Cameron Mactavish Takes New Role as Partner Emeritus
At this year’s Annual Party, VMA was joined by our partners, friends, and family to celebrate Cameron Mactavish and to raise a toast to his new role as Partner Emeritus. We were honored by how many people turned out and proud to be sharing this moment in VMA’s history. After a trip down the Atlantic coast with his wife on their self-restored sailboat, we look forward to welcoming Cameron back this Spring as he trades daily office life for a more limited part-time role in the firm’s operations.
Montclair Kimberley Academy Primary School Expansion Opens
This September, the Montclair Kimberley Academy’s Primary School welcomed students into its new expansion for the first time. The existing school needed a larger space on campus where the lower school could come together as a whole. The new expansion is a creative and practical response to that problem and includes a flexible cafeteria/auditorium, which can serve as a single large assembly hall or be divided for daily events, such as lunches or class performances. The new entrance and surrounding site were reconfigured to better support daily pick-up/ drop-off, and a central hall with built-in benches sized for students overlooks the pick-up/drop-off area. Throughout the expansion, the layout and design balances transparency, view to outdoor spaces, and natural light with the need for safety and security.
VMA Welcomes Scott O'Barr
VMA is excited to announce that J. Scott O’Barr, AIA, NCARB, has joined VMA as our newest Project Manager. Scott has extensive experience in not only the design of new buildings, but also in restoration and adaptive re-use of historic buildings and sites. His work, which has been featured in New Old House, Period Homes, and Architectural Digest, is a perfect fit for the VMA philosophy of delivering “innovation in the context of tradition.”
Outside the office, Scott is involved in the Philadelphia Chapter of The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and is on the board of Friends of Lemon Hill, an organization supports the preservation of the 19th century Lemon Hill Mansion in Fairmount Park.
The Grange at The Hotchkiss School Wins 2019 SARA National Design Award
The Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) has recognized The Grange at Fairfield Farm, a unique facility on the campus of Connecticut’s The Hotchkiss School (link), with a 2019 SARA National Design Award of Honor. The Grange was designed to support the school’s student-focuses agricultural program which immerses them in nature and instills a sense of local and global responsibility for natural resources. Students harvest and process crops which are then served in the school’s dining hall. Taking cues from nearby vernacular agriculture forms, the flexibility of The Grange allows it to act as a classroom, dining, or event space; a vegetable washing station; a cooking classroom; and a highly insulated basement for bulk storage. Congratulations to The Hotchkiss School and to all our team members!
Daniela Voith Speaks at Anbound Conference
Daniela Voith spoke as part of the Pedestrian Oriented Development (POD) Forum hosted by Anbound, a Beijing-based think tank, which focused on the topic of how progressive urban zoning policies can help deliver improved well-being for residents, shorter commutes, better walkable environments, and more active mixed-use developments. Her presentation was based in part on her experiences on Philadelphia’s Zoning Code Commission and Zoning Advisory Group as well as contemporary case studies including the impact of the the Comcast Technology Center and changes in the city’s rowhouse zoning.
On the Boards
We are excited about the many projects currently on the boards, most of which represent our strong reputation as a firm that specializes in campus design and planning. Some recent highlights include:
University of Pennsylvania. We completed the preliminary plan for the Biotech Commons, a re-imagining of Penn’s existing Biomedical Library, back in 2017 and are now working with the university on advancing the series of phased improvements.
St. Joseph’s University. As executive architect for the first projects to emerge from the university’s comprehensive campus plan, we are developing early documentation for several projects including a new residence hall, new student center, Athletics Center renovation, and a new home for the Kinney Center for Autism.
Millbrook School. After working with Millbrook on our third campus plan together, we are embarking on significant improvements to their athletic facilities.
St. George’s School (shown). We are well underway on a comprehensive evaluation of their Newport, RI campus to produce a plan that will specifically address their residential program as well as greater, long-term considerations of facilities.
