespassing. I have always loved the history and character of old buildings being reclaimed by the environment. There’s something eerily romantic about abandoned urban space. Now that I’m older, I prefer to leave those old ghosts alone, but I still admire them.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Definitely playing with my pet rats. I build them little mazes and cardboard forts to climb around in. They’re silly little critters. Nothing is quite like coming home after a stressful day to two pocket-sized sewer puppies.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Find a healthy work-life balance. It’s easy to lose yourself in the world of architecture. There’s so much to learn and so much work to do, but your health is of the utmost importance. Make time for friends, family, hobbies, and especially sleep. Your work will be of higher quality and you will be happier as a result.

Alec Woletz, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The UVA Memorial to Enslaved Laborers – During our most recent ELA session in Charlottesville, we were given a tour of the memorial with one of the descendants of enslaved laborers and 2 members of the design team.  I’ve walked around the memorial many times and admired the design, but this experience unlocked a much deeper level of understanding of all the thought and symbolism that went into it.

Alec Woletz, Alloy Workshop architects. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LLC

What is the last book you read?
The Ships of Earth, by Orson Scott Card.  After learning a lot from non-fiction books in the past few years, I am rediscovering my love of Sci-Fi pleasure reading and going through a book series that was on my shelf for a long time.  This is number 3 of 5.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
In early childhood, my parents recognized my passion for building with Legos, K’nex, playing cards, and 3D puzzles.  They encouraged me to pursue architecture and I am grateful for they set me on that path early on.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Hiking or biking to a quiet place where I can read and/or sketch outside.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Be curious and go explore as many buildings as you can!  There is a huge difference between learning about a building in an article, book, or an image in a lecture and experiencing it in person.  If you don’t have the resources to travel the world and see famous buildings from history, explore the architecture of your town, city, or state.  You will be surprised to find how many interesting buildings are in your area, and learning from them will inform your work for many years to come.

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.

ELA Class of 2021 Wrap-Up

Emerging Leaders in Architecture is a year-long professional learning and service program created by the Virginia chapter of the American Institute of Architects This program brings together students and young professionals from across the state for monthly sessions on topics that will deepen our understanding of professional practice, alongside a year-long project to create a meaningful deliverable for a particular community. For the class of 2021, our focus was the neighborhood of Blackwell in Richmond, Virginia. We were tasked with developing a design proposal that addresses the needs of a community on the verge of significant redevelopment while considering the preservation of its history and culture.

View their ArchEx project presentation

Blackwell is a predominantly Black, low-income residential neighborhood in the city of Richmond. Like many inner-city neighborhoods, its history is linked to urban renewal, gentrification, and cultural erasure. White flight and urban divestment have resulted in much of the surrounding neighborhood fabric and culture being erased to make way for newer development, highways, and outpriced housing markets. The residents of Blackwell feel as though they have been continually left out of the conversation and are now being driven out by increasing property taxes and cost of living.

To properly address the historical and present-day inequity, as well as the physical and economic challenges that impact the community of Blackwell, we focused our initial efforts on listening to community members to learn and prioritize their needs. We heard that Blackwell lacked access to resources, especially fresh produce, affordable housing, and physical places for people to gather. Without these resources, the residents will likely be pushed out of their neighborhood due to the redevelopment happening all around them.

As our group discussed how to honor, secure, and support the existing community and culture of Blackwell, we acknowledged that, as outsiders with limited time on this project, we cannot pretend to be experts on the community and cultural identity of Blackwell. The only people who can decide what Blackwell needs are the people who live or work there. So, instead of focusing on a specific structure or a location, we explored ways that we could connect residents with resources that already exist so that they can assert their own agency regarding the future of their community. We have since assembled a “community tool kit” for Blackwell: an entry-level, user-friendly guide for starting a grassroots effort to support whatever improvements the residents decide are most important. These tools have been developed for and in conjunction with the community of Blackwell.

Over this past year, this project and process have taught us all so much about the vital role that community engagement must play in all our projects as designers. We prioritized listening to the Blackwell community, and in response to what we heard, did our best to produce a tool for them that is tangible and practical. We have also partnered with local organizations that are willing to store and distribute this community tool kit so that this information is made continually available to Blackwell long after our ELA 2021 class has disbanded. Now, we look to your financial and professional assistance to put this tool into the hands of the community so that they can continue this initiative in their own unique way. If you are able, please consider financial support of this project to help bring this community tool kit to life.

