Three takes on innovation at ArchEx 2023 in November 

Everyone knows what innovation means, but ask ten people to offer a definition and you’ll get nearly as many versions. Technology will surely be a common thread, since it has come to be almost synonymous with the “i” word, but its root—novus—means new, which is a much broader dragnet for architects when they think about making claims about their innovative design or processes.

Architecture Exchange East (Nov. 1-3) has doubled down on what’s new about innovation with sessions about connectivity, technological or otherwise. Here are three takes on a contested word that you’ll want to check out if you’re also interested in doubling down on your firm’s future.

This year, Manoj Dalaya, FAIA, co-founder and president of KGD Architecture (and subject of an Inform interview last year), will talk about connecting a complicated program and stringent security requirements for the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) in Arlington with the need to create an open and modern workplace. The result? A luminous office that offers a range of open and secure work environments. For a place built on secrets, the IDA is a remarkably airy and welcoming place. Michele Amt, AIA who directs VMDO’s sustainability efforts, has another take on innovation—how to transform both the culture and practice of her firm to embrace what she calls “radical transparency,” align design decisions with sustainability goals, and leverage data to advance project outcomes. (She was also part of a roundup earlier this year of impressions published by Inform on Architecture 2030’s CARE calculator for carbon savings.) 

Speaking of digital tools, this wouldn’t be a preview of sessions on innovation without a word about technology. T.J. Meehan, VP of Technology Solutions for CADD Microsystems, will be on-hand at ArchEx this year to talk about what’s beyond your BIM workflow using Revit and how to meet client needs for facilities management—long after the punch list has been completed and the backbone of a project’s promise to, say, reduce operational carbon or be generally efficient. Best of all, says Meehan, it’s a revenue stream you can consider, not to mention a value-add for the project.

Innovation comes in lots of flavors, and this is far from an exhaustive account of what’s on tap at ArchEx this year. Find out more about these sessions and others, and register today for ArchEx.

Michelle Amt, AIA: Radical Transparency (Or, How To Transform the Industry And Your Practice)
Thinking about signing on to the 2030 Commitment but you’re nervous about hitting the target on schedule? Have you been reporting for a few years but you can’t seem to move the needle on your percent reduction? Wondering how you compare to others in the same boat? Join us for a deep dive on how the 2030 Commitment can transform how you practice—even if you’re not hitting your targets–with VMDO Architects. Through their embrace of radical transparency, this session will shed light on how this forward-thinking firm leverages tools like the AIA’s Design Data Exchange (DDX) to align design decisions with sustainability goals, setting   new standards for accountability and industry transformation. Learn about the challenges and benefits of this approach, and discover how it’s reshaping VMDO’s firm culture, enhancing their projects’ impact, and charting a more sustainable future for architectural design.

Manoj Dalaya, FAIA: Connection, Cognitions, And Balance Through Design
What is the importance of a connected and engaging workplace from the owner’s perspective in a hybrid setting? How can the architect lead the dialogue between the Owner and Consultants to shape a modern workplace? This is a case study of a new headquarters serving 1000 employees for the Institute for Defense Analyses. The client answers the most challenging U.S. security and science policy questions with objective analysis which is technical, and data-driven. The focus on art, lighting, and wellness is a counterpoint to the data-driven, high-security culture, providing relief and amplifying the capacity of the employees to achieve their mission.

T.J. Meehan: Additional Revenue Streams For Your Firm From A BIM Process
As a firm, you need to constantly stay ahead of your competition by providing more value. If you have already adopted a BIM workflow using Revit, there are several services you could provide to meet their needs. More and more owners are utilizing the models generated during design to manage their facilities, so how can you – with little more effort – provide models that assist owners with their FM goals and do so without fundamentally changing your business structure or requiring large investments in staff or technology. We will review specific steps you can take with your models and related processes to help owners meet their FM goals and how you may be able to not only add value to help set yourself apart from your competition, but also how you may be able to monetize these services.

