June 15, 2007
  AIA Northern Virginia Celebrates AIA150

How do you . . . make the AIA150 relevant to community?

Summary: The Blueprint for America is the cornerstone of the AIA’s 150th anniversary celebration. Comprising 156 community service projects funded by the AIA, Blueprint for America brings architects and the public together to address community needs related to design and livability. Two of those projects are taking place in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where AIA Northern Virginia hosted a series of special events and exhibitions, two of which are official AIA150 Blueprint projects: Women Creating Community and the Architecture School Charrette.

The first, Women Creating Community, brought together renowned women architects, local architects and designers, and interested community members to discuss visions for beautiful, safe, and livable communities. The chapter’s second Blueprint project, the Architecture School Charrette, which will take place at the end of September, features local architecture students working collaboratively with each other and experienced architects to develop design projects that are responsive to the principles of livable communities.

For AIA Northern Virginia, the added projects were a natural outgrowth of their annual Architecture Week, which is traditionally programmed for mid-April, says AIA Executive Director Debbie Burns. For example, Burns explains, the annual Canstruction® Competition, featuring teams of architects building structures entirely of canned food, was already on the calendar and, in fact, a highly anticipated event at the local food bank, where the chapter has become the second largest donor of canned goods. (The Boy Scouts take first place.)

“Blueprinting” events
Panelists Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA; Kathryn Prigmore, FAIA; and Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, composed a panel that explored the impact of women and minority architects in the community. Looking more globally, they spent much of the two-way program considering what makes a community a community. The chapter held the event, organized by AIA Northern Virginia architect Eliza Beth Engle, AIA, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and, through the format of the program, encouraged audience participation and dialogue. Engle notes the architects and audience touched on many issues, such as how zoning regulations have not kept up with the proclivities of different cultures. “It was less focused on women and more about what architects can bring to a community, how architects are uniquely trained to solve problems, and how we make a difference in communities,” Engle says.

Although the event organizers originally envisioned a film documentary, finances dictated that the program would be anchored with a slide show that asked designers for their meaning of community. The slide show will eventually be posted on the chapter Web site, Burns says.

The second event, slated for September, is a day-long charrette, guided by a jury of leading architects, to facilitate a dialogue about the importance of design in the creation of livable communities. Architecture students from Virginia Tech, Catholic University, Howard University, and the University of Maryland will participate and be interspersed in cross-collegiate teams, Burns explains. The event will take place at the National Building Museum.

Many events
The chapter’s other programs included a Glenn Brown Exhibit and Walking Tour and Lecture. Burns says the architect, who practiced in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va., serving as the first executive secretary of the AIA from 1898-1913, is often overlooked in the history of Washington architecture and in the expansion of the profession. Tony Wrenn, Hon. AIA, offered comments at the lecture, during which Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille of Alexandria presented a proclamation from the City of Alexandria proclaiming April 9-14 as Architecture Week.

(During Brown's tenure, the chapter notes, the Institute was instrumental in developing the Senate Park Commission Plan, which reasserted the open spaces of the 18th-cemtury L’Enfant Plan. As a former assistant of Henry Hobson Richardson, he designed many local buildings and bridges in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Interested in historic structures, he was involved with documenting and restoring many local structures and authored the first comprehensive history of the U.S. Capitol.)

Although not official “Blueprint” activities, the chapter celebrated Architecture Week with a variety of programs, including:

  • Architecture in the Schools Exhibit, during which volunteer architects worked closely with teachers and students, elementary through high school, to integrate architecture into the school curriculum and produce captivating projects. Burns says the chapter treated the exhibition of projects like an art gallery opening, complete with drinks and cookies.
  • A Sense of Place Exhibit, a mixed-media exhibition embracing and expressing the idea of community and “our place in the environment” from the perspective of artists and architects—at the Target Gallery of the Torpedo Factory, 105 N Union Street, Old Town Alexandria.
  • Paint Alexandria Plein Air Event, a multimedia, two-day workshop during which participants attended four two-hour sessions with various well-known artists and architectural renderers.
  • Walking Tours of Alexandria.

—Tracy Ostroff


news headlines
recent related

AIA Launches “Blueprint for America”
Minnesotans Kick Off Livable Communities Celebration
› Nevada’s AIA150 Blueprint for Livability

Visit the AIA Northern Virginia Web site.

Perhaps one of the more lighthearted aspects of AIA Northern Virginia’s AIA150 celebration, AIA Northern Virginia Executive Director Debbie Burns says, is that a local radio station featured National Architecture Week on its lunch radio program. The DJ took calls from listeners (mostly from the AIA champions) for “songs, artists, and albums having to do with communities, design, building, and, in some cases, demolition.”

Here’s a list of the songs that were played during the two-hour program.

1. Cities in Dust—Siouxsie & the Banshees
2. Our House—Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
3. Our House—Madness
4. City of Blinding Lights—U2
5. Breakdown—Tom Petty
6. My City Was Gone—The Pretenders
7. Another Brick in the Wall—Pink Floyd
8. House of the Rising Sun—The Animals (Tracy Chapman cover)
9. Subdivisions—Rush
10. Happy Hour—Housemartins
11. Brick House—Commodores

These are other suggestions that didn’t make it on the show:
12. Digging in the Dirt—Peter Gabriel
13. Burning Down the House—Talking Heads
14. Bleacker Street—Simon & Garfunkel
15. Building a Mystery—Sarah McLachlan
16. We Built This City—Jefferson Starship
17. Stairway to Heaven—Led Zepplin
18. Window in the Skies—U2
19. Thick as a Brick—Jethro Tull
20. This Must Be the Place (Native Melody)—Talking Heads
21. Anything off of Glass Houses by Billy Joel
22. Anything by the Doors

Left to right, Kathryn Prigmore, FAIA; Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA; and Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, panelists at the Women Creating Community Symposium on April 10.
Photo © Deborah S. Burns.

AIA Northern Virginia Chapter President Marlene Walli Shade, AIA, accepts the AIA150 / Architecture Week Proclamation from Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille at the opening of the Glenn Brown Exhibit on April 12.
Photo © Kathryn Brown