Event Recap: 1900 N Street Construction Tour

1900 n poster_0

On December 4th, the Emerging Architects Committee held a construction tour of 1900 N Street, a new office building under construction in Dupont Circle. Developed by JBG Smith, with KPF as the design architect and FOX Architects as the architect of record, 1900 N will be an exciting addition to the architectural landscape of DC once complete. The building features a unique structural element in the form of a truss that hangs one third of the building. This allows an unobstructed, column free lobby at the corner of 19th and N Streets and will allow the building to become a gateway to downtown and Dupont Circle. The truss is encased in an architectural embellishment and celebrated by being encased in a bright red Fiber Reinforced Panel cladding.

Participants first listened to a brief presentation by the Architect, Structural Engineer and General Contractor about the project. Kate Mooney (Project Manager, FOX), Brian Schenck (Project Manager, DeSimone Consulting Engineers), and Jack Blank (Project Manager, Harvey-Cleary Builders) walked participants through the design of the project, the particulars of how the truss operates and was designed and the coordination between the teams that was required to pull off such a complex undertaking. Particular note was made to the unique design of the building, which in addition to the truss, takes advantage of zoning laws with an architectural embellishment, utilizes a state of the art DOAS HVAC system and has a generous rooftop amenity.

With the sold out crowed in tow, the group toured the building from top to bottom and was able to see the preparations for the truss as well as the “hanger columns” which will support the hanging portions of the building. Unfortunately, the truss pieces scheduled to be on site for the tour were delayed by the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush. Other than that minor hiccup, the tour was a success with participants learning about one of the most structurally and aesthetically unique future buildings in DC! Join the EAC for future tours of other unique buildings under construction!



Event Recap: Philadelphia Study Tour

On October 20th, members of the Emerging Architects Committee lead this year’s annual study tour to Philadelphia, PA. Upon arrival, the group did their best Rocky impression as they climbed the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum where we were able to have a great look at the developing skyline of the city, including the new Comcast Tower. The next stop was Eastern State Penitentiary where we learned about the National Historic Landmark and its historical significance. We then departed for the Barnes Foundation where a docent lead tour guided them through the museum. After lunch in the museum’s Annenberg Court, we walked to Philadelphia City Hall where we received a tour of the exterior and had a chance to view the city from the clock tower of the world’s largest masonry structure. The tour made its way through Independence Mall in route to Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest residential street which dates back to the early 1700s. After the Elfreth’s Alley tour, the team boarded the bus and headed back to DC.

The sold out event was a huge success with nothing but positive feedback from those who attended. We are looking forward to next year’s tour. If you have any ideas where we should head next be sure to come to one of our planning meetings held the second Wednesday of every month.

5 Favorites Friday

Favorites this week are all about upcoming events — and there are a lot in 2018! Check it out:

1. If your New Years Resolution is to get licensed:

ncarb and you

The first of three “The Future is Emerging” series — dynamic Mentoring Workshops that explore the path ahead: for your career, for practice, and for the architectural profession itself.

Eager to get licensed but unsure where to begin? Trying to finish your last exams before ARE 4.0 disappears forever? Itching to learn how to be a better supervisor to your firm’s emerging professionals? Join us for our first Mentoring Workshop of 2018, NCARB & You: AXP, ARE, & Certification, presented by NCARB’s Director of Examination, Jared Zurn, AIA, NCARB, and Assistant Director of Experience + Education, Martin Smith, AIA, NCARB, LEED Green Assoc. Come get the latest info on a range of licensure topics relevant to students, aspiring architects, supervisors, architects, and anyone in the architecture profession. The presentation will review the steps necessary to achieve architectural licensure and other programs to get the most out of your architectural career, including:

• The entities involved in the licensure process
• How to progress successfully through the Architectural Experience Program™ (AXP™)
• What to expect from the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®)
• Recent changes to NCARB programs
• The value of the NCARB Certificate

Following the presentation, Jared and Martin will stick around to answer your burning questions. Register for FREE today!

