How do you create a thriving downtown that will be best suited for people today and in the future? This prompt informed a year-long investigation by AIA Virginia's 2020 class of Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA).
Over a memorable year, including the transition from in-person work to virtual collaborations, the 2020 ELA team navigated various hurdles while working together to study, assess, and propose resilient design measures for the city of Portsmouth, Virginia. Leveraging existing city development plans, the 16-person team created strategies utilizing different scales of time and different scales of design to bring new life back into the evolving Downtown and Old Towne Portsmouth districts.
Using their skills as emerging leaders in architecture, the ELAs established resilient and equitable solutions to the opportunities they found. By establishing smaller steps that can be feasibly implemented, their hope is to create lasting change that can produce a greater impact on the City of Portsmouth over time.
Two VMDO employees, Mert Kansu and James Vidoni, were selected from a competitive pool of applicants to participate in the 2020 ELA program. Through an intensive program of educational sessions structured around presentations, discussions, team exploration, collaboration, and case study activities, they honed leadership skills that will translate across their careers – ultimately contributing to the advancement of architecture as a profession and as a practice.
In the video above, Mert and James reflect on their work thinking holistically about the complex organism of the City of Portsmouth – rich in history, diversity, and development – and ways architects can contribute to its resilient evolution.
The 2020 ELA class's design process, proposal, investigations, and reflections are compiled in the book below titled: Portsmouth: A Resilient Evolution.