Help fund this project>>

ELA 2022 Nominations Open

AIA Virginia announces the call for applications for the 2022 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. 5, 2021.

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 2022 will be in Roanoke, so many sessions and the project workdays will be located in the Roanoke 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. 5, 2021.

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

ELA Day in Manchester

We all agreed. If we were going to meet in Richmond, we wanted to spend as much time as possible getting to know Manchester, our project location, and its people, those we are seeking to serve.

The 2021 Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA) group had been only meeting online, in classic pandemic fashion, until this past mid-May when a number of our team members made the trip to Richmond for a hybrid session of goal setting; exploring Manchester, a neighborhood of Richmond just south of the James River; and engaging with community members in person. Our group has 16 members from all over the state, but only one of us lives in Richmond. This has been a particular challenge that we have been grappling with as we seek to get to know Manchester and make a meaningful response to the particular needs of the community. Early on we decided that we wanted to be collaborators with the people and different organizations who make Manchester special and are deeply invested in its future. It is through centering these people and including typically marginalized voices in the design process that we could make something that was relevant and responsive to everyone’s needs. Manchester is changing rapidly with big questions about how it can develop in a way that benefits all who live there now. We hoped the process by which we developed our project would help build collective power within Manchester’s community and give them tools to better advocate for themselves. 

Our Charlottesville class session about community engagement left us inspired by the speakers who shared their experiences. We heard stories from Bruce Wardell of BRW about the resident-led design of a redevelopment project, gleaned insights from Katie Swenson’s experience at MASS Architects, and were excited by the examples Serena Gruia, a public engagement specialist for Albemarle county, shared with us about how we might design engagements in order to co-create with the community. These stories, and the values of centering the community in the process, formed the basis of our outreach to Manchester in May.

This first engagement was an effort to make our group known and to start building trust with the people that live and work here. That afternoon, we broke into five teams with four of them focusing on talking to businesses. Since we do not have a permanent location in the area, getting business’s support and insights were essential to starting to connect more deeply with the community. While these groups shared about who we are, asked questions, and put up our blue ELA posters, they also made observations about the different things they saw while walking around. Our fifth team was stationed outside the library with a large map of Manchester and colored stickers inviting passersby to place stickers on the map indicating favorite places, home, work, etc. The stories they shared about this place through this exercise helped us start to discern themes that we can explore more deeply as a design team. We hope to go back again with another in-person session as well as develop a survey that starts getting into more specifics.

Doing this engagement in-person made me realise how many voices we would have missed by only doing something online. We would not have been able to reach the people who engaged with us on the street that day without physically being in this place and putting faces to our name. Another in our group offered their experience of that day saying, “It was amazing to hear how passionately the local businesses felt about their community once we started our conversations. You can tell they genuinely care about preserving the sense of place that already exists in Manchester.” Someone else shared that, “I’ve realized that being able to holistically understand Manchester is like getting to know a person… To be able to offer support you have to be open-minded, compassionate to their history, their goals, and character.” 

If you have insights to share about Manchester or thoughts on our engagement efforts so far we welcome you to contact us! We can be reached at: elamanchester2021@gmail.com

submitted by:
Hayley Owens, Associate AIA
ELA Class of 2021

2021 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 (now 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 financial management, communication and negotiation, advocacy and 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 2022 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 2021 the same five questions. Here are their inspiring answers.

Barbara Benesh, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I’m very proud to currently be renovating a farmhouse-turned-restaurant for the local non-profit, Vanguard Landing. If you’re not familiar, Vanguard Landing offers a safe, intentional, interactive and inclusive community where people with intellectual and developmental differences can thrive and achieve their life’s full potential. Besides being proud to support a wonderful cause, it’s been amazing to hear the stories this historic home has to tell. There’s something very special and humbling about being a part of a building’s story—I’m grateful to help write this chapter.

What is the last book you read?
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
My passion for architecture began while growing up in the American South East, surrounded by historical buildings and learning about stories of the interesting people who lived and worked in them. Understanding the way in which architecture expresses our past and present ways of life felt (and still feels) magical to me. I began to see buildings as time capsules, pillars of adaptation with layers of cultural context. Sometimes architecture feels akin to archeology, and I love that intersection.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Taking walks on the Elizabeth River Trail brings me so much peace. There’s something very therapeutic about being in nature, especially on the water. I find the ERT an especially calming space to connect with myself and organize my thoughts.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Embrace the challenge. If studied right, I promise you will grow from it.

