Meet Robert Valentine Reis, FAIA, LEED AP

As a Design Principal and Design Director at Hanbury, Rob provides design leadership across the firm and his award-winning designs throughout the United States and abroad include a wide range of project types in higher education, government, and corporate-commercial sectors. Rob values simplicity, clarity, and restraint as traits of design that not only stand the test of time, are loved and endure, and ultimately matter. Often working with diverse stakeholders Rob guides a process that is inclusive, collaborative, and focused on the unique qualities that define each opportunity.

Rob served on the AIAVA BoD from 2012 to 2020 and as President in 2019. Prior to that, Rob was an AIAHR board member for five years, annually chairing Architecture Week, facilitating the Design Awards program and the Annual Speaker Meeting, and bringing Pecha Kucha (peh–CHAK-cha) Night to Hampton Roads.

Originally from Minneapolis, Rob and his wife Lily – also an architect – have two daughters, Olivia and Ruby. After many years in Norfolk and officially ‘flat landers’, they love the beach, the surf, and life in Hampton Roads.

Where did you go to architecture school?

Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
Otaniemi Technical Institute, Helsinki, Finland

What do you think it takes to be an architect?
Curiosity, resiliency, a dose of subservience, and the belief that what we love to do really matters.

Is there an architect that particularly inspires you?
Many. I work with them every day.

What are you currently reading?
The New Yorker. My Saturday afternoon respite. I am also reading The Soul of America by Jon Meacham. I’ve always had diverse interests and reading is one of the ways I satisfy that.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
I love to eat and have had too many astounding meals… so maybe it’s more about the circumstances than the meal itself. One of my favorites – a late afternoon lunch on the 2005 Hanbury International Design Retreat – a perfect day under a vine arbor in Switzerland with the Swiss architect Franco Morrow after touring several of his amazing buildings. I don’t recall the food exactly, but one of the best meals I’ve ever had. “Fantastico!” F Morrow

Why do you volunteer with AIA?
When my wife Lily, daughter Olivia and I relocated from Washington, DC to Norfolk in 2005, leaving family, friends, and Georgetown behind, other than the handful of colleagues I interviewed with at Hanbury, we knew absolutely no one. So, by getting involved with the AIA Hampton Roads Board I initially saw an opportunity to plug in and meet like-minded people, which quickly advanced to supporting activities and events that I found interesting or compelling – the AIAHR Speaker Series and the opportunity to personally host James Timberlake, Ann Beha, and Neil Denari… a regional workforce housing design competition associated with the Celebration of AIA 150… the Design and Honor Awards celebrations… Architecture Week and the first of several Pecha Kucha events.

When joining the AIA Virginia Board in 2012 I did have one ‘immediate mission’ – raising awareness around the use of the ‘intern’ title for architecture graduates not-yet-registered. One of my not-yet-registered Hanbury colleagues, after masterfully presenting a project update was asked by our client, who was curiously eyeing my colleague’s business card with the presentation still pinned up behind us – “as an intern… are you paid for this work?” Wow… it struck me how vague, demeaning, and often inappropriate the intern ‘title’ was.

I want to say that I’m responsible for the AIA adopting the use of “architectural intern” or “intern architect” for graduates of NAAB-accredited degree programs, but before I could do anything AIA National, way ahead of me (imagine that…), was already implementing this change. Needless to say though, as I served a steady stream of opportunities to have a voice with colleagues in planning AIAVA events and initiatives, evolving member services, or championing public policy and regulation were satisfyingly at hand. And out of the gate to see an issue addressed so skillfully and expediently both assured and inspired me.

Reis Elevated to Fellowship

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is elevating one AIA members from AIA Virginia to its prestigious College of Fellows, AIA’s highest membership honor, for their exceptional work and contributions to architecture and society. Less than three percent of the architecture profession achieve AIA Fellowship.

The fellowship program was developed to elevate those architects who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession and made a significant contribution to architecture and society on a national level. Architects who have been elevated to fellowship can be identified by the designation FAIA after their name.

Included in the list below are the newly elevated members from AIA Virginia:

• Mr. Robert V. Reis, FAIA

Visit AIA National’s website for more information on the College of Fellows or to view the complete list of newly elevated architect fellows.

What if architecture could change the world?

For those that enjoy certain hallmarks of summer – a more relaxed pace (or so the perception … ), summer intern programs, vacations, or uniquely summer-time activities with family, friends, and co-workers – the first few crisply cool mornings and lower temperatures along with the advent of seasonal change, can feel abrupt but invigorating.

