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.
Thorndale Farms Office Recognized with 2018 Palladio Award
Thorndale Farms, a private office complex in Millbrook, NY, has received a 2018 Palladio Award (New Design & Construction, Less Than 30,000 sf) from Traditional Building magazine. The Palladio Awards are the only national awards that recognize excellence in traditional architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and traditional craftsmanship. Thorndale, a collaboration with G.P. Schafer Architect, is a unique combination of institutional and residential styles; design elements include a glazed cupola, ample interior glazing, and contextually appropriate materials like clapboard siding and metal seamed roof.
The Lawrenceville School Occupies Abbott Dining Hall
One of VMA’s most transformative projects is substantially complete, and the results are stunning. Abbott Dining Hall was drastically renovated, inside and out; we raised the roof – literally – to create a vaulted dining room inside and redesigned the exterior to better integrate with the campus’s historic architecture. Clever details like brass medallions laid into the terrazzo floors reference school lore and history. The reinvigorated space better reflects the school’s commitment to providing the best possible living and learning environments for their students.
Philadelphia Youth Basketball and VMA Encourage Female Student Athletes
Daniela Holt Voith hit the court with the Philadelphia Youth Basketball HoopHers program as part of their “A Woman’s Word” series. She shared her experiences playing basketball in school and explained how the skills she developed as an athlete have helped her as an architect and businesswoman. HoopHers is an inclusive, female-based initiative that empowers young women to develop on- and off-court skills and that seeks to address the challenges female athletes face.
Christ Church Neighborhood House as a Precedent for Sacred/Civic
The Community Design Collaborative launched their next design challenge, Sacred Spaces/Civic Places, with an exhibition of inspirational precedent projects and Christ Church Neighborhood House was selected for inclusion. The challenge will seek to raise awareness of the challenges faced by faith communities stewarding historic properties, while promoting the use of innovative programming to keep these properties in the hands of their congregations. Neighborhood House is a very relevant success story: we worked with Christ Church to renovate and modernize the Neighborhood House, turning it into a welcoming “front door” for the church and its community.
Celebrating Staff Achievement
Two members of our senior staff have successfully pursued professional registration.
Rob Douglass, Senior Associate, and David Halter, Associate, have both achieved AIA (American Institute of Architects) and NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) accreditation. It reflects their hard work, dedication to the profession, and commitment to architectural excellence – and we could not be more proud!
Rob is especially skilled at the design of educational environments, like the Kenneth Kai Tai Yen Humanities Building at The Pennington School, and has presented on the topic at several national conferences. David’s work has focused on the performing arts, like the Simpson Center for the Performing Arts at The Baldwin School.
VMA Presents “Every Inch a Learning Space” at NBOA 2018
Senior Associate Rob Douglass joined Graeme McWhirter, CFO at The Pennington School, at the NBOA Annual Conference 2018 to present best practices on making “Every Inch a Learning Space.” Rob explored case studies from the VMA portfolio, like the Kenneth Kai Tai Yen Humanities Building at Pennington and the Simpson Center for the Performing Arts at The Baldwin School. Graeme described the impact the school’s built environment has had on recruitment, retention, and learning outcomes. The conference provides independent school business officers and other administrators with professional development through a variety of topics; this year’s theme was “In Tune with Excellence.”
VMA Continues to Grow
We’re pleased to welcome three new additions to the VMA staff.
Matt Phan, Project Designer, a recent graduate of The University of Buffalo. He spent 10 weeks last summer living in Tokyo, Japan before coming back to receive his Dual Master’s Degree in Architecture and Fine Arts. Outside of VMA, Matt spends his time character illustrating and watching films.
Hunter Faddis, Interiors Intern, a senior in Thomas Jefferson University’s Interior Design program. He loves cooking, gardening, and anything outdoors. Hunter plans on doing a lot of travelling in his life; he already visited 13 countries in the last year!
Courtney Mathis, Communications Coordinator, a recent graduate of Moore College of Art & Design. Originally from rural New Jersey, Courtney has enjoyed living in Philadelphia for the past two years. She is an avid book reader and cookie baker (and eater).
And we’re still hiring – check out our current openings here.
VMA Instagram Features #TalentTuesday
If you’ve been following VMA on Instagram, you’ve seen Daniela Voith’s weekly #TalentTuesday posts, each of which has featured a different staff member and his/her extracurricular talent. We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful watercolors, impressive sculptural installations, and delicious loaves of bread that have been featured thus far – stay tuned for more talents in 2018.