2. If you’re getting ready to go after your dream job:

portfolio workshop

Get a draft of your resume and portfolio together and bring it to the District Architecture Center on Saturday, February 10th! Learn what firms are looking for in potential employees and get personal feedback on your work. Bring your resume and portfolio in any state of completion for review by local architects.

Registration is open now!

Students: $5
Assoc. AIA: $10
AIA & DAC Members: $15
Non-members: $20

3. If you’re struggling to find motivation in studying for the ARE:

STAY TUNED for our first-ever ARE trivia night on Tuesday, March 6th at a local D.C. bar! Make studying fun again and bring your co-workers, friends, bosses, employees, and anyone familiar with architecture to test your knowledge in a creative study method – TRIVIA! All experience levels are encouraged too attend and prizes will be awarded, so make sure to bring a couple experts as well as beginners.  Venue, registration, and posters coming soon.

4. If you’re looking for weekend plans:

Saturday, January 20th 11am: Womens March 2018 “The Women’s March on Washington is back this weekend, one year after its historic demonstration on the National Mall drew an estimated half a million people the day after President Trump was inaugurated. The event will take place on Saturday, Jan. 20 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.”

Saturday, January 20th 1pm: Ice Yards at Yards Park “The wintry festival for adults in Yards Park features appropriately frozen games, including shuffleboard and Plinko; ax-throwing; ice carvers; a communal “shotski” shot attempt; bars serving local beers and wintry cocktails; and music by DJs and cover band Down Wilson. 1 to 5 p.m. $10, includes one drink.” 

Sunday, January 21st 7:30pm: Story District’s Top Shelf at the Lincoln Theater  “The amateur storytellers of Story District can make an audience howl with laughter, bring a packed room to hushed silence and leave a crowd hanging on their every word. The organization puts on dozens of shows each year, but if you only make it to one, make it Top Shelf. The eight performers telling their true tales onstage were selected by a panel of judges as the very best of more than 150 stories performed in 2017. (Saturday’s show is sold out, so organizers have added a second edition, on Sunday.) 7:30 p.m. $25-$35.”

5. Lastly, some Friday inspiration:

mark twain

2017 5 Favorites!

1. Huge shout out to all of our sponsors that helped to make 2017 a major success!

Check out this short video celebrating all the success of the committee this year. None of this would have been possible without the contributions from our sponsors:



Hickok Cole

Event Sponsors:
Fox Architects
SEA-Meatropolitan DC

2. “What the *bleep* is an Architect?!” discussed the role of the architect in the eyes of peers, consultants, and the public. It got a little heated!

3. The Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program began it’s fifth year!


4. Our mentoring series saw record highs in attendance this year in our #ArchitectUp sessions!


5. Leah Ijjas, our committee chair, was honored with the Emerging Architect of the Year award from the chapter!

Thanks to everyone who planned and participated in our events this year! We’re looking forward to a great 2018!

October Thesis Feature #3


Tips on how to make even the most unconventional architectural thesis resonate within the conventions of standard design practice

Rebecca Soja


Your thesis is labeled as unconventional – own it. When the skeptics start asking questions about why your project matters to the architectural profession, here’s how you can respond:

Where’s the architecture? There is an inherent assumption that an architectural thesis must include a building with a typical program to be considered architectural. However, a fundamental part of the argument could be that architecture is missing or disengaged when it comes to reconciling some of the most pressing and controversial issues of our time. I don’t know of many architects volunteering to design a beef processing facility, do you? But it should matter that architecture and design excellence (in a traditional sense) begin to intersect with the networks of countless externalities and unsustainable conditions that extend beyond immediate awareness.

