Virginia Creates Strategy for Coastal Resilience

When Hurricane Ida ravaged Louisiana’s coastline last month on the 16th anniversary of Katrina’s carnage, everyone wondered if the region’s levies and infrastructure improvements would make a difference. While the storm surges were managed better this time around, the economic damage for households and businesses will still have a deleterious effect on an already challenging situation for tens of thousands of Louisianans.

More »

SOM’s New Army Museum Speaks to Diverse Audiences in a Singular Way

There are some 90 museums in the United States and abroad covering individual aspects of the American Army, from its airborne and artillery divisions to general defense to the personal history of General George Patton, himself. The eighth to open in Virginia alone is the most comprehensive among them in terms of its permanent collection and scope, and its exhibitions program is varied to accommodate a variety of audiences. Yet, the new home for the National Museum of the United States Army, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and sitting at the head of 84 acres of land at Fort Belvoir, is entirely singular in its expression.

More »

Reader & Swartz Design a School for Today that Anchors Ashburn’s Tomorrow

Loudoun County has changed a lot in the last two decades. Horses and farms still define its idyll for city slickers, but an encroaching exurbia has raised the alarm for many residents (and their horses), some of which speak only of inevitabilities. Driving home recently from visiting the Loudoun School for Advanced Studies (LSAS) in Ashburn, designed by Reader & Swartz, I passed no fewer than 13 Teslas and one mauve Hummer, and I began considering what’s inevitable about the place. Thinking about the school, it seems possible that what’s new and old about Loudoun County might even prosper together under certain economic circumstances. But, what about the social infrastructure that makes it a real place?

More »

WM+P’s Project Legacy

William McDonough + Partners’ (WM+P) Project Legacy at Universidad EAN in Bogotà, Colombia is designed to illustrate the potential of Cradle to Cradle® and the circular economy. The team designed this school to be like a living, breathing organism, native to and a part of its environment — its colorful façade captures the exuberance inherent in Colombian culture.                                                                 

More »

At the Intersection of this Moment and the Future: Innovation + Flexibility at Flint Hill School

Bowie Gridley’s design of the new Peterson Middle School at Flint Hill School (FHS), a progressive independent school with 1,000 students located in Northern Virginia, embodies innovation, flexibility, and both the social/emotional and physical wellness needs of middle school students. With its spaces for creativity and experimentation and its incorporation of technology, it meets the school’s cutting-edge educational pedagogy with 21st century design and addresses the need for flexibility in a post-COVID world.

More »

Charlottesville’s New Quirk Hotel Anchors a Main Street in Flux

Breathless encomiums about Charlottesville’s renaissance over the past decade are easy to understand. There’s been lots of housing and commercial infill, especially along stretches of road between town and gown outposts. The county’s infrastructure projects ringing the city have started to address (but still not solve) the traffic congestion. The newly completed South Lawn and hospital complex expansion projects are marvels of civil engineering. The Rotunda recently reemerged after a multimillion-dollar renovation as a model of thoughtfulness and probity. In parts of town where tuition-paying parents might have a Coke and a burger, things are generally looking leafier and cleaner.

More »

Notes on the Williamsburg Experiment

There’s an irony in writing a true account about the living history museum at Colonial Williamsburg. Its eponymous foundation and its curators have grappled with the same two questions for generations: Whose histories do we tell and how shall we recreate them? Today, Williamsburg faces a new set of questions beyond the facts recorded in the governours’ ledgers:  Whose truths do we tell and how shall we present them in concert together, especially in light of the 1619 Project, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Critical Race Theory, whose progenitors demand more than new lines of inquiry. They demanded action. Williamsburg has made clear efforts to juggle archaeology with interpretation, and it has also attempted to address the indictment of sophistry among its critics, which are legion. But, can the sites of Williamsburg’s 301 acres respond to our moment now?

In our post-vaccination world, Colonial Williamsburg is worth revisiting this summer, as I did in June—not for what its evidence reveals about Colonial America, but for our opportunity to change the course of what I’ll call the Williamsburg Experiment, ongoing for more than 380 years.

More »