Q+A: Alyson Steele, FAIA on a Museum for All, Not the Few

photograph of Alyson Steele FAIA in the foreground with stairs in the background

The National Museum of the American Latino opened the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National Museum of American History in June. The 4,500-sq. ft. gallery is the Smithsonian’s first gallery dedicated to the Latino experience and Latino contributions to the United States. Designed to engage multigenerational and cross-cultural audiences, the Molina Family Latino Gallery integrates the universal principles of inclusive and accessible design. The content and overall experience are in English and Spanish and accessible to diverse visitors with varying physical, sensory, and brain-based conditions. Inform sat down for a conversation with Alyson Steele, FAIA, LEED AP, principal-in-charge for Quinn Evans, on the design of the gallery.

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Ila Berman: Creating a Proud Architecture

black and white photograph of Ila Berman in profile

Ila Berman is an architect, educator, theorist, and curator of shows and content about architecture and urbanism and, from 2016 to 2021, Dean of the School of Architecture, and Edward E. Elson Professor at the University of Virginia. Her design work and installations have been exhibited in many public and private galleries and museums including the International Architectural Biennale in Venice, Italy. She regularly serves on national and international design juries including those for the AIA National and its chapters.

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Design Forum’s Viviana Peña: Architecture Alone Cannot Generate Long-term Transformation

For architects and urban planners, the process of change has been of great value because, when well conceived, architecture and urban planning can act as strategic instruments to build a city and a society that are both more equitable and diverse. Here’s Viviana Peña on why the architectural response to Colombia’s divisions must be in concert with others.

Peña is a featured speaker for Design Forum: South is Up! June 3-4  at the Ballston Center at Marymount University in Arlington. Register and join her at  aiava.org/design-forum-2022.

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Restoring Curved Stained Glass Windows

When Virginia Commonwealth University decided to embark on a rehabilitation of the Scott House, it was evident that the stained glass windows of the ornate Breakfast Room would require specialized repairs.  The deflection of the glass was to the point of physically separating from the metal matrix that joins the pieces of glass, known as cames, posing a threat to the physical integrity of the windows.  Adding a layer of complexity to the challenge was the fact that each window was curved and the cames were zinc, not the typical lead.

The Scott House, completed in 1911, was designed by Noland & Baskervill Architects for Frederic W. Scott and his family.  The impressive residence of over 18,000 sf includes a particularly ornamental copper-clad Breakfast Room (the Conservatory on original plans).  The one-story structure includes domed apses to the south and east with casement windows incorporating clear and textured glass with stained glass garlands of ivy on opalescent glass.

A detailed condition assessment with recommendations and specifications was carried out by Richmond stained and leaded glass conservator, Scott Taylor, to establish the scope of repairs early on.  Significant deflection was evident on all the windows, stressing solder joints and enabling the glass panes to separate from the cames.  This not only enabled water infiltration, but threatened the structural integrity of the windows.  It was determined that a 100% restoration of the zinc matrix was required in the areas of the clear and textured glass.  A limited amount of broken glass was also identified for replacement, but the painted ivy sections were to be minimally treated and left intact.

Wayne Cain of Cain Architectural Art Glass completed the restoration work, starting with the careful removal of each window and transportation of them to his studio in Bremo Bluff, Virginia.  Prior to disassembly, a vellum rubbing was made of each window and then each piece of glass was removed one by one and placed on the templates to ensure reinstallation into their exact positions.  Reproduction glass was sourced for broken or incompatible replacement glass elements and the ivy garland features were removed whole. 

All glass to be reinstalled was carefully cleaned and then reassembled in its original locations with any reproduction pieces into a new zinc matrix.  A custom substrate matching the original curve was constructed as a working bed.  Reinforcement bars were added at continuous horizontal locations on the exterior in order to provide additional support, while remaining visually unobtrusive.  The wood sashes were restored and the windows were reinstalled in their original locations.   In order to provide increased thermal performance as well as protect the historic windows, custom curved glass exterior panels were added as a final improvement.  

The final result retained the original character of the windows and allows them to fully complement the architectural beauty of the restored Breakfast Room.  The added structural support and custom exterior curved glass provide additional protection to ensure the windows survive for future generations to enjoy.

Reprinted with permission from GH&A and author Susan Reed, AIA. This post originally appeared in Preservation Spotlight: Restoring Restoring Curved Stained Glass Windows.

Design Forum’s Cazú Zegers: Ecocentric not Egocentric

Changing our egocentric culture to an “eco-centric” one, says the Chilean architect Cazú Zegers, is when we  see ourselves as part of a complex system that needs to be treated with humility. It’s a message she shares as founder and director of Cazú Zegers Architecture and Foundation +1000. Named among the Latin American architects who break down barriers by Forbes Magazine in 2020, Zegers is a featured speaker for Design Forum: South is Up! June 3-4  at the Ballston Center at Marymount University in Arlington. Register and join her at  aiava.org/design-forum-2022.

In a recent Madame Architect interview, you said “The territory for America is just like monuments for Europe,” and yet student sketchbooks are still not filled with topographies and river paths today. Why are we still stuck on architecture’s monuments elsewhere to contemplate a vernacular future here?

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Blooming Building Exposition Adds Five Pavilions to UVa

Five temporary pavilions have been constructed at the University of Virginia that uniquely address how design and function can respond to contemporary needs. They’re part of the Biomaterials Building Exposition, curated by Katie MacDonald, AIA, and Kyle Schumann, principals of After Architecture and instructors at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. They’re also part of an important global research effort to decarbonize design and construction with the use of rapidly renewable materials, which many experts see as advantageous to reducing embodied carbon and reducing the costs associated with climate positive design.

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Practice, the Academy, and Experiential Learning

The evolving speed and dynamics of the workplace have diminished the ideal of the three-year architecture internship. The intent of the traditional office interface was to provide a bridge between education and the profession for young students entering practice. Graduates are now increasingly expected to be operational upon graduation. Seeking alternatives, the Center for Design Research in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech and Payette, the 2019 AIA Firm of the Year, have created an immersive practice, design, and research experience. The Nexus studio embeds ten students within the day-to-day workings of the office.

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