What’s your agenda? Architecture is ubiquitous. Practically anything can be linked back to the built environment or the user experience and as architects we gain inspiration from a plethora of sources – history, art, natural sciences, technology, culture, politics, forms, and materials. Architecture is agency through design and it doesn’t end at the building envelope. In a thesis, there is the opportunity to redefine what constitutes the built environment beyond permanent structures. One can embrace notions of temporality, resilience, ecosystems (social, natural, or otherwise), etc. Push your agenda, at whatever scale from community down to a wall section detail, in favor of a broader public agenda, using programs, policies, spatial relationships, workflows, fabrication processes, and materials or systems as mechanisms for change.


Are you a vegetarian? My thesis may have been about industrial beef, but truth be told, I’m not a vegetarian. Being passionate about a topic is a plus, but not a requirement to deliver an impressive body of work. You can make the project interesting in other ways by approaching whatever the problem is with curiosity and rigor. I chose beef because it was ostentatious and encompassed relevant themes of cultural overconsumption, the serious immediate and long-term ramifications and costs of sizeable industrial processes, and lack of transparency. I wanted to inject an architectural lens into a place it had never really been to make a point about the segregation of production and consumption practices and spaces. The focus could have just as easily been some other resource or commodity like petroleum, water, or electronics. Once I got started diving deep into research, I wanted to become a mini expert.

How will you apply what you’ve learned in the profession? I’m always surprised about the positive response my thesis arouses. I may never design a transparency tour, but as an architect, I feel it is my responsibility to consider equity, safety, health, wellness, sustainability, and context in order to design with intent and impact. Working on my thesis broadened my perspective and helped me to improve design and representation skill sets, which has allowed me to find a niche in my firm where I can be involved in research and developing tools or workflows that integrate all stakeholders throughout the design process. Two years after completing my thesis, I’m still getting a return on investment from the creative energy I put into it. It’s exciting to see the conversation continue.


What if unconventional was the new normal? It seems that some of the most revolutionary ideas are deemed crazy at first. If everyone took an unconventional approach to thesis, whether it be the topic or the process, imagine how much we could contribute to the profession. Even if your thesis isn’t buildable, that doesn’t mean you can’t grab the attention of a practicing architect. In fact, you have to differentiate yourself to make a statement or nobody will notice you have something to say. If you start a conversation, whether with architects or other disciplines, you might motivate implementation/adoption of an idea or collective action towards a solution to an issue. What was once considered unconventional, may just become the latest trend and a future design standard.

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Don’t take thesis too seriously (seriously, though). You’ll get a lot more out of the endeavor if you factor a little bit of ridiculousness into the equation.

For an extended version of this post with additional tidbits of advice I have based on my experience, plus a look into my “unconventional” thesis, The Meat You Haven’t Met, check out the following links:



October Thesis Feature #2

Today we feature our second blog post highlighting one of the projects from this year’s thesis showcase winners. Great insight for those in the middle of this type of project!

3 Lessons from My Architectural Thesis

Pedro Sanchez

Much of my experience during my thesis project holds true in the professional world. It all seems different at first, but it is all about how you approach each challenge you face. Most of what you learn in school is actually independent of scale and topic. With that in mind, it seems that for most people, the thesis project carries the most pressure. A wise friend and colleague once said that the thesis does not define you. It does not have to be the best project you’ve ever seen. Putting too much pressure on yourself can leave you paralyzed. This is true for every project, and the thesis is just another test.


My thesis, titled “Recovering Civic Space”, looks at the role that freeway and rail infrastructure plays as it relates to the city. It is about taking an area of uninhabitable and divisive infrastructure and elevating it to something civic. It accepts the premises that the presence of, and the need for, that infrastructure will remain. Just south of the Capitol Building, I’m proposing a master plan that makes use of valuable land, reconnects neighborhoods, and connects a place experienced through a series of civic spaces.

1. Sometimes the Topic Chooses You

You might be interested in everything, which if you are like me, makes it difficult to pick a topic for your thesis. The main thing to do is to not panic. Surround yourself with images and texts revolving around topics that you find interesting. If the project is going to choose you, then all you have to do is facilitate. Have conversations with your colleagues, professors, and even just with yourself. At this point you are well versed in the studio culture, and you know that sometimes you just have to try something and get feedback.


