Kelley Holmes, AIA, NOMA, an associate in Quinn Evans’ Richmond office, discusses in her words how finding her passions early on in her life and career were essential to her success.
For me, the true interest in architecture came from chance. My dad’s job involved him being heavy into technology and burgeoning technology, so I had the privilege from a young age of growing up in a household that had computers, which was a rarity for the late–eighties and early-nineties.
When I was 10 years old, my dad purchased a new computer, and it came with all these extra programs on a CD-ROM. One of them was a very basic design program where the user can layout walls, rooms, and add furniture, which sparked my initial interest in design. Later, when I was in high school, my father connected me with a local architect for a one-day job shadow program. But it wasn’t just any architect, it was a woman, which — unbeknownst to me — was uncommon for that time in rural Virginia. Looking back, that experience had a pretty big impact on me, allowing me to see myself in this field.
The work that I do in the Richmond office at Quinn Evans is mostly education-based projects focused around lifelong learning — K-12 schools, museums, higher education, and libraries. The coolest part about it is that a lot of the work that I’ve done is here in Richmond, where I live. I can drive around and see it, but also visually see and feel the impact our designs have on the communities that they serve.
Perhaps the most emotional moment that I had, as an architect, was working on the Fairfield Area Library in Henrico County. It was one of the first projects in which I was the project architect from start to finish — where I was truly able to shape and influence the building itself throughout that process. On opening day, the county hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A massive crowd of community residents gathered around, which I feel doesn’t always happen on new projects, and as soon as that ribbon was cut, they immediately wanted to get through the doors and start using the library. It was really moving for me to watch how happy they all were and how excited they were to begin using the irreplaceable resources that the library provides. Moments like this makes a career in architecture all worth it.
I’ve been working in education-based markets for the last nine years and I love it. It gives me that sense of giving back—that good energy you get from volunteering, but you’re doing it as your day job, which is awesome. Beyond my work at Quinn Evans, I also deeply believe in growing the next generation of designers and design leaders. I do so through a magnitude of volunteer work which includes serving as a steering committee member for AIA Richmond’s Richmond Women in Design (RWiD), as a board member with the ACE Mentor Program of RVA, as a board member with the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (VANOMA), and as a mentor with USGBC Virginia’s Connect the Dots Green School Challenge. All these amazing organizations offer me the ability to connect with young professionals and students across the Commonwealth, and to help provide them with that spark that my father once provided me.
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