Stewart Student Center Wins For Construction Excellence
Episcopal High School’s LEED Certified Stewart Student Center has received a 2017 Excellence in Construction Award in Historical Restoration from Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington & Virginia. Replacing some of the former gymnasium’s heavy brick bays with new glazed infill panels redefined the building by allowing light to fill the space, while new accessible entries ensure it can be used and appreciated by the entire campus community. Thank you to the team at Davis Construction who helped bring our design to life.
Performing Arts Center at Villanova University Breaks Ground
VMA joined Father Peter and other representatives from Villanova University to celebrate the groundbreaking of their new Performing Arts Center, part of the ongoing Lancaster Avenue development. The celebration included student performances and remarks from Father Peter, the University President. The project, a collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, has involved an extraordinary effort from the entire team and we hope you’ll join us in congratulating them on this important milestone.
New Year, New Roles
We’re pleased to announce the promotions of four VMA staff members:
Sennah Loftus, LEED AP BD+C, to Associate Principal: Sennah is one of our most experienced project managers and has been with VMA since 2000. She is especially skilled at managing complex phased renovations, as seen at Episcopal High School (Alexandria, VA) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Rob Douglass, LEED AP BD+C, to Senior Associate: Rob, an expert in educational design, has been with VMA since 2005. He recently presented on his work at The Pennington School at this year’s National Business Officers Association (NBOA) annual conference.
David Halter, Assoc. AIA, LEED GA, to Associate: David joined VMA in 2011 and, in addition to his design work, also coordinates the office’s IT support. He has a particular affinity for theater design, and is currently working on the Villanova University Performing Arts Center.
Rob Duke to Associate: Rob spent several years working for primarily residential architects before joining VMA in 2015. His attention to detail has served him well on the Villanova University Lancaster Avenue Student Housing project, which has been his primary focus.
All four consistently demonstrate VMA’s dedication to collaborative teamwork and quality design. Congratulations!
Kim Wajda Celebrates 20 Years at VMA
Kim Wajda, VMA Business Manager, has been an integral part of VMA since she started with us in 1998. She is responsible for most of the “behind the scenes” work that allows us to stay focused on our client’s needs, and is a consistent contributor to our success as a firm. We appreciate her enduring loyalty and are pleased to celebrate her career milestone!
Cameron Mactavish Inaugurated as President of the Carpenters' Company
VMA founding partner Cameron Mactavish was inaugurated as president of The Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia on Monday, January 15, 2018. Cameron has been involved with the Company for over fifteen years and most recently served as a member of the Managing Committee. The Company, founded in 1724, supports a broad range of charitable and educational activities that encourage and promote the highest standards of craftsmanship. Please join us in congratulating Cameron on this well-deserved honor.
New Addition to the VMA Team
Kevin Rorabaugh is our newest architect designer at VMA. A graduate of Drexel University’s architecture program, he signed on at the start of the New Year. He enjoys travel and spent time in England last year, where he visited London and Bath – and found time for a stone carving class too. We are happy to have Kevin on the VMA team!
VMA 29th Annual Office Party
This year we celebrated VMA’S 29th annual office party. Guests included folks well-known in the A+D community. Show stoppers were a whole roasted pig and a live jazz band. We were thrilled with the turn out and are grateful for the opportunity to show our clients and fellow workers in the industry our appreciation; they help build VMA to make the firm what it is today. Thank you to all our guests for sharing a wonderful evening with us!
PEA's Stories From an Architect Features Discussion of the "Daniela" Table
On September 13, 2017, the Philadelphia Emerging Architect’s (PEA) discussion series featured a talk on the “Daniela” table. Daniela Holt Voith and Thos. Moser CEO Aaron Moser discussed the design and fabrication of this custom table for The Millbrook School Dining Hall. The discussion also covered the collaboration with Deep Landing Workshop for the project’s custom lighting fixtures. For more information, click here.
VMA Welcomes New Staff
2017 came equipped with new designs, new completed projects and new additions to the VMA family : Introducing the employees who are beginning a new journey with us! Winter gave us architect designer Ryan Dougherty and engineering intern Clayton Brandt. The spring and summer granted us with Marketing and Business Development Director Meaghan Finney and architectural designers Paul Zamorano and Kendra Nicolai. In the fall, VMA welcomed Communications Coordinator Anira Jones and designers Paul Lorenz and Anne Niedrach. We are happy to be expanding our team and in turn expanding our reach.
Syracuse University alum, with over a decade of architectural experience, Ryan Dougherty joined us at the start of the year. Ryan’s professional interest lies in detailed and innovative educational designs, specifically tech spaces, such as labs, and historic preservation. Outside of the design studio, he is a baker and loves it.
