It is August. Families are returning from vacation or tucking it in before the children return to school. Offices are celebrating those who participated in an internship and now heading back to their respective universities.
For AIA Virginia, we just concluded our biennial Art of Practice. Held on August 4th, we brought together over 70 architects to sharpen their business skills with a focus on What’s Next in the industry. We welcomed the 2020 AIA Edward C. Kemper Award winner and Shepley Bulfinch CEO, Carole Wedge, FAIA as our opening keynote.
Wedge’s story is quite amazing. Starting in the mailroom at Shepley Bulfinch, she worked her way to the top executive position. During the presentation, Wedge shared the importance of noticing how you lead in the profession: from within, from in front, beside others, behind others, and in the field.
It is my hope that you see AIA Virginia as leading beside you. Leaning in 100% into the various aspects of your professional journey.
While you are elevating the voice of architects and architecture in your respective communities, we provide you the requisite tools to facilitate those efforts. In September, you can find AIA Virginia in Norfolk hosting a “Blueprint for Better Community Dinner” that will allow local architects to forge important relationships with their local leaders. As I bring this to a close, please mark your calendars for our annual conference, Architecture Exchange East. It will be held Nov. 1-5 with the last day consisting of in-person programming at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
We exist to make you better. Get engaged. Come see what we are doing. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA, CAE Executive Vice President
With the 199th pick in the 6th Round, the New England Patriots select…
Tom Brady. Quarterback. University of Michigan.
In the National Football League (NFL), being drafted at the end of the sixth round is not impressive. It is not something that you brag about. To put it in perspective, the NFL draft has seven rounds and the last pick in the draft (in 2020 it was the 255th pick) is dubbed the nickname, “Mr. Irrelevant”.
Scouts from all over saw Tom Brady and thought that the 6’-4” quarterback was slow on his feet and awkward at best, when running with the ball. So much so, that teams thought there were 198 other athletes that were better. Think about it.
But then there was one.
The scouts and front office executives of the New England Patriots saw something special. They saw a set of innate tools he possessed that could be honed to create an incredibly successful quarterback at the game’s highest level. He became an instrumental piece to the team’s success eventually going to nine Super Bowls and winning six of them. And he is a future member of the NFL Hall of Fame.
I feel like my story as an African American man in architecture is like Tom Brady’s story. It is full of moments that shout: But then there was one.
I have never overly enjoyed recreational reading. It makes me drowsy. Even today, I do not like long emails and prefer briefings and summaries to be one page with bullet points. So, it was no surprise that the first time I took the SAT, I received a 980 score. I took it again and improved by only 100 points. The University of Virginia put me on their waitlist.
But then there was one. Virginia Tech welcomed me with open arms into the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
God did not bless me with the ability to sketch like Charles Piper, AIA [Quinn Evans] or build models like Nick Cooper, AIA [HKS]. My portfolio was mediocre, which may be a stretch. Many marquee architecture firms in Virginia never gave me a look when applying for summer internships.
But then there was one. A+E Collective in Great Falls, Virginia led by Anil Bhatia, AIA and Madhur Khanna, AIA. At the time, a firm of three people gave me a chance at a summer internship and I was determined to not let them down. They will always have a special spot in my heart.
After graduation, I worked at an Architecture/Engineering firm of about 150 people at the time. At an early age, I knew I enjoyed the project management and business development aspect of the business. In this firm, the Project Management department is a vital lifeline of the business – so to be a part of it is a big deal. Nearly all were at least 50 years of age or at least knocking on the door of it. None were black.
But then there was one. The President and CEO called me in their offices and said they were going to promote me into the Project Management department. This happened at the age of 28. And to my knowledge, the first African American to be elevated into that department within a firm that was founded in 1901.
And here we are today. As the Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia – the organization’s chief executive. At one time, this position was held by a gentleman with a PhD for over two decades. His successor was a national figure in architecture and remains one today. Who would be next?
