Meet Kathleen Frazier, FAIA

Kathy is a founding member of Frazier Associates and is the Principal-in-Charge of architecture, urban design, and wayfinding projects. She is a certified Historical Architect with the U. S. Department of the Interior. Kathy’s extensive experience in historic preservation and community redevelopment projects includes adaptive reuse, facade rehabilitation, new construction in historic districts, design guidelines, streetscape, and corridor design, as well as town-wide signage and wayfinding programs.

Kathy has overseen the design services for the Virginia Main Street Program since its inception in 1986; it is an affiliate of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center. She also has extensive experience with historic tax credit and Community Development Block Grant funding mechanisms. Kathy’s experience and collaborative approach extend to the firm’s numerous local government clients as well as various private and state institutional, and educational clients.

Through the firm, her projects have won numerous awards, including those from the American Institute of Architects, Preservation Virginia, and previously the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, as well as numerous regional and local organizations. Her projects have also been featured in publications such as Traditional Building, Southern Living, Virginia Living and Urban Land Magazine and she has written various articles on downtown revitalization for the National Main Street Center publications. Kathy was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award from the Virginia Main Street Program. She also served two terms on the governor-appointed Virginia Art and Architectural Review Board.

Where did you go to college?
I started at Mary Baldwin College because I thought that I wanted to be an artist. They had a terrific small art department but in the process of taking many art history classes, I realized that architecture was my calling. I then transferred to The University of Virginia where I received my degree in architecture.

What does it take to be an architect?
I think it begins with a love for buildings and places as well as a dedication to learning and serving. Of course, one needs to be able to think three-dimensionally too! After graduating from college, I worked as a designer for the Historic Staunton Foundation as they started their effort to preserve and revitalize downtown Staunton. That experience started me on the path of working with property owners and helping them understand the unique history of their building, how to bring it back to life, and at the same time, boost their business and visibility in the community.

Was there an architect that particularly inspired you?
When at Mary Baldwin, I learned about a Washington D.C. architect, T. J. Collins who moved to Staunton in the late 19th century. The firm was still in operation until about 15 years ago and I did an internship there in 1976 and also worked there after graduating from the University of Virginia. At that time, the firm was run by T.J. Collins’ grandson, the sixth generation of builders/architects in the family.

Collins and his sons designed hundreds of buildings in Staunton and other communities in the Valley in every conceivable style of the period from Romanesque to Classical Revival. All the drawings still exist in Historic Staunton Foundation’s archives and many of the buildings survive as well. That experience really gave me an interest in historic preservation, and also I met my future husband, Bill Frazier, at the office in 1976 as he was doing his architectural history master’s thesis on T. J. Collins.

I also want to acknowledge Bruce Abbey, one of my professors at UVa. I had him for studio as well as lecture classes. He is the one who really sparked my thinking about contextualism and it guided my thinking on design in historic areas.

What are you currently reading?
One Summer: America, 1927
by Bill Bryson. A fascinating moment in our history when so much happened!

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Every meal my husband, Bill cooks! That said, the most amazing surprise meal/restaurant was La Bernadin in New York City back in the late 1990s. It is still there today and is one of the best restaurants in the country. We found it simply by luck and oh my, what a meal.

Why do you volunteer with AIA?
Because it is important for the general public to understand what and how architects contribute to our communities. Everyone knows about the need to go to a lawyer or a doctor, but going to an architect somehow seems optional. It is always an interesting experience to work with communities and individuals who have never used an architect and see their understanding and appreciation grow for the profession. So, volunteering with AIA as well as with local non-profit organizations helps foster that link to society, and it helps to encourage more young people to join the profession! While it has been a long journey, it is so worthwhile and rewarding!

Sanford Bond, FAIA Exhibition

Currently on exhibit at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design

Planar Assemblages: Furniture + Other Works
Sanford Bond, FAIA

Sculptures, furniture, and other work from the career of Sanford Bond, FAIA. In our Main Galleries November 8 – January 7, 2019.

“My career has focused on creating places by defining space with various materials and building methods. Primarily as an architect, I create places for human use and habitation using a palette of different materials with a range of spatial definitions in order to define discreet regions of space accommodating various human endeavors. Every material possesses a set of characteristics rendering it different from any other and lending it to a particular building method. These innate qualities may be used to define unique and different places enabling a range of use and meaning, differing with the person and their unique set of experiences.”