HGA’s Capital One Hall turns the tide at Tysons

By William Richards

HGA’s handsome marble-clad Capital One Hall at Tysons Corner announces a totally different direction for an ex-novo urban area that has been defined less by architectural vision over the years and more by cloverleaf interchanges and white-knuckle merges. The façade’s alternating marble and glass strips was conceived by HGA’s head Tim Carl, FAIA, and design principal Nat Madson, AIA, and was reportedly inspired by Gordon Matta-Clark’s photography—a nod to the interplay of our perception of urban space as its framed, sometimes tightly, by gaps and fissures in the urban fabric. 

It’s hard to imagine Gordon Matta-Clark mentioned in the same sentence as anything related to Tysons, but there it is—and HGA’s work to realize Capital One Hall, itself, offers a possible window into a more promising future for the area. One promising future is about scale—and the entertainment and community venue finally completes a corporate campus that has struggled to find a human-scale focal point after the banking behemoth began developing the site a quarter century ago. The other possible future is about community—and Capital One Hall also completes Fairfax County’s plan to make Tysons Corner a cultural destination for more than 25,000 residents who live nearby. 

As corporate campuses go, Capital One’s development over almost 24 years has meant a diverse set of design decisions juxtaposed in one place. There’s the gleaming glass tower (the tallest in the metro area), a joint endeavor between HKS Architects, Bonstra Haresign, and CallisonRTKL. A quick walk away is the comparatively low-slung original office block that harkens back to federal office buildings from the 1950s in its massing. (About 50 miles away, the 1960 Altmeyer Social Security Administration Building comes to mind, for which HGA was architect-of-record for its 2021 renovation.) Other small- and mid-size towers dot the site along the periphery of the bank’s triangular property—more bank offices, residences, corporate housing, and a massive, 80,000 square-foot Wegman’s grocery store.

Capital One Hall is the literal center of the pizza pie-shaped property that Capital One has owned (and has been developing) since 2000. Blending spare, almost Nordic gestures, a rich materials palette, and flexible spaces to suit a range of programming, Capital One Hall is really several connected entertainment and community spaces. But it didn’t start that way, says Scott Cryer, AIA, Associate Vice President and Principal at HGA. It started as a brief for more meeting space for intra-bank groups, a community space, and a way to deal with the Wegmans loading dock (which occupies the four sub-floors beneath the concert hall).

“All that together then brought us to our proposal for Capital One Hall, which includes all of the meeting spaces the client needs while also creating a performance space for the community,” says Cryer. “It’s highly flexible for the community’s needs and for Capital One’s needs, and it’s an anchor for the entire campus now”.”

The 1,600-seat main theater, clad in walnut and perforated aluminum panels, has acoustics so perfect it compelled Josh Groban to sing acapella on opening night (a first for him, reportedly). The adjacent black-box theater called “The Vault” holds 225 people the chance to see more intimate productions, one-person readings, or experimental performance pieces. 

“From the standpoint of the arts community here, the fact that multiple arts organizations can put on shows here now—it’s been transformative,” says Cryer, who also happens to be an area resident who is involved in several local committees and boards. 

Cryer says county residents can apply to have their shows put on in either the Vault or the main theater by going through Arts Fairfax, who vets applications on behalf of Capital One. “These were shows that had to be put on in cafeterias and church basements around the county—and now people can come to the Vault or the main stage,” he says.

Watching a concert or play or operetta is preceded by another kind of performance, which is the physical procession of spaces that all good theaters invest in as a preambulatory experience, from Charles Garnier at his Paris Opera to Edward Durell Stone at his Kennedy Center. You enter the building from the street under an old fashioned marquee, up a grand staircase, into a foyer, and into the atrium, itself on the piano nobile, which can be configured and reconfigured for sitting or standing events (or simple pre-show or intermission chatter). Atop it all on the roof is “The Perch,” a public rooftop co-administered by the county’s park authority, that holds an additional 10,000 people complete with biergarten and park, a number the roof hit on opening night.