This thesis project began with a conversation with my thesis chair, landing the project in a broad area of Washington D.C. Although I did not have a topic yet, I had the start. We knew that the selected area had many problems, and the topic emerged from studying those problems. The whole project felt like a discovery.

2. When Time is Scarce

Try to be realistic about what you can produce, while considering time and resources. One must accept the fact that you won’t solve everything. The process of figuring out what your thesis will cover, or what type of story it will tell, is one of discovery. As you study, iterate, and work through challenges and ideas, you begin to understand the problem – or the thesis. I would ask myself – When I am done producing my drawings, what big picture problem will I be addressing? I think this helps to not get stuck on the small stuff.

Time is something I had very little of. I was blessed enough to participate in the 2017 ULI Hines Competition which I devoted an entire month to. I was also blessed to have a Teaching Assistant position, teaching first year architectural studio, which took time and brain power. Meanwhile, a large portion of my time was spent struggling to understand what kind of project this was, and how I was going to present it.

You may have a perfect plan of how to execute your thesis, but remember, that you might get thrown off by your thesis committee, or even simply change your mind. As with any project, you might be forced to invent new ways to get things done. That is part of the beauty. You might even learn a few skills.

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As I found myself with one month left to go, and no images to show for my efforts, I was forced to MacGyver my way to the finish line. One and a half weeks of SketchUp modeling, and most of my urban design and buildings were done. Two days of Lumion and 2 days of Photoshop and I had 18 renderings that were unique and extremely well received. I even managed to create a 3-minute. Of course, it was a bit more complicated than that as it was a process of discovery.

3. When the Problem is Too Big

The size of the problem depends on how you approach it. You may find yourself with a very large project in the physical sense, such as an urban design project. This can be stressful, as you try to incorporate architecture and design of spaces. As we know time is very limited. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. You don’t have to be creative in every single aspect of your project. Your strategy will have more value than the uniqueness of the product. Use your creativity when approaching the problem, instead of trying to be creative with the solution. If you have a unique view of the problem, then the solution will naturally follow.

Your project might seem to be asking too much of you, and sometimes all it needs is an answer, not the most creative or unique answer. In architecture we look at precedents to learn about topics, and for inspiration. We can also look at precedents as pieces of the puzzle that you can place, remove, and move around your project. Especially with a large urban design project. In fact, placing precedents in your project as test fits can help you farther understand the problem.

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My thesis project had several large areas that needed design, including streets, urban spaces, and the buildings that created them. Although I had ideas of what I wanted those spaces to be, precedents were especially helpful in executing the idea when time was very limited. They also helped others understand the quality of space, and proved that it was all possible. The selected precedents did not come out of thin air and were not hard to find. They were consistent with the ideas I stood for and the vision I hoped to create.

You may notice that there is not much that is new in your thesis project. You have learned all the skills and critical thinking to complete it. The things that are new will naturally come from you. Give yourself a pat in the back, relax, and remember that there is life after thesis.


October Thesis Feature #1

This month we will be featuring blog posts from our four presenters at this year’s thesis showcase! These posts will highlight each student’s path through the thesis process, the unexpected challenges they had to overcome, and the influence each project has had on their career.

pier perspective2-FINAL

How to Explore, Push, and Prod Your Way Through an Architecture Thesis

Jeannine Muller

It’s time to start your architecture thesis: cue instant dread, nerves, and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed. Thesis can seem like an enormous challenge that tests your architectural abilities, time management skills, and sleep patterns. But it can also be your chance to explore exactly what you have been interested throughout your architectural education but haven’t had the ability to do yet. A good thesis is just that: an exploration; deep, probing, and meaningful, but an exploration nonetheless. In my opinion, it is not the job of the architecture student to pick an issue and be able to completely solve it in a year of thesis work; as we have all learned in school, there is no one way to solve a problem, and no one person can have all the answers.