The Commons Opens at Villanova University
The campus evolution of Villanova University has taken a significant step forward with the grand opening of The Commons student housing, hallmark of the university’s multi-phased Lancaster Avenue improvements which also included a new parking garage, pedestrian bridge, and a Performing Arts Center still under construction. As architect of record for this transformational project, we joined university officials and project team members – including representatives from our design partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects – for the ribbon cutting ceremony in August. Students are now in residence and the feedback has been enormously positive, with many visitors remarking that the buildings look “as if they have always been here” – which is exactly the effect that the university hoped to achieve!
Lawrenceville’s Abbott Dining Hall Wins IIDA Award
The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware Chapter has recognized Abbott Dining Hall at The Lawrenceville School with an Honorable Mention Award for Education/Institutional projects as part of their 15th Annual Interior Design Awards program. Brittany Gross and Hunter Faddis of the VMA interiors studio were part of the team on hand to accept the award. The inspiration behind the project was a desire to create a sense of “love and loyalty,” incorporating elements like wallpaper created from photos of the campus landscape, flags with symbols of each residential house, and symbols drawn from the school’s rich traditions and lore.
Welcome Yiran, Jordan, and Sayali
VMA continues to grow! We recently welcomed Yiran Zhao, Jordan Schrad, and Sayali Gudekar to our team.
Yiran, Draftsperson, is a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College and a talented artist. She looks forward to learning practical architectural skills and learning more about a project’s life cycle here at VMA.
Jordan, Draftsperson, recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame and is most looking forward to learning as much as he can about the design process. He is especially exited about working on college and university projects.
Sayali, Sustainable Design Specialist, worked as an architect on small-scale projects before returning to school and graduating with a Master of Science in Sustainable Design from Jefferson University. She is passionate about developing dynamic and efficient design solutions that are environmentally harmonious.
We are still actively seeking design professionals who share our philosophy of seeking innovation in the context of tradition and look forward to welcoming even more new faces to our office in the coming months.
VMA Presents “Classroom Trends” for NJAPPA and ERAPPA
John Cluver, Partner, and Sennah Loftus, Associate Principal, joined representatives from Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School at the New Jersey Chapter of APPA (NJAPPA) Spring Meeting for a presentation and panel discussion on “Trends in Classroom Design & Technology.” After sharing different examples of learning environments that incorporated advanced technology in unique ways, the dialogue focused on how high-tech classrooms can help advance institutional goals and how facilities staff in particular were engaged during each project. The audience feedback was so positive that the session was presented again during a live webinar hosted by the Eastern Regional Chapter of APPA (ERAPPA), which was recorded and can be viewed via their YouTube Channel here.
Ryan and Kate Spend the Summer at VMA
Our staff were joined by two temporary additions this summer: Ryan Gebhart from and Kate Silber.
Ryan, an architectural student at the Catholic University of America with a strong interest in campus planning & design, contributed to several projects but said that his favorite was a feasibility study to adaptively reuse a historic building on a local university campus as a welcome center for prospective student athletes. He somehow also found time this summer to publish Hidden Within, the second book in his young adult fantasy series “Jewel of Life.”
Kate, a student at Haverford College, interned in our interior design studio and hopes to pursue a career in architecture upon graduation. In addition to coordinating furniture installations and other project logistics, she also contributed heavily to the staging of our intensive photoshoot at The Commons at Villanova University – a task very much in line with her personal interest in photography.
Both Ryan (far left) and Kate (far right) can be seen in the image above acting as “models” for the Villanova photoshoot. We appreciate all the hard work done by both of them over the summer and hope you’ll join us in wishing them all the best this Fall!
Church Farm School Breaks Ground on Campus Improvements
The first phase of campus improvements at Church Farm School is officially underway! VMA joined the school for the official groundbreaking this spring and construction has begun in earnest on a new centralized arts center; renovations to Greystock Hall, the school’s main academic building; and a new entrance road that will help improve overall campus safety. VMA is the project architect but also developed the comprehensive campus plan that is the driving force behind the improvements.
VMA Welcomes Monica Gaura
VMA is delighted to announce that Monica Gaura, RA has joined the firm as a Project Architect. Monica, who holds a degree in architecture from Drexel University and a Master’s degree in Theories of Urban Practice from Parsons School of Design, spent over five years working in New York before relocating back to the Philadelphia area. She is already hard at work as part of the team behind the Rauch Business College expansion at Lehigh University – but is also making sure to spend time with her sketchbook around the city.