For years, area residents have driven to Tysons for Halloween costumes, prom dresses, monogrammed flatware, or the novelty of eating conveyor belt sushi between two escalators. These days, you can take the Metro there. These days, you can also have lots of reasons to never set foot in the mall, too—meeting venues, no fewer than 11 hotels, and dozens of other corporate HQs along NoVa’s tech corridor on the approach to Dulles. There are even some great area parks with real trees. But, with the arrival of a Capital One Hall there is now one more reason to skip the mall and one less reason to complain about a grand urban experiment that might just work out in the end. 

Capital One Hall received an Award of Honor for Architecture from AIA Virginia in 2022. Learn more about HGA work, and Capital One Hall’s future performances

Mueller Associates, Inc.: MEP Engineering

Cushman & Wakefield: Project Development Partner

George Sexton Associates, LLC: Exterior Facade Lighting

Stages Consultants: Theatre Planning, Acoustics and A/V

Thornton Tomasetti: Structural Engineering

Arup: Façade Consultant and Code & Life Safety

William Richards is a writer and editorial consultant based in Washington, D.C. From 2007 to 2011, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Inform Magazine.

Harpers Ferry at the edge of the world

The headwaters of the Shenandoah River emerge in two locations in the Appalachian Mountains to create the North and South Forks, which flow northeast in tandem before merging at Front Royal. Forty-two miles later, the unified Shenandoah merges with the Potomac River at the town of Harpers Ferry, an enduring stopover for travelers, dignitaries, presidents, and pioneers. Like the Natural Bridge or the caves at Luray, Harpers Ferry is one of the geological wonders of the region. There’s no other way to describe this confluence of two formidable rivers other than to say it’s a spectacularly dramatic landscape. It’s also an incredibly busy landscape, run by a cadge of Peregrine falcons circling above and overrun by a flock of tourists in search of trash cans for their plastic spoons. 

The town, enveloped by a National Historic Park since 1944, caters to more than half a million visitors each year whose stores sell rocks and socks and sandwiches and sundaes. On a recent summer’s Sunday visit, English, French, German, and Hindi could be heard over the din of chatter and children, and daytrippers from D.C. mingled in what’s called the Lower Town with cyclists, backpackers, and overnighters. The Lower Town and everything above it unfolds along a tight urban plan that squeezes as much of a regular grid as possible into an irregular mesa barely 2,000 feet across. Two streets run like train tracks along the flattest part until one ekes out the other and runs down to the fabled Point marked by bronze plaques and an uninterrupted view of two rivers beyond. 

Mercifully, the Point is also unbothered by hot dog vendors or t-shirt hawkers. Visitors are free to gather for selfies or to read the faded Park Service panels illustrating the natural phenomenon before them. They come to learn the history of a place all but destroyed during the Civil War (and long since rebuilt by local merchants and the National Park Service to its pre-war glory). They come for the industrial beauty of an active trestle bridge next to abandoned viaduct piers, not to mention the defensive structures that define the riverfront itself. They come for the natural beauty of this respite near the midway point of the Appalachian Trail between Georgia and Maine. They come for a good time, too, and the ancillary industries of tubing, kayaking, and canoeing.

But, mostly they come to see John Brown’s Fort and the place where, in 1859, Brown attempted to raid the federal armory at Harpers Ferry (one of only two in the entire U.S. at the time), galvanizing the abolitionist cause. Brown’s larger strategy centered on the snowball effect—to generate enough momentum and accumulate enough people to fuel a slave rebellion. In Harpers Ferry, he hoped to capture (along with 22 abolitionists) upwards of 100,000 muskets and rifles and hold the armory long enough to attract area slaves and sympathizers. Then he’d arm them for a bloody campaign that would move south along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains in the hopes of freeing and arming other slaves along the way. Of course, that would not be the outcome and the eponymous fort that is associated with John Brown today was never part of his plan—nor was it a fort at all, but the armory’s garage for fire engines that became a fallback position for Brown and his dwindling party of raiders who would all be killed by federal troops or later tried and executed in Virginia (Brown among them). 

