Architects Design Parklets to Help Reopen Businesses

As the City of Richmond, Va., reopens, AIA Richmond and Venture Richmond have joined forces to support local restaurants with a program called “Picnic in a Parklet.” This joint enterprise with the City of Richmond offers design and permitting assistance to create parklets — outdoor, physically-distanced seating in street parking areas.

“Transforming our use of public space innovatively and sustainably requires partnerships just like this one,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “By linking the business and design communities, this program will expand the city’s growing network of creatively designed public spaces.”

Business-owners who are interested in temporarily converting an on-street parking space adjacent to their storefront into parklets will work with Venture Richmond to assess their needs and navigate the permitting process. AIA Richmond will connect that business with an architect for pro-bono design services for parklets.

inflatable tubes define physically-distanced seating areas in parklets
Inflatable tubes help define this outdoor seating space concept. They’re highly visible to vehicle traffic. Image courtesy of Venture Richmond, AIA Richmond and HKS.

“We think creatively. We’re problem solvers … and this is one of the many ways we thought of to give back to our community,” said AIA Richmond president, Nick Cooper. “We hope each design team will respond to the historical fabric of the neighborhood,” he continues. “Richmond is composed of distinctively different neighborhoods that all have a certain character, and we imagine these parklets to be an extension of that.”

Unless otherwise specified or revoked, parklet permits are valid for three years and all requests within Richmond City limits will be considered. Business owners can learn more and apply for support at the RVA Strong website.

fabric mesh and scaffolding help define parklet seating
Fabric mesh and repurposed scaffolding could help define parklet seating areas. Image courtesy of AIA Richmond, Venture Richmond, and HKS.

Cradle to Cradle Design for Occupant Wellbeing: Plantronics European HQ

When Plantronics selected Park 20|20 in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, as the site for their new European headquarters, their primary objective was to focus on employees’ health and wellbeing through innovative, human-centered design — a familiar territory for the pioneering audio and communications technology leader which provided the tech that allowed Neil Armstrong to transmit his famous first words on the moon. Recently acquired by Poly, Plantronics collaborated closely with Charlottesville, Va.- based design architect and Park 20|20 masterplanner William McDonough + Partners (WM+P), to create a Cradle to Cradle-inspired workplace. The result is a building that promotes a perfect balance between wellness and productivity through design strategies that benefit both human and environmental health focused on safe-then-circular materials, user comfort and connectivity to nature.

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Summer Design Challenge Launched

In late 2019, leaders from the AIA Hampton Roads Young Architects Forum (YAF Hampton Roads) were awarded the Helene Combs Dreiling Fellowship to develop a design competition to encourage collaboration among emerging professionals in the industry. As the coronavirus emerged and social distancing protocols were put into place, YAF Hampton Roads quickly pivoted their vision for the program to support students current enrolled in a Virginia college or university architecture, structural engineering, building sciences, construction management program (or related field of study). And, thus the Summer Design Challenge was born. A cash prize of $1000 will be awarded to the winning team.

The design brief outlines the challenge and eligibility requirements. Following registration, participants will be assigned to multidisciplinary teams, each of which be assigned a mentor. The mentor will facilitate a design charrette and remain available to assist and offer guidance until they’re ready to make their final submission to the Summer Design Challenge.

The registration deadline is June. 5.

McLeod Tyler Wellness Center at William & Mary

EYP’s design for The College of William & Mary’s McLeod Tyler Wellness Center is intended to be a beacon for health and wellness for the campus community. A safe, inviting, and modern contribution to a campus traditionally influenced by Georgian architecture, the design importantly centralizes and integrates all major wellness facilities and programs.

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Designer Q & A: Lauren Shumate, AIA

Contributor: Margaret Hancock

How did you come to architecture as a profession?

As an undergrad, I began studying historic preservation at a small liberal arts school. I quickly realized that my personal interest in the built environment was not just about researching, but about designing. So, I transferred to the University of Virginia and switched my academic focus to architecture — and loved every minute of it. After graduation, I worked for an architecture firm in Philadelphia for several years before returning to UVA for graduate school.

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Deep Energy Retrofit: Spencer Carriage House

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1905 structure is one of the last remaining stable/carriage houses built to serve the large mansions in the Dupont Circle area. Originally horses and carriages were housed below, and servants above. Over the last hundred years the building has been used as a garage, a car dealership, a fashionable restaurant, and in its last incarnation, a popular nightclub. When the current owner acquired the building, it lay empty and exposed to rain and weather. No original interior trim or features remained and the original layout had long been abandoned.

The design team at Peabody Architects was challenged by the owners to preserve this D.C. landmark, create a home for aging in place, and achieve as close to net-zero energy use as possible without sacrifice to comfort or lifestyle.

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