But then there was one. Out of nearly 70 applicants, the Search Committee took a chance on me. At the time, a 35-year-old black male who had never run an association before. And this has been one of the best opportunities of my life.
My career is full of these moments. I could write a novel about it. I am proud to be in the 2020 Class of the College of Fellows: our Hall of Fame.
But don’t forget this:
If you, as firm leaders, are committed to being bold about diversity, equity, and inclusion – then you must provide “But then there was one” moments to those who may otherwise never be exposed to these great opportunities.
R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA Executive Vice President
Corey Clayborne currently serves as the Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia. In this position, he has the responsibility of ensuring the success of the Advocacy, Education, Communications, and Member Services portfolios. Corey has been recognized by the AIA at the local, state and national levels. In 2017, he was an AIA Young Architects Award recipient and named to Building Design + Construction’s 40 Under 40 class. His volunteer service has spanned across a multitude of roles for all levels of AIA, several NCARB Committees, and an appointment to Virginia’s regulatory Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, Landscape Architects by Governor Terry McAuliffe. Corey is an architect licensed to practice in Virginia who worked in private practice for 13 years serving as a project manager for local, state, and federal clients before taking the chief executive position at AIA Virginia.
Where did you go to college?
Virginia Tech for a B.Arch Liberty University for a Master in Business Administration with a Public Administration cognate
Would you recommend studying architecture to a young person?
Absolutely! Architecture teaches you how to think systematically and how to problem solve. These two skills are extremely valuable across a variety of career spectrums. Whether one pursues the traditional architecture path with his or her degree or moving to a non-traditional path – like I did – you can be a valuable asset to our world.
What does it take to be an architect?
Discipline, perseverance, and the drive to make positive change. The path to licensure is not easy: Education, Experience, and Examination. And it is not intended to be as the responsibility of an architect to the public is great. However, when you reach that milestone, your creations – whether design or policy – touches many lives.
Was there an architect that particularly inspired you?
Not while I was growing up or in college. However, when I entered the professional field, I was adopted by several architects within the firm. They took me under their wing and much of my career success is attributed to these individuals. This is the power of mentorship.
What are you currently reading?
I honestly don’t find reading fun which does not diminish its importance. I’m not a fast reader and I often get drowsy while doing it.
My goal is to read more, about 10 minutes each day. I’m currently making my way through the latest Virginia Business magazine to keep up with what is happening in our Commonwealth. One of my friends is being featured in this particular publication. He put Danville on the map in terms of economic development and just took the Economic Development Director position in Arlington. It’s great to see your friends being blessed for their hard work.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Tough question. There is not a clear-cut favorite so I’ll tell you the best cocktail I have had. Get the “Old Fashion” at the newly renovated Cavalier in Virginia Beach. They put it in a smoke box which takes the cocktail to whole new level. I experienced it on a CEO retreat with other association colleagues. We all had more than one. Or two.
Why do you work for the AIA?
Once in a lifetime opportunity. Over 2,500 members have put their faith in my vision, my team, and our organization to make our profession increasingly more relevant each day.
There is a strong possibility that any of those words might describe how you are feeling as you navigate through this global pandemic. Six weeks ago, we were taking meetings in the local coffee shop and perhaps looking forward to dining outdoors at an eclectic restaurant with the people you love. The world has come to nearly a halt in what seems to have been overnight.
In our personal lives, a large portion of our freedom has been exchanged for protecting the health of our neighbor. Food and supplies are being rationed in the neighborhood grocery store. 401k’s have been admitted to the financial Intensive Care Unit and I might advise that you not visit them.
Professionally, many projects are being put on hold or experiencing adverse impacts. What was once a six-month backlog could be reduced to two-months with a snap of a finger. Some of our peers are making very difficult staffing decisions. The ones, that as a leader, turn your normal 10-minute shower into a 35-minute deluge because you dread the upcoming conversation with your employee.