Most scholars agree that their deaths cemented Lincoln’s first presidential victory in November 1860 over his three opponents (including, notably, Stephen A. Douglas) and catalyzed the secession of 11 southern states—in the “cause of Disunion”—beginning in December 1860 and lasting into 1861. Sitting as it does today at the nexus of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland, Harpers Ferry certainly had a special political significance for Brown. And, sitting as it does at the nexus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the town continued to have a special tactical significance throughout the war for two armies. Harpers Ferry changed hands several times over the course of five years in bloody and bloodless ways, its military structures often set afire by both sides to thwart the enemy and its town left battered. One Union officer noted in March 1862, about halfway through the war, “It is really, or rather was, a town of some note, but the ruin, absolute devastation now in its place is beyond anything I ever dreamed or saw or heard tell of.”

Today that history has been expunged by new development and its ramparts have been cleaned up for tourists and history buffs. You’re more likely to see a discarded carabiner on the side of the road than a bullet casing. Much of the Lower Town has been reconstructed and even John Brown’s Fort—whose bricks traveled quite a bit after the war before being reconstructed at Harpers Ferry—bears virtually no sign that it was an abolitionist’s last stand or the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Harpers Ferry no longer serves a tactical purpose for a reunified U.S. Army (and the Army Corps of Engineers has moved on to improve another Harpers Ferry more than 850 miles away). It doesn’t even have much political significance for the north or the south (although hikers along the Appalachian Trail will tell you it’s significant for them). 

But, what it does have is the thing it always had, long before the war—a spectacularly dramatic landscape at the confluence of two formidable rivers. People might come for John Brown’s memory, but they likely end up remembering something else entirely on the drive (or hike) home. 

William Richards is a writer and editorial consultant based in Washington, D.C. From 2007 to 2011, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Inform Magazine.

Carbon modeling workshop focuses on skill-building and decarbonizing your projects

There’s a lot of talk about decarbonization out there—and for good reason. It’s widely agreed to be an effective strategy to reduce the embodied and operational carbon footprint of our design and building activities. Embodied carbon, in particular, is a hard nut to crack because—as all architects know all too well—the number of variables in a project’s timeline is formidable. For the uninitiated, it’s calculated as “global warming potential” (or GWP) and expressed in equivalent units of carbon dioxide (CO2e), which we can quantify during a life cycle assessment (LCA) that involves environmental product declarations (EPDs). 

If you read that paragraph and took a minute to catch your breath, you’re not alone. 

But, AIA Central Virginia Technology in Architectural Practice Committee (TAP) and AIA Virginia’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) has your back. On Monday, Aug. 28, head over to the office of Grimm + Parker Architects in Charlottesville (lunch will be provided) and join a blue ribbon group of experts for the Embodied Carbon Modeling Workshop. For 90 minutes, you’ll have a laptop pre-loaded with Revit, TallyLCA, Tally CAT and Autodesk Insight Tech Preview and you’ll be able to test-drive an embodied carbon assessment in a demo project. The focus is on you and by the end of it, you’ll be able to return to your office and begin the process of reducing embodied carbon in your projects. Registration is open.

Don’t miss this chance to make a change in your work—and inspire others. Decarbonization takes all of us.