Marcos Alberto Borjas, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I will never forget visiting my grandmother’s house ten years later. The feeling of nostalgia leaves a personal imprint that I never experienced in any other place.

What is the last book you read?
Call of the Wild

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
Through my endless obsession with skyscrapers

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Hot chocolate on a rainy day

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Architecture is not defined, and it never will. Use your aspirations as a guide to creating your own definition. You may have to go against everyone and everything, but if you are protecting your values, that is completely fine.

Kayla Bromley, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Caperton House by Fernau + Hartman Architects (my firm has the honor of designing new additions/renovations for this house and I recently went to visit it).

What is the last book you read?
The Overstory by Richard Powers

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I think I just fell into the profession. I’ve always enjoyed creating things–like making box forts and always playing with K’Nex and Legos when I was little–so in high school, my brother told me, “You should go to Virginia Tech and study architecture.” I thought “Okay, sure, I’ll try it,” and the rest is history! After my first year studio, I knew I was exactly where I belonged, pursuing a career that was constantly inspiring and challenging me.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Play board/card games (current favorites are Dominion and Terraforming Mars)

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Architecture is largely about listening and communication! As designers, our work extends beyond the built; We can positively impact our communities by simply starting with, “how we can help,” and listening/responding empathetically.

Haley DeNardo, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
My childhood home in upstate NY. Being home during the pandemic reminded me of memories, love, and stability, which was a great reminder to not take those things for granted. Emotion and inspiration can be drawn from any type of building. For more of an ‘architectural building’ it would be the Beinecke Rare Books Library at Yale University. The thoughtful and detailed use of material is inspiring.

What is the last book you read?
Eat a Peach: A Memoir by David Chang

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion of architecture through communication. Public speaking and enhancing others lives is really important to me. Creating impact and community through the built environment brings importance to our work to do right by the community and established relationships. I strive to meet people’s needs and my goals through architecture and communication.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Cooking, embroidery, or hiking depending on the season and what I’m decompressing from.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Never forget to be your authentic self. There is room for everyone in architecture, and sticking to your gut and using your voice is critical. We all have things to contribute and learn, no matter our age or status.

Maggie Dunlap, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
David Adjaye’s Francis Gregory Library in Washington, DC is one of the most successful pieces of community architecture that I’ve seen in recent memory. The building uses materials efficiently and creatively and is tucked into a woodland environment. Overall, it is accessible, functional, and fun – everything a great building should be!

What is the last book you read?
I always have a stack going simultaneously but the most recent ones that I’ve finished are Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Memorial by Bryan Washington, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer, and a biography of Frederick Douglass by David Blight. These all explore themes of culture, belonging, climate awareness, love, and identity, and have found their way into my professional and student work in the past months.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
At different points, I’ve been interested in interiors, textile design, fashion, and music. I’m always inspired by a wide range of sources, and architecture has always been the career that seemed to marry my dual personalities of the technical and artistic.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love hiking, traveling, and visiting museums with my family – something I’m looking forward to doing again post-pandemic. One of my other hobbies is genealogy, which I love as a puzzle and as a way to explore cultural narratives.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Research, research, research! Architecture should never exist in a vacuum, and listening to history, culture, community, and above all the environment, is critical to creating conscious, humble, and inclusive architecture that adds value and a sense of place to the natural and built environments.

Alex Foster, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
It wasn’t as recent, but of course, the Pantheon. I arrived prepared to be skeptical, but when I walked in, I remember not even having air to gasp. You know that feeling? Serendipitously, it actually started raining. I grabbed a friend’s hand, we ducked under the dividers, and stood under the oculus, looking up through the drizzle at what was still a surprisingly sunny day. Although we were promptly escorted out, it reinforced for me that a big part of architecture is placing ourselves in those unique positions that leave lasting impressions and change our perspectives.