Meet Nick Serfass, FAIA

Nick Serfass, FAIA is currently the Executive Director of the AIAS, past Assistant Director of IDP at NCARB, and formerly a Project Architect at Baskervill in Richmond, VA. He advocates for causes impactful to today’s architecture student and emerging professional. He has spoken on campus at over 75 schools of architecture on the topic of career design, initiated the establishment of new architecture student conferences – CRIT Live: Student Research Symposia and THRIVE: Career Prep, founded NCARB’s Intern Think Tank, helped shepherd the experience requirement for licensure from IDP to IDP 2.0 to AXP, co-led a mentoring program at Baskervill that won the AIA/NCARB IDP Outstanding Firm Award, and hosted over 50 episodes of The #AskAnArchitect Show on YouTube. He is also a nationally-recognized speaker for ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership on the topics of digital transformation and leadership/management. He has two sons, Gray and Jack, that he and his wife are working on domesticating in their spare time in Midlothian, Virginia.

Where did you go to college?
Bachelors from the University of Virginia, MArch from the University of Miami, MBA from Auburn University

Would you recommend studying architecture to a young person?
There’s never been a better time – and it’s not about the economy. Whether you want to be an architect in traditional practice or not, the study of architecture helps establish competency in design thinking which has innumerable assets in today’s business environment. More and more companies are seeking design thinking and an architect’s approach to problem-solving. The architecture student of today can use this to their competitive advantage to provide significant value in a range of industries and businesses. Everything demands design thinking in 2018.

What does it take to be an architect?
Ambiguity tolerance, lack of ego, and empathy. Ambiguity tolerance: You have to come to grips with the fact you can’t know everything and get comfortable in that space. Lack of ego: Every project requires a team and teamwork – silos and individualistic attitudes are toxic. Empathy: It’s about the people, not the creative – big ears foster the best design.

Was there an architect that particularly inspired you?
Originally it was Palladio, but he was a little hard to relate to being 1/2 millennium older than me. Then it was Michael Graves until I read his biography Design for Life, which paints a questionable portrait of his early days until he makes his philanthropic turnaround later in his career. So, now it’s my first mentor, Bruce Brooks, formerly of Baskervill and now of Noelker & Hull here in Richmond – someone who gave me opportunities early on and put me in position to be the architect and manager that I am today.

What are you currently reading?
The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin. This book will make you question everything you know about our American financial system. It’s a historical expose framed as a crime drama – the crime being the establishment of the Federal Reserve Bank. If you’ve read “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis, this is a necessary follow up read. I really don’t know why anyone reads fiction anymore when the reality is way more interesting than anything you could fabricate.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
The takeout personal pizzas at Tavern 19 in Midlothian that I get every Tuesday night for 1/2 off on the way home from work are delicious. They are equally sublime whether eaten in the comfort of your own home or on their patio overlooking the 18th green at Independence Golf Club. The food and ambiance in Midlothian are the most underrated in the state!

Why do you volunteer with the AIA?
I volunteer with the AIA to diversify the impact I’m able to make in the profession. Sure, I have my daily job and work, but the AIA provides another channel to help do good things and make a difference in people’s lives.

What Membership Should Mean To Us

Most of you have recently received your membership dues statement from 1735 New York Avenue, NW, the home of the American Institute of Architects. As we all consider this payment of our professional dues, I thought it might be beneficial to reflect on what our membership in the AIA should mean to us. (Keep in mind, this is coming from a self-proclaimed “AIA Junkie”):

Through the AIA, we have a shared heritage.

In 1857, thirteen men gathered in New York to form the American Institute of Architects. These gentlemen did not have a plastic card in their wallets; they did not have a pin to wear on their lapels; they did not have an acronym following their names. What they DID have was a vision in their minds and passion in their hearts for what the profession of architecture could become … IF there was a collective body … to unite in fellowship; to promote the profession; to advance the standards of education, training, and practice; and to increasingly serve society. These core values of the AIA, we should reflect upon as we design our own futures.

Yet, we have a wealth of individual experiences.

Now with over 89,000 members, the AIA serves as the collective voice of architects across the country and around the world. However, even though we as a profession are bound by our shared experiences in our respective paths through architectural education, training, and practice, we each approach our work – and our passion – as individuals. Every member of our profession has something unique to offer, and the profession needs each one of these varied talents, skills, and abilities. We’ve been ‘called’ to the practice of architecture because of our desire to enrich the living experiences of those we serve, and how wonderful it is that we can do so in our own unique ways.

Together, we look to the future.

In France, as in many countries, architects swear a solemn oath upon becoming licensed. Roughly translated, this vow reads, “In respect to the public interest, which attaches great value to architectural quality, I swear to exercise my profession with conscience and integrity and to observe the rules contained in the law on architecture and the Code of Professional Duties.” How different would our profession be if we pledged – even privately – to uphold the ideals of our beloved profession for a public that “attaches great value to architectural quality?” This shift in our own professional culture is what we’re working toward … to foster a broader, societal culture that appreciates architecture and values what we do as architects.