Q+A: Jim Burton on telling the story of Virginia architecture in Venice 

The Venice Biennale signifies a lot in the architecture world, raising topics that might be prescient or provocative and, through its curatorial lens, suggesting a new direction for design thinking. As part of the broader festival, the European Cultural Centre’s Italian section has hosted an annual exhibition called “Time, Space, Existence,” and invited firms from around the world like Berryville’s Carter + Burton Architecture to participate. This year, Jim Burton, AIA and his design team planned and shaped an exhibition installation called “Tectonics and Craft for a Critical Regionalism,”  a display that chronicles both the firm’s history, its methodology, its influences, and the practice of sustainable architecture in Virginia and beyond. In this interview, Burton talks about the exhibit and its implications for the bigger project of “critical regionalism,” first theorized by Kenneth Frampton and continued by firms like Carter + Burton.

“We do work within an eight-hour radius [of Berryville], but most of our projects are in and around Virginia,” says Jim Burton, AIA, Managing Partner of Carter + Burton Architecture. “Virginians have always wanted to connect with nature, and we enjoy working with those who are seeking that.” Photo courtesy Carter + Burton.

What story are you telling in Venice about architecture in Virginia? What’s the opportunity for your firm?

With this exhibit format we  are trying to bridge between education and practice to help share new and old knowledge about materials, building science and context while assuring there is a craft and beauty that will be appreciated and preserved as a form of sustainability. This celebration of those who have helped inspire and make the work possible has been a reminder of how research and design can evolve over time, while showing respect for  timeless truths about  architecture and collaboration.

With a focus on culture being the other half of sustainability, we reached back to early work to tell the story about detail discoveries in design/build experiments with recycled elements, site-harvested materials and micro-climate contexts. We also included our  wider history of  working with clients and craftsmen including an early Eco Modern house featured in the Washington Post in 1999 all the way up through newer designs under construction now. While there is a trend toward prefabrication and automation, we hope to show it can be relevant to provide energy efficient, loose fit, site-specific designs considering local, diverse and essential materials while supporting a local craft pool and the culture it comes from. We also enjoy celebrating the use of original art, custom rugs and furniture while balancing with the use of modern interior design classics. We have already seen responses from potential and new clients who are interested in some of the newer systems featured in the exhibit such as our use of CLT panels. 

ECC Italy’s exhibition’s permanent title, “Time,  Space, Existence,” is a heady rejoinder to the mission of sustainability. How do you anchor sustainability in a way that expresses what’s happening here in Virginia?

We have tried to focus on sensible tactics like using broken massing with shade buffer porches in wide open southern sites for ventilation and sun control while superinsulating more compact designs in northern wooded or shady mountain top lots. 

For six years running, the European Cultural Centre has hosted “Time Space Existence,” featuring exhibits by architects, artists, and designers at Venice’s Palazzo Mora. Rosa Leonie, photographer (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Master campus plans, urban, suburban and exurban transformation projects featured in our exhibit also show expressions of  specific conditions for creating place making including exterior rooms developed with landscape architect Gregg Bleam of Charlottesville. A palimpsest strategy is often used to bring in controlled light and materiality while showing remnants of the old balancing with the new rather than erasing the past altogether. Working with built-ins and furniture by Mira Nakashima is also a highlight that shares a more universal beauty found in natural material expression.  

There’s another layer to this sustainability, which is that you have to work with new systems as the industry evolves. There are SIPS panels, which have been around for awhile, and there are CLT panels and others now. The building envelope technology continues to evolve with industry leaders like Dr. Joe Lstiburek of the Building Science Corporation and George Swanson, who co-authored the book Breathing Walls. As material qualities and the climate  change, it becomes important to collaborate with specialists and learn from industry mistakes. We have had the privilege of working with Lstiburek on projects and in a new architecture education book.    

Does this participate in, or even expand, the “critical regionalism” concept as Kenneth Frampton conceived it?

I will say that the details we’ve been experimenting with and addressing have been in a microclimate approach rather than a purely “regional” approach — we’re discovering things such as timbers milled on site have responded well against twisting and checking.