What is the last book you read?
I recently wrapped up two books: Walkable Cities, by Jeff Speck and Scarcity, by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. It was really interesting to read these two in tandem, as at surface level, they are relatively unrelated. However, Scarcity helped to frame many of Speck’s urban planning strategies in a way that better helped me understand not only the missing pedestrian vibrancy in our downtowns but also the motivation and approaches our communities use to replace it.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
As a child, a future mentor demonstrated that stair dimensions shape people’s behavior: long, monumental steps induce a leisurely stroll and steep, narrow terraces provoke a driven, vertical sprint. The experience made me think about the impact of design on the human experience and later influenced my thesis decision to explore architecture as a medium for transformative dialogue.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Throughout the week, I enjoy staying busy after work. But, when I get a chance to decompress, I love to get out to bike or golf, practice my bagpipes, and play backgammon over a beer with friends.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Find good mentors and keep your ears open. The best advice I was given was to never wear headphones in the studio. Architecture doesn’t exist in a bubble – and neither does a good design process! Listen and participate in the conversations around you!

Gary Glinsey, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Foster + Partners’ RCC Headquarters in Yekaterinburg really caught my eye. It is such a visually stunning building that has quality interior spaces.

What is the last book you read?
The Fire Next Time
by James Baldwin. Written over 50 years ago, but just as timely as ever. It is definitely a must-read for everyone this year.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
My passion began with growing up in Chicago. The diverse neighborhoods really influenced my eye for drawing the environments around me. Coupling that with the exceeding amount of art classes I took in high school, my love for buildings grew. At first it was skyscrapers, but gradually museums, houses, and other building types got me to love the field of architecture.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Listening to music has to be at the top of the list. Spotify has to be my most used app on my phone!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Being an aspiring architect myself I think making time outside of work/class is extremely important. You have to know when to close the computer or wrap up the trace and get out once in a while. Design takes a lot out of you, so knowing when to give yourself a little free time to clear your head is key. For me, bike riding is essential to my process, however, some may have different methods. Once you’re able to give yourself time away from projects, you can come back more level-headed and focused.


Aria Hill, AIAS

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Architect Michelle Ja and her studio JaJa Co are currently working on a private studio gallery in Chesapeake, VA. The exterior formal language is quite striking! The project uniquely attempts to further the contextual vernacular of the local big box store claddings. I welcome more architecturally “funky” projects to the Hampton Roads area.

What is the last book you read?
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates! A must-read.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered architecture through my dad who suggested that my interests in mathematics and crafts would make me an ideal candidate for architecture school. Though, I would say architecture became my passion after an invigorating 2nd year of architectural studies in which the innumerous possibilities of architecture were revealed to me.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I really enjoy cooking new (plant-based) recipes to de-stress after studio! Put on some alternative soul music and just cook–a perfect stress relief. And then I will get my family to taste test the final product. 🙂

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
I recommend that everyone in this profession find their niche. I know–pretty easy to say, harder to do–but over time, I have come to discover a few passions that motivate me in my endeavors. I am strongly convicted to become licensed after graduation due to the lack of licensed Black female architects at the moment (~500).

Iroda Karimova, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I love Zeider’s American Dream Theather in Virginia Beach Town Center, It came out to be one of the best and successful public urban spaces, including an inviting upper-level terrace. It enhances the adjacent plaza, and the terrace offers the best spot for picture taking with Town Center behind. The massing of the building is very dramatic and modern. I always visit it with the Cold Stone Ice cream in my hand.

What is the last book you read?
Big Magic, Creative living beyond fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
Interior Design Magazine, as a 10-year old, I used to recreate the floorplans on my sketchbook. Then started making my own dream house floorplans. I also admired the new type of residential construction in my neighborhood.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Reading a book, painting with watercolor,  swimming at the beach, and shopping.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Dream Big and Take Risks!

Sasha Light, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Glenstone Museum in Potomac, MD is a local project that I was very impressed by. The exhibit spaces use primarily natural light, and provide a very tranquil and minimalist experience. The museum is heavily focused on a connection with nature and how it accentuates the displayed works. The detailing – especially the concrete work – was stunning and exemplified how details and a minimal material palette truly can create a timeless design. Visiting Glenstone made me further appreciate the importance of dialogue between designer, contractor and manufacturer, as it is clear that strong coordination can produce such amazing work.