Rob Reis, AIA

Along with back-to-school and autumn colors, fall also brings Architecture Exchange East. In my home state of Minnesota, we call our end-of-summer ritual – the Minnesota State Fair – The Great Annual Get-Together. In Virginia, I think of ArchEx as our great annual architecture get-together. While the place to connect and refresh, with the theme of re:culture, ArchEx 2019 promises an array of compelling keynotes – Dwayne Oyler from Oyler Wu Collaborative, Pascale Sablan, AIA, from S9ARCHITECTURE, and Patricia Gruits of MASS Design Group – an abundance of CEU options curated into learning zones, and the recognition and celebration of design awards and 2019 honorees.

Fall can also usher in a time of reflection, analysis, and year-end observations. In that spirit, I’d like to pose a question. While travelling recently to Denmark and Sweden with Hanbury colleagues and architecture alums of Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee on the 15th annual Jane C Rathbone Hanbury International Design Retreat, I was struck by a question that I saw on a t-shirt at the BLOX, home of the Danish Architecture Center (DAC by OMA) in Copenhagen –

what if architecture could change the world?

Great question. Especially while wandering Copenhagen where in-the-midst of wonderful historic and innovative contemporary architecture, it’s hard to miss the apparent correlation between the social, aesthetic, and transactional dynamics of the built and natural environments that seem to positively impact the quality of life there.  

The Hanbury retreat contingent is exploring this question, having left Copenhagen with a lasting impression that architecture just may have a significant role to play in changing – for the better – the world we live in. We saw creative solutions where accommodating people is elevated above accommodating the automobile, where saving energy, raising building performance, and providing healthier solutions – essentially putting a premium on pleasure and quality of life over first costs – made us wonder…

What if –

  • a flat city could have a mountain;
  • urban hi-rise housing had neighborhood sidewalks… front porches… gardens;
  • everyone had access to sunlight + air;
  • cars were subservient to people;
  • more people biked than drove – or at least more biked and took mass transit;
  • we exported our recycled matter as manufacturing raw materials;
  • high-efficiency clean incineration allowed us to be paid to incinerate other country’s garbage;
  • we mixed heavy utilities and recreation;
  • residents and restaurants grew their own food;
  • our buildings generated so much power that we exported it;
  • we valued pleasure and quality of life over first costs!

While admittedly, architecture alone can hardly address the significant environmental and social challenges that we face – it’s not the answer – but it’s conceivable that architecture can be an enabler or medium of change. We saw evidence of this in Denmark, which has prompted our group to wonder what the applications might be here in Virginia. And so, as we explore this, I put the question to AIA Virginia members and any others that might read this – In your estimation, can architecture change the world, and if so, in what ways? Please forward your thoughts to me at –

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your ongoing support of AIA Virginia.

Rob V Reis, AIA, LEED AP
AIA Virginia

From the President’s Desk

As we continue to advance through 2019, the evidence of a strong market for the services of architects in Virginia buoys optimism and transmits energy into seemingly all sectors of practice and professional activities.

April brought Architecture Week at chapters across the state, and Architecture Month in Richmond, with the profession and the promotion of architects and architecture visibly on display. The intent of Architecture Week/Month is two-fold: to raise public awareness, and to celebrate our profession – and celebrate we should, as we enjoy the remarkable and envied opportunity to create and shape our environment. How many times have you heard someone say, “I always wanted to be an architect”. Well, envied we are, and cause to occasionally pause and celebrate that! As a follow up to AW/M ‘19, leaders from each component chapter are sharing with each other their approach and results for events and activities, highlighting those that successfully embraced our goals as we look toward next year. All in all, mission accomplished!

Rob V Reis, AIA, LEED AP

With the objective of engaging the architecture and design programs at each of our Virginia Universities, the April AIA Virginia Board of Directors meeting was held at Hampton University, where the architecture faculty and students hosted us with a Welcome + Networking Reception, tours of the Architecture School, and desk crits with students preparing to develop their final design studio presentations. (see a recap and pictures) Robert Easter, Chair of the Hampton University Department of Architecture welcomed us, and 4th-year architecture student Dominique L. Murray provided an articulate and enlightening overview of the Architecture School. We also had the opportunity to announce the AIA Virginia Prize award winners for Hampton University. Gary Garner’s entry was recognized with an Honorable Mention and Julian Washington won Best of School and the Special Jury Award. Congratulations to Gary and Julien, and to Hampton University for a fine showing.  Click here to see all of the 2019 AIA Virginia Prize competition.