Clayton Brandt, a Haverford College alum who studied Growth and Structure of Cities (Architecture) with an interest in history and antiquities, once took Daniela Holt Voith’s studio at Bryn Mawr College. Since joining us earlier this year, his contributions have included model-making, 3D printing, renderings, and manning the website. Clayton enjoys the arts, is lead singer of the band Bazmati Vice, and likes to cook.
By way of Tulane School of Architecture, Paul Zamorano landed at VMA in the late spring. As an admirer of educational institution design and sustainability, he resonates with the focus of the firm. His favorite VMA project is the Mercer Museum, but he is also a big fan of our independent school and higher educational design work.
Meaghan Finney joined VMA as Marketing & Business Development Director in May following years of similar experience in the construction industry. Having a degree in historic preservation from The University of Pennsylvania, she feels a strong connection to the firm’s motto: innovation within the context of tradition. Meaghan remains active in preservation through her roles as co-chair of both the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance and the AIA Philadelphia Historic Preservation Committee.
Columbia University and Virginia Tech alumna, Kendra Nicolai, joined our firm in June. She was introduced to Daniela Holt Voith by her brother. Having prior knowledge of the firm, Kendra admires the virtuous work VMA does. The focus on sustainability, preservation and education coincides with some of her prior work with homeless shelters. Her interests lie in crafting, and she is a watercolor painter.
Paul Lorenz came on board in October as an architect designer. With his master’s in architecture from Yale University, Paul has a passion for the collaborative and innovative work in which VMA specializes. His MFA in studio sculpture will come in handy as he works on future projects that involve interacting with different materials.
A Villanova graduate and Philadelphia native, Anira Jones signed on as our Communications Coordinator. With experience in marketing, public relations and social media management, she will bring her skill set to our firm as we expand our outreach and build on our social media presence. New to architecture, her professional background is heavily suited in the fashion industry with interest in fashion design and styling. Anira came to us fashionably late in the year, in November.
Our most recent new hire, Anne Niedrach studied architect at Drexel University. Enrolled in the 2+4 program, she worked as an architect while earning her degree/accreditation. Her previous design experience focused on affordable housing, and her first experience of educational design, was for a project at Bryn Mawr College. Admiring the work VMA does, Anne will add her technical talents to the craftsmanship and established work of our designers. She rides a motorcycle, and loves to bake mini sized pastries.
Diving Into Immersive Classrooms
Sennah Loftus and representatives from Rutgers University spoke at the 2017 ERAPPA Conference about our experience designing synchronous immersive classrooms that allow one professor to teach in two classrooms simultaneously. To reduce student travel time to and from classes, this project created two interlinked full-immersion classrooms on separate campuses. The effect of the immersive synchronous classroom is achieved by projecting, or ‘throwing,’ a visual of the teacher & instruction content to an audience located in a remote classroom. This audience, in the ‘catch’ classroom, is in turn displayed on screens in the ‘throw’ classroom. By way of cameras, large format screens, and effective audio systems, technology gives the presenter the ability to experience the distance audience and to engage, acknowledge, and call upon remote students in real time, creating a truly integrated classroom experience that has reduced student travel time by up to 50%.
VMA Visits Villanova University
There was a lot of excitement around our visit to the in-progress Lancaster Avenue Student Housing project at Villanova University, one of the firm’s highest-profile current projects. The firm’s project team led a tour of the buildings and of the recently-completed Lancaster Avenue Pedestrian Bridge. VMA is also engaged in the design of the new Performing Arts Center, which will soon be rising on an adjacent site.
Vassar College Noyes House Featured in APT Special Issue
The recent APT Bulletin, a special issue focused on the preservation of modernist structures and the challenges that work presents, included a study on our recent project at Vassar College’s iconic Eero Saarinen-designed Noyes House. “The Lightest Touch: Repairing Custom Mid-century Windows with a Limited Budget,” authored by John Cluver, discusses the firm’s approach to the large-scale repair & replacement of the building’s chevron-shaped windows.
Educational Interior Design
Daniela Holt Voith and Sennah Loftus shared their educational interior design expertise at NeoCon East in VMA’s hometown of Philadelphia. The presentation, “Use Every Inch in Educational Environments,” was originally presented at NeoCon 2017 and explained how to maximize learning space through creative design solutions. Specific topics included seeking flexibility through furnishings and how to integrate programmed space into “dead areas” like hallways and stairwells.