Architect Mom

Architect Mom

By Architect, Adrienne Stronge.

Architecture can be a demanding profession.  There are deadlines, client demands, and even construction emergencies.  Design also has a way of infiltrating your very existence, and it can be impossible to shut off your brain when you’re trying to solve a particularly complicated problem (often solved at 3am or in the shower as you turn your vision around and around in your head).  It is very hard, if not impossible, to only be an architect from 9-5 on weekdays. 

It becomes even more difficult when babies are added to that picture.  I was 14 years into my career before I had my son, who was born in 2020.  My world turned inside out because while my job / career had been my primary focus for over a decade, now I was hyper-focused on this tiny little babe who had me wrapped around his finger. His sister joined us in 2023, and they bring me more happiness than I ever expected. 


Even with the tremendous support of my spouse who is our stay-at-home parent, balancing my career with being a mom is tough.  I love what I do, but I’m also determined to always make my time at home count.  My kids are already growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss out on time with them.  A few things that help me:

Find your village

Your village may be family, friends, neighbors, or even a network of other parents online (there is both a Parents in Architecture and a Mothers in Architecture group on Facebook).  Figure out where you can go to vent or ask questions. Any time we’ve needed help, we’re always surprised at just how big that village can be. 

Establish and communicate priorities

Family always comes first, but there are days / weeks where I need to invest extra time into work to make things happen.  I try to clearly communicate with my family the times I might be busy.  Conversely, there are times that family priorities get posted to the calendar so that work knows that I am unavailable at those times.  


Delegate and outsource

It’s impossible to do everything.  Even with one parent at home, we find ourselves short on time to tackle everything. Being comfortable delegating work to a team member or outsourcing household or yard tasks is important.  My husband and I have always been hands-on DIYers, but now with kids, we recognize we can’t do it all and have hired help for portions of our to-do list. At work, finding or training a person you can easily delegate tasks to is important. 


Establish routines

Kids thrive on routines and while I’m the first to break routines on the weekends, we have a pretty good routine during the week.  I always get some snuggles in the morning before going to work, and unless there is a rare event, I’m home for bedtime routines. 

Make time at home count

While it’s tough to be active and engaged after a long day at the office, I try to cram a lot of fun things into our weekends.  I keep track of a lot of local events and playgroups so that we can have fun together.  If I need to work, I try to push it until after the kids have gone to bed. We have already made a lot of great weekend memories!

With architecture being a profession that changes based on clients, jobs, and even design stage, and with kids changing every week as they grow and develop, finding a sustainable balance is something I’m sure will be a continuous struggle, but having a career I love and a family I adore makes it all worth finding that balance. 

Women who’ve Changed the Architecture Game

Women who’ve Changed the Architecture Game

By Designer, Aliyah D. White.

It’s Women’s History Month and we are celebrating the female pioneers in architecture! Very rarely in history are women given credit for being innovators and way-makers in male-dominated industries – the field of architecture is no exception. Throughout history, there have been so many innovative and groundbreaking women who faced discrimination, which continues today, but they persevered and changed the field of architecture for the better.

Happy Women's History Month.

Here are ten historical women who have challenged the bounds of the architecture profession!



1. Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-1961)

Marion Mahony Griffin was the second woman to receive a degree from MIT’s School of Architecture when she graduated in 1894. After passing the Illinois licensure exam in 1898 she worked as the head designer in Frank Llyod Wright’s office for fourteen years and became well known for her skills in architectural rendering. Her unique and memorable drawing style set the brand identity for Frank Lloyd Wright’s practice. In 1911 Wright published a collection of fine-art lithographs drawn in Mahony’s signature style to give a consistent graphic identity to his work for European audiences. This set the stage for Wright’s practice to go increasingly global. This same year, she started her own practice, partnering with her husband on several hundred projects in the United States, Australia, and India.

2. Ethel Madison Bailey Carter Furman (1893-1976)

Ethel Madison Bailey Carter Furman was the first female African American architect to practice in Virginia. Her portfolio features over two hundred buildings designed during her career. She received her degree from the Chicago Technical Institute in 1946 and went on to design multiple homes, hotels, stores, and churches in Richmond, Virginia. She also designed two small churches in Liberia making her work go from local to international. Not only was Ethel an architect, but she was also an activist and advocate. She showed her dedication to her community through acts like helping to register Black voters in the 1960s and participating in housing policy seminars by the NAACP. 

3. Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984)

Amaza Lee Meredith is lauded as a trailblazing Architect, Educator, and Artist. Despite being prohibited from receiving a professional architecture degree because of her race and sex, she found ways around societal restrictions and was one of a few, and possibly the only, openly-queer African American women practicing architecture in the U.S. Among her many accomplishments, such as founding and teaching at the Fine Arts Department at Virginia State University, her most well-known architectural work is perhaps “Azurest South.” In bold International Style, this home is considered to be ‘one of the most advanced residential designs in [Virginia] in its day’” (source). She is also remembered for “Azurest North”, a community in Sag Harbor, NY designed with sister Maude Terry. This community was designed to be a place of vacation for middle-class Black Americans, challenging the system of segregation and daily burden of discrimination by offering a space of pride and leisure. In 1994, “Azurest South” was recognized into the National Park Service National Register of Historic Properties, and “Azurest North” is now being considered for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. 