Some builders or artisans bring an exceptional skill level that becomes local lore when we are lucky enough to find them and work with them in a collaborative way. Because our designs do not look sentimental to a region, it may be harder to typecast or label the  “ism”  in this discussion.

How do Virginia’s biomes define its diversity? 

We do work within an eight-hour radius, so we are up in Buffalo, New York, and down in parts of North Carolina, but most of our projects are in and around Virginia. Virginians have always wanted to connect with nature, and we enjoy working with those who are seeking that. We see a wide range of microclimates in Virginia. For example, sites south of Front Royal can be several degrees hotter than sites closer to West Virginia and Maryland. We have a site in Warren County near Browntown that is seven degrees cooler, and the wind continues to blow almost year-round up there. Our High Knob mountain top sites in Warren County have shown weather patterns similar to climate zones seen in northern Pennsylvania and New York.  

The four-season beauty also can be unforgiving, with high humidity and heavy rain in shoulder months. Good detailing and planning with old and new knowledge can ensure comfort as people seek to live in the type of landscape that resonates with their instincts the most. We work hard to respect the qualities of the place and help people experience these places in a fun and exciting way.  

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Learn more about Carter + Burton’s exhibit.

William Richards is a writer and the Editorial Director of Team Three, an editorial and creative consultancy based in Washington, DC

Carter + Burton Architecture showcases regional design in Venice

Carter + Burton Architecture in Berryville, Virginia, is excited to announce its participation in the sixth edition of the biennial architecture exhibition, “Time Space Existence,” at the Palazzo Mora in Venice, Italy. The show opened on May 20, 2023, and will run until Nov. 26, 2023. The European Cultural Centre (ECC) Italy in collaboration with Open Space Venice has curated a diverse assortment of works from various international architects, artists, designers, academics and photographers to draw audience attention toward new expressions of sustainability in response to climate change. As the only Virginia architecture firm represented at the show, Carter + Burton takes immense pride in representing regional perspectives internationally.

Architect Jim Burton and his design team planned and shaped the exhibit over the course of six months. “Tectonics and Craft for a Critical Regionalism” is a display with four sections that demonstrate the firm’s commitment to the themes of the exhibition. A vertical totem of mentors and inspirations includes Raphael Moneo, Jane Jacobs, Sam Mockbee, Chris Risher, George Nakashima, Joe Lstiburek and others. “It has been a pleasure going back to celebrate those who have inspired our work from our early development,” says Burton, “while also featuring the craftspeople who have provided the time and care to create their best work.”

The 9-meter long  exhibit is anchored with a display shelf of sample materials and collaborators including builders, makers and designers. The backdrop features new designs and a film touching on the history of the work and its evolving diversity.   

“It gives a detailed overview of Carter + Burton’s approach on architecture, in a meaningful  and extensive way,” says Suzanne van der Borg, an exhibition organizer with the ECC’s architecture section. Van der Borg is one of 13 organizers who cover architecture, art, design, and sculpture for ECC Italy, a satellite of the Netherlands-based European Cultural Centre, founded in 2002 by Dutch artist Rene Rietmeyer and responsible for more than 50 exhibitions in 10 countries. 

Throughout its portfolio, Carter + Burton has tested regional and universal materiality in its forward-thinking microclimate responses. Collaborations with craftsmen, designers and cutting-edge building systems reflect its process of blending site, program, technical innovation and tasteful artistry. The firm has been passionate about combining modern, sustainable and contextual design. Highlighted projects incorporate net zero logic, natural light, acoustic engineering and eco-friendly building materials while advancing the evolving building science discussion.

Carter + Burton cares deeply about connecting structure and space to site conditions, making sure each project inspires a storytelling spirit borne out of craft and those who make it possible. Some details feature a handmade rigor; others are fabricated remotely for integration, providing a diverse approach. This hybrid vigor creates beauty and pride in placemaking. 