On the evening prior to the April AIA Virginia Board Meeting at Hampton University, board members arriving early attended the Second Annual Hampton Roads Young Architects Forum – YAF TalksBuilding A Sustainable Hampton Roads: From Problem, To Policy, To Possibility – panel discussion at the MacArthur Visitors Center in Norfolk.  This event, impressively orchestrated and with a compelling expert panel – Shana Udvardy, Climate Resilience Analyst at Union of Concerned Scientists; the Hon. Lynwood Lewis, VA State Senator for the 6th District; Sydney Covey, Sustainability Solutions Manager, STRUCTR Advisors; Joanna Hall, Sustainable Infrastructure Program Manager of NAVFAC, and moderator Mickey Chapa, Sustainability Director at VIA Design Architects – continues the quickly building legacy of superb YAF events! And, whether at Hampton University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, or with the Virginia YAF contingent, be confident that it’s an important investment for the profession with a valuable return personally when engaging with emerging professionals and students – they are our future.

We can now promote two destinations in Richmond. This month AIA Virginia has officially moved into new space in the Bookbindery Building on Broad Street. Please feel welcome to visit, see the space, and meet the AIA Virginia staff. And meanwhile, with AIA Virginia Board meetings and other events continuing at the Branch House, visit and support The Branch!

A final thought. Culture, the evocative theme of Architecture Exchange East this November, and a polemic term laden with meaning and contemporary relevance for the profession. Many of us are examining, redefining, and embracing and celebrating either our or our client’s culture, through design. Please consider sharing your culture-related stories, lessons, and revelations at ArchEx 2019. The Call for Proposals is out. Put yourself in!

Thank you for your ongoing support of AIA Virginia.

Rob V Reis, AIA, LEED AP
AIA Virginia

A Positive Start

As I consider the new year I’m brimming with optimism. While recognizing that architects and designers are by nature optimists – since the act of creating and building is at its essence one of optimism – none the less, we have much to be optimistic about as we enter 2019. Our industry is strong, promising opportunities abound, and in many ways, the understanding of how design – and architects in particular – can positively influence the built and natural environment is broader now than ever before.

I’m convinced the optimism that I feel – both as a practicing architect and as president of AIA Virginia – is shared across the AIA Virginia Board. The hard work, thoughtful decisions, and focused leadership of past boards have positioned AIA Virginia in a strong place financially, better able to serve members with purposeful advocacy, relevant programming, opportunities for peer and allied industry engagement, and recognition of member achievements and contributions. So, in 2019 the AIA Virginia Board will have the relative luxury of focusing on a variety of initiatives that advance the interests of our membership while raising public awareness and understanding in our communities.

Capitalizing on the spirit of collaboration and innovation that is bringing us to new heights in design excellence, we have much to learn and even more to gain by embracing our emerging leaders – a far more capable and engaged younger generation of architects that as a matter of practice are inclusive. I’m humbled by the younger generation that I work with. While undeniably talented, they share openly and expect collaboration. And, we have abundantly more ‘emerging leaders’ than those formally advancing through the ELA program, evident by the work they’re producing daily in our midst and by the steps they’re taking to grow professionally.  We have an opportunity to embrace and engage this generation as we seek their input and involvement and support their interests, such as the fledgling Young Architects Forum. AIA Virginia can assist with bringing the vibrancy of the YAF program to ALL parts of the state, to ALL emerging leaders. I believe we want these future leaders to feel welcome, included, and most importantly, valued.

Regarding practice, there are always ways to improve the project process, and in the same spirit of inclusiveness described above, I’d like to explore building stronger bridges between Virginia architects and the administrative and review agencies that we work with. Recognizing the shared objective of design excellence, I hope to celebrate what’s working in this regard and then identify strategies to improve relationships and make the process more predictable. Would high participation of these agencies at ArchEx, The Art of Practice, Design Forum and other events improve the probability of more effective – even collaborative – working relationships? ‘The Art of Practice’ this spring may provide a forum to explore these topics.

Virginia architects have always led. In building a rich tradition of both exemplary architecture and innovative thinking – whether regarding design process or outcomes – Virginia is well-suited to advance the AIA 2030 Challenge and lead in a way that may shape both design and the industry. We will lead by doing. Demystifying the 2030 Challenge and better equipping firms across the Commonwealth with the tools to ‘sign on’ and implement the program is a worthy goal and a good start.

Finally, relocation of AIA Virginia operations to new space in the Bookbindery Building on Broad Street in Richmond is well underway. While the move will provide the AIA Virginia staff with space better suited to interaction and teamwork, AIA Virginia remains committed to our strategic alignment with and support of the Branch in pursuit of their mission.

As we move through 2019 please bring your insights, ideas, and concerns forward. Your thoughts are always welcome, and we will work to do all that we can to help our members be ever more successful.

It’s exciting to begin this journey with all of you. Thank you for this honor.

Rob V Reis, AIA, LEED AP
AIA Virginia