4. Minnette de Silva (1918-1998)

Minnette de Silva is considered the pioneer of the modern architectural style in Sri Lanka. She was the first Sri Lankan woman to be trained as an architect and the first Asian woman to be elected an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1948. She was extremely well-traveled and formed friendly relationships with people like Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier – a man many deemed the pioneer of modern architecture. Her work in modern projects focused on the inclusion of indigenous crafts, materials, and traditions, making her a visionary of critical regionalism, which she called “Modern Regionalist Architecture”. She was one of the first in the field to encourage what came to be known as “community architecture,” and actively involved the users of her buildings in the decision-making process.

5. Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012)

Norma Merrick Sklarek has been deemed the “Rosa Parks of architecture”. She graduated with a degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1950 as one of only two women and the sole African American in her class. In 1985 she co-founded Siegel Sklarek Diamond which, at the time, was the largest woman-owned architectural firm in the United States. She served on multiple professional boards and committees, including the California State Board of Architectural Examiners, the AIA National Ethics Council, and the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards. She was also a lecturer, mentoring students at the University of California, University of Southern California, Howard University, and Columbia University over the span of her career.

6. Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Zaha Hadid was an Iraqi-British architect whose aggressively geometric designs were characterized by a sense of fragmentation, instability, and wonder. This hero is not quite unsung, as her work crossed the bounds of the sculptural and the architectural, making her intense experimental work very well known. She received numerous prestigious awards over the course of her career, including the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the 2010 and 2011 Stirling Prize, and the 2015 RIBA Gold Medal – of which she was the first woman to win. In 1979 she founded Zaha Hadid Architects and was a professor at many universities including Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

7. Billie Tsien (1949)

Billie Tsien is an architect and co-founder of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners, a firm who focuses on “organizations and people that value issues of aspiration and meaning” such as schools, museums, and nonprofits. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently the Charles Gwathmey Professor in Practice at Yale University. She contributes to many cultural institutions including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where she serves as president, the Architectural League of New York, the National Academy of Design, and the American Philosophical Society.

8. Maya Lin (1959)

Maya Lin is an architect and sculptor interested in environmental themes who is best known for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. She studied at Yale and received her bachelor’s 1981 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1986. It was during her senior year at Yale that she submitted the winning design in a national competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be built in Washington, D.C. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her career in both art and architecture, and for creating a sacred place of healing in our nation’s capital. Her art and her architectural designs continue to challenge the boundaries of science, art, and architecture to find where they can intertwine and create something beautiful.

9. Jeanne Gang (1964)

Jeanne Gang is the founding partner of Studio Gang and a leading architect of her generation who is well known for her innovative designs that promote environmental and ecological sustainability. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1986 and a master’s degree in architecture in 1993 from Harvard University before becoming employed as a project architect and lead designer at Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, Netherlands. She has challenged the status quo in professional practice by closing the gender wage gap in her company and has encouraged her colleagues to follow suit.

10. Julie Gamolina (1991)

Julie Gamolina (1991) is an architect, writer, and educator, known for her contributions to promoting the visibility and advancement of women in architecture through the digital magazine and media start-up, Madame Architect, which she founded and is Editor-in-Chief. She received her Bachelor of Architecture at Cornell University and was awarded the Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial Medal for exceptional merit in the thesis of architecture. She has lectured at schools like Harvard University, Columbia University, Yale University, Pratt, and many more. She currently works as an Associate Principal at Ennead Architects and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute.


And also, the woman architects and designers of our very own team!

Read more about us here.

Adrienne Strong

Adrienne Stronge (left) is a partner in the Charlottesville office, leads our multi-family project division and is our go-to for ADA compliance questions. 

Deborah Smith (right) is a partner who runs the Harrisonburg office and is the go-to for building code compliance questions.

Team Member Aimee Lawson

Aimee Lawson (left) and Aliyah White (right) are designers who aid the partners in design and drafting construction documents in the Harrisonburg and Charlottesville offices respectively.

Team Member Aliyah White

Carla Gaines

Carla Gaines (left) and Asha Beck (right) are the office managers in our Charlottesville and Harrisonburg offices respectively. Asha also serves as our marketing team leader.

Asha Beck

There are a plethora of lessons that can be learned from the lives and careers of these women. Their stories of success and perseverance inspire many women today – who currently only make up about 23% of the industry in America. Women in architecture deserve recognition for their influence over the development of the industry and we plan to continue being a firm that adds to that encouragement and acknowledgement! Happy Women’s History Month!