What is the last book you read?
I am currently reading Creativity Inc. by a co-founder of Pixar, Ed Catmull. It details his experience in the animation industry and the critical components of creating a productive and positive work atmosphere. He focuses on the balance between fostering creativity and highly conceptual ideas with the realities/struggles of a young company. The situations and experiences of Ed Catmull’s career can be easily applied to the architecture industry and was very insightful to read, I recommend everyone to give the book a shot.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I think all designers growing up have a fascination with the tangible products of human creation. When I was young I absolutely loved everything related to construction, the yard was littered with Tonka trucks and my mothers flowers were always dug up (woops). That really began my appreciation for the built world and the amazing feats of engineering and designs many buildings have employed. Sketches and technical drawings have always given me a sense of wonder and pleasure, seeing how conceptual ideas can be developed and meshed with reality to create a physical product, and the human expression that inherently comes with that. I think everyone is a designer in some sense, and to be able to exercise creativity and decision-making is a very important human trait.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I will never turn down a good movie, especially one by A24 studios. If I am not vegging out on the couch, I really enjoy sketching, cooking, backpacking and skiing (followed by a nice cold beer of course).

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
An inherent attribute about the architecture industry (or any design focused industry for that matter) is the vulnerability when an idea is presented. Do not be afraid to share your own ideas, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may be. You will grow as a person and, although there may be harsh criticism at times, you will find some of the most rewarding experiences in life and situations that you can learn from. I still look back at some of my school projects and wince, trying to understand how in the world I would want to put that in front of other people. It was those situations though, that allowed me to grow, whether I knew it or not.

Ashley Montgomery, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Stephen Lawrence Center | London UK, Adjaye Associates. I saw a couple of photos recently and fell in love with the façade pattern. The textures and patterns on the façade and the shadows they emit on the interior walls are beautiful.

What is the last book you read? The last book I read was Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown, highly recommend it! And I am about to start a new book, Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I have always had a deep passion for creating, and culture how the two relate to one another. I wanted to be able to contribute to the narrative of our culture and our environments and Architecture for me is a connection between the two.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
A good, long nap!

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Some things I have learned along the way are, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be comfortable with not having an answer but being willing to find one. Also, find your voice, figure out what makes you want to practice Architecture and do that.

Hayley Owens, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
I would not normally say my apartment, since it is no architectural wonder, but over this past year, I have spent an amazing amount of time in this space. This experience has intensified my awareness of how important it is to have high-quality, affordable, and beautiful places to live. Places that are restorative and allow one to express themselves while also fostering connection with others and the natural world. It all starts at this intimate scale. Affordable, quality housing and neighborhood design should be available to everyone. Having this experience has definitely awakened a sense of activism for me around this.

What is the last book you read?
I have just finished reading Cradle to Cradle by architect Bill McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart. I keep coming back to the fact that it is written in 2002 and that the ideas are as revolutionary now as they were then. I am someone who frequently feels guilty for the impact I have on the environment and am forever carefully calculating ways to minimize my waste and be “less bad.” This book flips this scarcity mentality on its head, instead proposing that the way we make things needs to change and uses natural systems as a model. Our products and buildings should be delightful, safe, prolific, and not elicit guilt. Very hopeful and inspiring.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
As a young person, I spent a lot of time making mini-worlds out of polymer clay, mud, and whatever I found in the woods. I never connected this to place-making but certainly made places through narrative and storytelling with found items. It wasn’t until I participated in the ACE Mentoring program in high school that I was exposed to the different creative careers of landscape architecture and architecture. Getting to know professionals and have their support with a group project helped me get excited and commit to architecture as a career path.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love spending time carefully cleaning, folding, organizing, and thinking through how everything is put away. This could be in my own space, my mom’s house, or for someone I am dog-sitting for. I can get deeply immersed in the space and my own thoughts for hours. It is satisfying to step back and see something transformed. In my daily rituals I like to test how I have previously organized something — should it be redone next weekend?

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
We are all made up of multitudes. We have different interests, passions, personality traits, identities, and backgrounds that shape our experiences and thinking. It is so important that we bring our whole complex and curious selves to the table as designers; the design questions we seek to answer are equally complex and require a diversity of thinking and training. I have spent a lot of time fretting about not being “enough” or not fitting a perceived ideal. I encourage you to not limit yourself to who you think you should be, but to really examine who you are now and the great richness you have to offer with your unique experiences and interests.

Marium Rahman, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The house across the street; I can see it from my chair as I look out the window while working remotely from my dining table. They recently painted it black and I wondered how hot that house will get during the summer?!