By approaching thesis as an exploration of a topic you are passionate about, you can have an array of outcomes at the end of the day. One way to get started is to generate a series of questions that you hope to raise in your exploration. They might not be questions that you answer by the end of your thesis, but they can serve as probes that you return to through your process.

I think it is important to pick a topic that you are truly passionate about—something that you won’t get bored of during your year-long endeavor. Part of this is picking a topic that is broad enough to sustain your interest and passion. Once you begin researching one part of your topic, you might hit a dead-end or lose interest and it helps to have a topic that allows you the range and flexibility to approach it from several angles, or examine it through multiple lenses.

My thesis was about the relationship between waste and the city and how architecture can play a role in that relationship. The final title of the thesis was “The Architecture of Waste: Designing New Avenues for Public Engagement with Trash”. Getting to that point certainly took some time. I knew I wanted to focus my thesis on urban issues, as I’ve always been fascinated with all things related to cities. What interests me most about cities are that they are like living ecosystems: made up of a complex series of systems that must work together in order to function as a whole. When listing out these systems to pick a thesis topic, I was most interested in the systems that act as “invisible infrastructures”, systems that must work in order for a city to function, yet have little value placed on them. One of these that stood out to me was waste. Hardly anyone stops to think about the larger system of waste as they throw out an old food container in the trash or think about how waste collection has an effect on the urban environment they occupy until a noisy garbage truck drives down the street. But all of these things are important parts of our built environment. With the topic of waste, I felt I could delve into broad issues such as the sustainability of cities, public awareness of the cycle of waste, the technology of waste-to-energy, and lastly the lack of the involvement of architecture profession in these issues.

By pursing an architecture thesis on a topic most architects don’t typically associate with design, I wanted to push people’s perception of the types of environments we design. It was important for me to use this thesis as a way to contribute towards the conversation of how to push the field of architecture beyond its traditional limits, in order to become involved in all the issues that face our cities. I believe thesis is the opportunity for young emerging professionals to critically question the field of architecture and push the boundaries of it. It is the chance to become an expert in a particular issue of interest, but to also be part of a larger conversation of advancing the profession.


5 Favorites Friday

1. If the state of the nation makes you want to do something (but you just don’t know what):



Our fourth mentoring workshop is coming up next week! Aimee Custis, deputy director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, will be joining us to discuss real-world examples from her work in advocacy. Aimee will break down the steps you can take to reach the right audience and effectively use your resources to create the change you’d like to see at the local, regional, and national levels. Register today!

2. Hurricane season has you really concerned about Latin America but you don’t know how to give back.

3. Because talking to structural engineers gets you really excited! (Really!)

2016-04-21_10700_International Spy Museum_CFA Presentation - Pre

Image from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners/Hickok Cole Architects

We are planning our second joint construction tour of the new International Spy Museum with the structural engineering young members group (SEAMW-YMG)! The tour is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17th and they always sell out fast! Make sure to register early for this one!

4. If you need a little bit of inspo to get to work on a Friday:

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will, through work, bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea’.”

-Chuck Close, American artist who achieved fame as a photorealist through massive-scale portraits

5. You’re feeling like you should be volunteering more often in general…

Join Teass Warren Architects and the Washington Architectural Foundation at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to celebrate National Public Lands Day! Volunteers will assist with the removal of cut lotus from the park’s ponds as well as a variety of other park improvement projects including transplanting perennials, removing invasive species, and picking up litter.

5 Questions for Brian Kelly


This week we sat down with Brian Kelly, Professor and Director of the Architecture Program at the University of Maryland, to discuss what he sees as opportunities and challenges for recent graduates in anticipation of our Fourth Annual Thesis Showcase next Tuesday! You can register here.