Here is what I have to say about it all: Don’t stop believing in yourself and your decision-making.
You may say, “Corey, you don’t know what I am going through.” And you are right. I don’t.
But let me tell you one thing.
If you knew me or anything about me, you would know that I am no stranger to adversity. I’ve been blessed and overcome a lot. But I have also lost a few times when facing it. But I always got up. Always.
I remember getting free and reduced lunch in grade school. I was the first in my household to go to college. Barely got over a 1,000 SAT score yet got admitted into one of the top architecture schools in the country – Virginia Tech. Never got an “A” in design studio in my five years there. Not once. And now hold a chief executive role in an organization and profession that I love.
How was this done?
Great people around me. Amazing family. Strong mentors. Unselfish peers. Picking me up along the way.
And that’s what I want AIA Virginia to be for you.
We have been putting forth an abundance of resources and opportunities to help you through these unprecedented times. And we will not stop. For example, we just held an interactive webinar on concisely navigating the CARES Act to give you the foundational knowledge about applying for federal funding. Those who attended gave it very high marks. The week prior, we brought together the Associated General Contractors and American Council of Engineering Companies for an interactive panel discussion on uniting our industries in construction administration during COVID-19. In this newsletter, you will see additional resources and opportunities the organization is putting forth.
One of the major keys to success in getting through this is having each other.
From November 7th – 9th, we will convene for our annual conference, Architecture Exchange East, in Richmond. This may very well be the best one we have ever hosted. The theme of the conference is TENSION. From the physical tension that empowers buildings to stand to the tension between creative vision and practical restrictions. We will even have a dialogue on how tension is present between architecture and social equity.
Headlined by award-winning architect and TED-presenter, Francis Kéré, Hon. FAIA as the keynote and an appearance by The Hip Hop Architect, Michael Ford, I guarantee you will be moved in a special way. For the first time, we will engage the public within our conference for our Housing Equity Panel that folds under the Institute’s “Blueprint for Better Communities” initiative. This year, our education track is themed to cater to Practice Management, Design, Historic Preservation, Educational Environments, Healthcare Environments, Residential, Technology and Practice, and Building Performance. This means that there is content shaped to accommodate all of our members who have various practices with wide-ranging needs.
On Wednesday, we will offer our full-day program workshops that include our Safety Assessment Program training that will allow you to be instrumental contributors in getting communities back on its feet after a natural disaster. Thursday and Friday promise to offer exceptional content culminating with Visions for Architecture. For this special event at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, we will celebrate those whose work make especially strong contributions to society and celebrates the recipients of AIA Virginia Honors Awards and the Awards for Excellence in Architecture.
Would you rather be in your cubicle or do any of the following:
Francis Kéré’s keynote address
Michael Ford – The Hip Hop Architect. Enough said.
Housing Equity Panel consisting of a prominent architect, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, and the Better Housing Coalition
Safety Assessment Program disaster assistance training
Join members of small, mid-size, and large firms to discuss relevant issues in roundtable format
See the 2018 Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA) present its class project and how it will benefit the City of Charlottesville
Engage in dialogue with Higher Education decision-makers on improving collaborate with architects
Tour of Historic Petersburg in collaboration with Preservation Virginia
CONNECTIONS party and networking dinners that include ELA alumni and Virginia Women in Design
Engage with over 70 Vendors that are showcasing cutting-edge materials
If your answer was “yes” to any of the above, then come join us at the conference.
Look forward to welcoming you to Richmond next month!
Corey Clayborne, AIA, MBA
Executive Vice President
On Friday, June 15, 2018, AIA Virginia President Eric Keplinger, AIA presented Corey Clayborne, AIA with a Presidential Citation.
The citation reads:
Through his ever-increasing service to the profession and his unwavering commitment to excellence, his colleagues in Virginia acknowledge his remarkable dedication in earning his Master of Business Administration while serving and upholding the highest ideals of the American Institute of Architects.