New Projects on the Boards
Our staff have been working on several exciting new projects, including:
Kutztown University – Renovation of the De Francesco Building, home to the university’s business programs
Lincoln University – Renovation and restoration of Vail Memorial Hall, built in 1898 and one of the oldest buildings on campus
Millbrook School – Developed our third consecutive campus plan for this long-term client (since 2003!) and are currently working on the first phase projects
Philadelphia Museum of Art – Installation of a James Turrell Skyspace overlooking the Schuylkill River
Stay tuned for updates!
VMA Instagram Hits 1,500 Followers!
If you follow VMA on Instagram, you’re in good company: we officially reached 1,500 followers this spring! Daniela Voith personally manages our feed with posts ranging from little-seen photos from past projects, sneak peeks at projects that are currently in progress, updates from our staff, and design inspiration both local and global. Be sure to follow VMA today for the latest updates!
Daniela Voith Joins ICAA Philadelphia Chapter
In January, Daniela Voith officially joined the board of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA). The chapter serves the Philadelphia region (including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) with courses and lectures in drawing, history, and philosophy and held its inaugural Trumbauer Awards program in 2016. As a board member, Daniela especially looks forward to supporting the chapter’s educational programs by coordinating events and establishing partnerships with like-minded local organizations.
Rave Reviews At The Academy Of Music
The recently-completed first phase of seating and accessibility improvements at the historic Academy of Music has received rave reviews from audience members. In addition to replacing many of the theater’s seats with new models intended to improve audience comfort, the configuration was altered to increase the number and variety of accessible options.
After a recent performance, the relative of an accessible seating guest commented on their experience: “We loved the accessible seating at the Academy of Music… WOW! What a difference! She can see so much better. We were thrilled. We had stopped going to many shows at the Academy because being in the back was no fun for her at all. But now, we would absolutely come again and again! Thank you to everyone involved!”
We couldn’t ask for a greater compliment.
VMA Celebrates 30 Years
On a rainy November evening, VMA welcomed our partners, friends, and family to a very special celebration of the firm’s 30th anniversary. In addition to the roast pig and live jazz band – longstanding traditions at our annual party – this year we had a few surprises, too: wine tastings with Karamoor Winery, craft gin & tonic cocktails courtesy of Palmer Distilling Company, and a photobooth from The Yellow Mirror that let guests take their pictures “inside” their favorite VMA projects. Thank you to everyone who joined us for this important milestone.
Welcome To VMA!
VMA is always looking to expand our team, and we recently welcomed three new additions:
Georgina Johnson, Draftsperson, who recently graduated with dual degrees from Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College through the Bi-College Consortium. She has worked as a student researcher for Mural Arts’ Monument Lab program and is multilingual, understanding the basics of both Chinese and French.
Maryam Hallaj, Communications Coordinator, received her BS Architecture from Temple University and worked as an architectural designer before joining VMA. She was actively involved with several organizations at Temple, where she also co-founded The Architecture Lobby Temple Chapter, and continues to volunteer for events like DesignPhiladelphia.
Brittany Gross, Interiors and Sustainability Coordinator, is a graduate of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Environmental Design. Her experience working at the intersection of sustainability and interior design in a university setting makes her a perfect fit for VMA.
Dwight Hall Reopens At Yale University
In October, VMA joined the Yale University community for the rededication of the Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice. Daniela Voith, a Yale alum, was the partner in charge of the building’s renovation, which created a series of flexible meeting rooms and offices to support the 75+ student-run service and advocacy groups. The historic chapel also received some minor renovations, including a new accessible entry.
New Website Coming Soon
We are proud to announce that a new VMA website will make its debut in Spring 2019. It will better communicate who we are as a firm by featuring more of the people behind our work and the philosophy we share, as well as a significantly expanded portfolio that captures the breadth and depth of our experience. For updates on when the new website will launch, follow VMA on social media.