Advocacy to ensure our profession’s relevance to the public is what the staff team at AIA Virginia dedicates itself to every day. We work to combine our sincere compassion for the individual – a true dedication to each member – with a strong collective direction for this profession in the Commonwealth. We hope that as you pay your 2017 AIA dues, you perceive this level of devoted service and support. Many thanks for your contributions to society through your work, and for renewing your membership in your professional society!

Helene C. Dreiling signature





Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA
Executive Director

Demystifying Fellowship Webinar






Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a Fellow? Not sure where to start on your application?

Join Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, on June 2 at noon for a one-hour webinar on what it takes to prepare a successful package.

The webinar isn’t just for people ready to apply. It’s never too early to start thinking about Fellowship. The sooner you start preparing, the better off you’ll be!

There is no charge for this webinar.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Noon – 1 p.m.
1 LU available.

The AIA Fellowship program was developed to elevate those architects who have made a significant contribution to architecture and society and who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession. Election to Fellowship not only recognizes the achievements of the architect as an individual, but also honors before the public and the profession a model architect who has made a significant contribution to architecture and society on a national level.

Helene Combs Dreiling Annual Scholarship

The AIA Fellows of Virginia is proud to announce the formation of the Helene Combs Dreiling Annual Scholarship to honor its namesake, now serving as AIA Virginia Executive Director/CEO, for her generous contributions to the profession.

“Our goal is to benefit future leaders in the field of architecture. This scholarship fund will give young architects opportunities such as access to AIA Convention Fellowships, a professional development City Summer and mentoring programs,” says VCU University Architect Mary Patton Cox, FAIA. “Throughout her career, Helene has championed the needs of emerging professional architects and advocated on their behalf, not just in her current role, but also as president of AIA Blue Ridge, president of AIA Virginia, Regional Director for the Virginias, staff vice president of the American Institute of Architects and as national president of the American Institute of Architects. Helene, herself, was elevated to fellowship in 2000.”

So far, the AIA Fellows of Virginia have raised more than half of the total endowment goal and are continuing to accept donations. They expect the scholarship to be fully endowed by the end of next year so that scholarships can be available in 2017. The Helene Combs Dreiling Annual Scholarship will be awarded to students, interns and young professionals up to 10 years after receiving their accredited degree.

To donate by check:
Make your check payable to the “Virginia Foundation for Architecture”
Send your check to:
Keesha Ezell
Virginia Foundation for Architecture
2501 Monument Avenue
Richmond, VA 23220

To donate by credit card:
Call Keesha Ezell at 804-644-3041, ext. 200.  She or her associate will take your credit card number over the phone.

To transfer securities:
1. Notify Keesha Ezell of the date of the transfer
2. Give the following information to your financial planner or broker:
Virginia Foundation for Architecture – Helene Combs Dreiling FAIA Endowed Scholarship Fund
DTC  0715
Acct: 1170-9400



Mills Awarded Fellowship

The 2015 Jury of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has elevated Robert S. Mills to its prestigious College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession.

Robert S. Mills, FAIA, CID, NCARB is one of the founding principals of Commonwealth Architects. With more than 32 years of MillsFellowship2015experience, Robert is involved in all aspects of the firm’s practice in the areas of architecture, historic architecture, interior architecture, planning and management.

In addition to serving as the AIA representative on City and State Boards and Commissions, Robert served as Vice President for the Virginia Society AIA from 2002-2004 and in various roles within the  AIA Richmond over the years.

Recognized for exceptional service, leadership and professional expertise on the City of Richmond’s Planning Commission and Commission of Architectural Review, Robert received the Virginia Society AIA Distinguished Achievement Award in 2008 and the AIA Richmond Marcellus Wright Jr. Award for Public Service in 2012.

While serving as President of Commonwealth Architects, the firm was awarded the Virginia Society AIA’s T. David Fitz-Gibbon Architecture Firm Award in 2011. The highest award bestowed upon a firm by the Virginia Society, it underscores the invaluable contributions of rehabilitation and compatible infill design as catalyst for revitalizing livable communities.

Robert will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the 2015 National AIA Convention and Design Exposition in Atlanta in May.

The Fellowship program was developed to elevate those architects who have made a significant contribution to architecture and society and who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession. Election to fellowship not only recognizes the achievements of architects as individuals, but also their significant contribution to architecture and society on a national level.


Abbott’s Work Featured in VCA Exhibition