Learn more at, and follow either Carter Burton or Jim Burton on Instagram 

ArchEx will deliver on networking, “serendipity,” and a new night for Visions

By William Richards

If you’re lining up your Q4 commitments, put Architecture Exchange East 2023 (Nov. 1-3) on your radar in Richmond. You’re not going to want to miss it this year, says AIA Virginia’s Executive Vice President Paul Battaglia, AIA, thanks to new networking opportunities and a new night for Visions for Architecture. “ArchEx is about accelerating your learning by offering some very unique experiences to forge stronger connections to your colleagues,” says Battaglia, “and we are stronger together as a design and construction community, which has never been more important than now—in today’s economy at this critical time for the environment.” The main thing for the annual convention, he says in this exclusive interview, is about being open to what’s next—and there’s only one way to find out what that might mean.

What’s your baseline for understanding ArchEx in 2023? Why is going to be an important event?

People can get their learning credits in lots of places—and that’s just a fact. But, what’s also a fact is that you can’t get them in quite the same way as you can at ArchEx. It’s one of the things that excites me as a member. If you practice architecture in Virginia, if you teach design in Virginia, and if you supply architects with products and services, this is really the only place you’re going to strengthen your position as a design thinker on behalf of your business. Or, even just on behalf of yourself, frankly.

OK, Paul, but you are the Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia. Aren’t you supposed to say that?

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t, but I have to tell you that I really believe architects, educators, product manufacturers, and AEC industry insiders in Virginia are really looking for something different—and I believe ArchEx is going to deliver. Registration opens next month and we’re really excited to let people know about it.

ArchEx is about remembering what a convening force design can be. We’re going to double down on our expo floor and really make that hive of activity a driver of networking.

ArchEx is also about providing a platform for cutting edge research and practice to flourish. The sessions we’re considering this year are really top notch. I can’t really tell you about them now—not yet—but I’m really pleased with how timely they are for this place and time in Virginia’s scene, and how compelling they are for any time, really—and that’s about finding those threads that knit together the work across generations and also the incredibly diverse markets across the state.

I think I hear you saying that ArchEx isn’t just for one type of person. Is that right?

Yes, and what strikes me is the range of things that architects are interested in doing—and what they have done, certainly—but what they are trying to get into, riding that edge of their experience and wondering what’s possible with this product on the expo floor or that talk they just heard in a packed room.

When I think back over all the years I’ve attended, the best times were the unpredictable times—the serendipity of sessions or conversations that lead down a road you hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes that happens in the lobby when I’m looking at a project exhibit. Sometimes it’s an off-handed comment made by someone next to me in a session. Sometimes it leads to a contract. Sometimes it leads to a new job. 

I think there are a lot of people interested in that kind of serendipity. 

What are some of the ways you’re considering that inclusive chance for everyone to find the next thing?

ArchEx is about a dialogue across experiences. We have members who have been practicing for 30 years who are really passionate about making a positive difference for their firms and for the next generation of architects. We have members who are hard-charging graduates who are on a licensure path—sacrificing a lot of their time to pass their exams—and ArchEx has to be there for them, too, offering ways to enrich that experience. It also has to offer them ways to network, too, and forge those relationships that really make a difference in the long term.

What’s one of the things that you’re changing this year?

We’re moving Visions to Thursday night, too, instead of on the final day of the convention because we want it to be a more inclusive event. I think a lot of people in the past wondered about the benefit of tacking on that extra night—on a weekend, to boot—and so by moving Visions up in the conference to Thursday, we feel we can bring more people together to celebrate their colleagues. 

Whether it’s Visions or not, everything we’re doing this year is meant to bring people together and remind them that this is an opportunity for them to fulfill their goals. It’s also an opportunity for them to find new goals. For me that’s about being open to possibility, and it’s a really good time to be open to possibility in Virginia architecture right now. 

Registration for Architecture Exchange East begins in just a few weeks! Stay tuned and follow AIA Virginia on Facebook and Instagram to be among the first to know when registration opens.