What is the last book you read?
I am currently trying to read the Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, however, ARE books keep distracting me from finishing it.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I discovered my passion for architecture during undergrad; I had started studying architecture without truly understanding how much I would enjoy it and its potential to shape my perspective in life. And even after 11 years, I can say I am still discovering it every day.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
A good meal with friends and family.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
You are always learning so try to absorb as much as you can, knowledge is one of your strongest assets, and most importantly have fun with whatever you are doing, architecture is hard work but it is definitely worth it!

Stephanie Smid, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
Right before the lockdown started I visited the International Spy Museum in DC. Having only seen the building in photos I was initially uncertain about the design, but experiencing it in person gave a whole different feeling. What appeared clunky in a photo felt dramatic and exciting when approaching the building. The bold colors were a great contrast to the surrounding brutalist concrete, but my favorite part was the staircase behind the curtain wall.

What is the last book you read?
Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s one of my favorite stories that I try to reread whenever I have a lot of upcoming downtime, so this past year was perfect for it.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I chose architecture in undergrad because I thought it would be a good blend of science and art, but it wasn’t until I took a digital fabrication class that it finally felt right. Exploring new ways to use materials by leveraging technology and parametric design combined all the skills and fields I was looking for- then the school got a robot arm. I was hooked.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love staying active and playing sports, so the lockdown was pretty hard at first. I got an iPad to start exploring digital illustration and I’ve become a bit obsessed! I also enjoy making small projects with my laser cutter and the occasional Netflix binge.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Try not to compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to licensure. Everyone has different interests and experiences that don’t all lead to getting licensed in the same amount of time. Architecture is a huge field, so don’t be afraid if your passion takes you down some twisty roads.

Lisette Stone, Associate AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia by Tod Williams and Billy Tsien. While the entire building is beautiful and impeccably crafted, standing under that monumental skylight made me feel small and inconsequential in the best way.

What is the last book you read?
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
My mother adores old buildings. When I was young, we would frequently take detours through historic districts and pick out our favorite details. Her fascination was contagious, and I, too, soon felt a rush at the sight of a good leaded glass window. Much later, my husband and I bought our own old house. The process of restoring it sparked that same excitement all over again that my day job at the time did not, convincing me to pursue architecture as a career rather than a hobby.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love to read on my front porch or take my dogs on a long walk with a true-crime podcast for company.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Have fun with your studio assignments while in school, and remember to keep learning and exploring after you graduate.

Taylor Terrill, AIA

What building evoked a strong reaction from you recently—either positive or negative?
We recently purchased our first home and the words of Alain de Botton have never rung so true – “It (home) has provided not only physical but also psychological sanctuary. It has been a guardian of identity. Over the years, its owners have returned from periods away and, on looking around them, remembered who they were.”

What is the last book you read?
My wife recently gave birth to our first child, so sitting down to read has been few and far between. I do love a good podcast, a few of my favorites include Dolly Parton’s America, Radiolab, and 99% Invisible.

How did you discover your passion for architecture?
I always found myself looking up – at an intricate ceiling, at houses that lined the streets in my neighborhood, at buildings as they were constructed piece by piece.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Make a massive charcuterie board and find something good on Netflix.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Have confidence in your abilities. Stop comparing yourself, instead learn to celebrate the creativity of others.

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.

ELA 2021 Class Announced

Here’s the 2021 class of Emerging Leaders in Architecture.

Barbara Benesh, AIA, B. Grace Design
Marcos Alberto Borjas, Associate AIA, HKS Inc.
Kayla Bromley, Associate AIA, Reader + Swartz Architects, P.C.
Haley DeNardo, Associate AIA, Niles Bolton Associates
Maggie Dunlap, Associate AIA, WAAC
Alexandra Marie Foster, Associate AIA, MTFA Architecture, PLLC
Gary Glinsey, Hampton University
Aria Hill, Virginia Tech School of Arch + Design
Iroda Karimova, Associate AIA, HBA Architecture & Interior Design
Sasha A. Light, Associate AIA, Jacobs Engineering Group
Ashley Montgomery, Associate AIA, Hanbury
Hayley Owens, Associate AIA, VMDO Architects
Marium Rahman, Associate AIA, KGD Architecture
Stephanie Smid, Associate AIA, Jacobs
Lisette J. Stone, Associate AIA, SFCS Inc.
Taylor Terrill, Associate AIA, TKA Architects

If you are interested in supporting this group through a sponsorship, please contact Cathy Guske at cguske@aiava.org.

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