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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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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Architects Can and Should Improve the Energy Performance of Buildings

Smita Chandra Thomas is a building science expert who founded Energy Shrink in 2015, a consultancy focused on decarbonization in the built environment that provides technical advice, modeling and analysis, and research. She worked as a licensed architect for two years and, for the last 23 years, has been a building science consultant during a period when “green” has been redefined increasingly through technology as well as the environment. She says that architects have a much larger influence on building energy performance than many realize, a role often left to mechanical engineers. And that it’s imperative for architects to learn the basics and decarbonize their practices even if the building industry is slow to evolve. “If you take just one day to immerse yourself in some fundamental ideas about building science,” says Thomas, “you can learn enough to ask the right questions at the right time.”

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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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Notes on Ethel Bailey Furman, architects and archives

The Library of Virginia holds the papers of Ethel Bailey Furman (1893-1976), Virginia’s first practicing African-American architect, and the collection comprises 177 pieces of physical evidence including more than 100 sheets of tracing paper bearing her hand drawings rendered in graphite. She is believed to have designed about 200 buildings including the Fair Oak Baptist Church in Richmond, St. James Baptist Church in Goochland County, and Mount Nebo Baptist Church in New Kent County. Notably, Furman’s 1961 International Style addition to Richmond’s Greek Revival Fourth Baptist Church sits on the National Register of Historic Places. She was a prolific designer, to be sure, and even if there’s very little left in the landscape of her effort, you may visit her home and studio at 3025 Q Street in Richmond, which her father — the city’s second licensed African-American contractor — built in 1910.

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