  1. Are there specific themes that you have been seeing in recent thesis projects (i.e. sustainability, robotics, etc.)?

    In the past few years theses have increasingly focused on the big issues of our time. Students regularly probe issues of sustainability and resilience. For some students this is the central theme of their thesis investigation, but for nearly all students, theses tend to intersect these topics and students develop insightful responses to our current predicament. More and more thesis projects are taking up the problems of cities. This is particularly relevant as we see increased interest in living in compact, walkable, transit-oriented environments, like Washington, DC. Similarly, there are consistently groups of students who explore the social, economic, cultural, and environmental problems of places like Baltimore where there are drastic shifts in populations, deteriorated housing stock, de-densification, and gentrification in many areas. We also see trends to bring in experts from allied disciplines in the context of thesis.

    It is not unusual to have faculty members from Planning, Preservation, or Real Estate Development sitting on committees and students diving deep into these issues as they impact architectural thinking. Likewise, students are increasingly reaching outside of the allied disciplines in order to do deep dives into thesis topics, NASA scientists on campus, urban agriculture experts, and mentors in visualization all come to mind as additional resources rallied by students in the completion of their thesis work.

  2. Has your program made any changes to align with recent efforts to prepare students to take exams earlier?

    We are a NCARB approved iPAL provider, but we have yet to bring the program online due to a series of campus-wide approvals that need to be in place. We encourage students to engage AXP and are open to the idea of earlier engagement of the ARE, but there have been no structural changes in this arena.

  3. What do you believe is the biggest challenge for recent grads transitioning into the work place?

    Time management is the biggest skill that I think students don’t fully appreciate. School allows lots of flexibility, while in the workplace you need to perform efficiently and reliably. I think that some of our most successful graduates transition well because they have developed the ability to manage time. I also think that understanding that every project needs leadership at all levels is another important challenge. If you want to succeed, you need to convince your colleagues that you are capable of leadership even if you are relegated to the task of working out details for a fire stair or toilet room.

  4. What skills do you think recent grads can bring to a new office that might not be realized/utilized currently?

    I feel that students today care deeply about the environment and social conditions. They are well-versed in bringing knowledge into the equation beyond just that of the formal/technical dimensions of architecture. Unlike my generation that was preoccupied with issues of style and content, this generation understands that the solutions to the pressing problems that face them requires deep knowledge of the discipline of architecture and a broad knowledge of other disciplines that can inform what we do.

  5. Has the approach to teaching design thinking evolved/changed because of the millennial culture?

    Many millennials don’t know how to use their hands. Unlike students from a decade or two ago, the tradition of drawing, model making, even free-play, seem to have been pushed to the wayside in favor of a digital world. We believe that mastery of digital skills is necessary, but architects build real things in the real world, and thus need to draw and make models. Drawing offers insights into architecture and design thinking that digital media cannot replicate. I am reminded of how Louis Kahn always started design projects with charcoal and soft clay because the ideas were ill-formed at the beginning of the design process and thus needed media that could be forgiving and permit interpretation.

There’s still time to register for tonight’s event! Come with more questions!

5 Favorites Friday

1. If you feel like you could use a bit of creative inspiration:


The fourth annual Thesis Showcase will take place on September 12th! Come check out a curated selection of thesis projects and take advantage of the opportunity for practitioners to view a sample of the work emerging from architecture schools. Register here!

2. You know that it’s about time to start to give back and helping to solve world hunger appeals to you.

3. Because you would love the opportunity to take over this blog:

August Meeting

Our September meeting is scheduled for Wednesday the 6th, which is important to note because it’s a week earlier than usual! Come help us brain storm about what 2018 should look like with the EAC!

4. You didn’t get enough time to socialize at our event because you were so excited about the food…

USGBC National Capital Region’s Emerging Professionals is hosting an end of summer social on September 18th! Come join a host of other professionals interested in sustainability and take advantage of the Wunder Garten’s awesome beer selection!

5. Because we’re feeling a little nostalgic about that rooftop last week…

Networking Event.JPG

Thanks again to everyone who was able to attend our Summer Networking Bash! We’re looking forward to more events like it in the future!