Exploring career options: A high school designers perspective

Exploring career options: A high school designers perspective

For the past 10 years or so, our firm has had high school students, and occasionally college students, here at our office to job shadow for a semester, receiving a class credit. (Check out more of their stories at the bottom of this blog). Each student comes into the experience with different goals and motivations. Some are interested in ruling out architecture as a career and others are looking to expand their knowledge of an architectural career prior to starting college. With each, we adapt their experience as needed to help them achieve their goals. 

Chloe joined us this past semester. She was already confident that she wanted a career in design with a preference for interior design, so we set up a program to allow her to meet with Jarod, our interior designer, and others in the community with an interior design background. While at the office, we encouraged her to learn SketchUp by giving her a house design project to work on. 

The design project is never the important part of the learning experience, it is the questions generated through the design process. Our student job shadow candidates learn how buildings operate, how the industry works, how big a 2 x 4 actually is, what kind of questions to ask when designing, and get to see how we do it. We have had some students go through the process to realize that it was not the right career for them and some that have embraced the profession and confirmed their future plans. Below you will find Chloe’s summary of her experience.

SketchUp rendering of interior layout.

My name is Chloe Emurian, and I am a senior at Buffalo Gap High School. I have always been interested in the design of buildings, so I was placed at Gaines Group Architects with the hopes that I could find just where my passion for design falls, whether that be pursuing a major in architecture or interior design.

Starting out, my mentor, Charles Hendricks, asked me what I needed from the experience to figure out my future plans. He set up meetings with local interior designers so I could learn more about what they do each day and allowed me to attend meetings with him. He also invited me into classes at his office covering different architectural topics. Additionally, I was assigned a project to design a house using SketchUp (a design software used in many architectural and interior design firms). I learned a lot about the software (and the limitations of that software) I was using and a lot about the techniques to design a house. I am hoping as I pursue my degree, I will be able to complete my in-progress house design project. During my time at the firm I learned everything from wall thickness to how big each room should comfortably be, to even a little bit of the structural design required for stairs, second floors, and roofs.

Charles set up visits with interior designers at firms and businesses such as LDD Blueline, Dovetail Cabinetry, and more where I was able to ask designers questions about their careers, as well as talk to them about what they wish they would have known before college and how they got to where they are today.

I want to take a little bit of time to talk about an interview we were assigned as mentorship students. We were asked to interview our mentor and ask specific questions, and I got the opportunity to talk to the interior designer at The Gaines Group, Jarod. His knowledge of design and his love for his job inspired me in great ways. He graduated from the same college I am going to, Liberty University, with the same degree I am going to pursue, and his insight on that program as well as interior design will help shape me into the designer I want to be. This assignment was by far my favorite.

With all the stress of college that my senior year brought, I am so beyond thankful that I was placed at a firm that solidified both my college decision and my career interest. After my mentorship experience, I decided that I am going to pursue a major in interior design at Liberty University. Finally, mentorship has taught me that I am capable of way more than I ever imagined. My mentor has done an amazing job helping me realize how successful I can be; he has shown me ways that I can begin to make a name for myself now by setting up my own personal website and blog. His encouragement and confidence in me have boosted my confidence in achieving my dreams. I am beyond thankful for the opportunities that mentorship presented me, and I can’t wait to see how my future unfolds because of it!

Finding Balance in Architecture School

Finding Balance in Architecture School

By Aliyah D. White.


Now that I have earned my B.S. in architecture, I want to shed some light on the effect such a rigorous academic program can have on student health and offer some tips that helped me find balance in school. Architecture itself has been shown to have the capacity to positively affect mental health. However, being in school for it is a completely different story. During my time in school, I knew plenty of students who would work themselves sick in sustained periods of barely sleeping and eating, so here is some advice for students (and newbies to the workforce) that can also apply to people outside of the architecture field as well.

I always loved school when I was growing up, but when I became an architecture student, I found unexpected challenges in and out of the classroom. I was involved in multiple student organizations, doing research with professors, and working 2-3 jobs by my junior and senior years. Luckily for me, putting my physical and mental wellness high on my priorities list has become second nature after over ten years of practice. This is not the case for everyone. It is incredibly easy to fall victim to the unhealthy work culture that permeates architecture schools. Finding a good work-life balance is vital.

The most important thing I can say when it comes to work-life balance is this: GET SOME SLEEP. In my experience, all-nighters are not worth it, and there’s an abundance of evidence that lack of sleep, in whatever amount, is detrimental to your health. During my time in school, I only pulled two all-nighters. The first was in the fall of my second year at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. It was also one of my first semesters learning how to use Rhino and Adobe Illustrator for architecture – and it was while I was home with my parents. It turned out to be harder and more time-consuming than I expected. I sat in my little corner of my mom’s home office and worked from 6 pm the night before my review to 8 am the next morning. By the end I had a project that has not seen the light of day since — and hopefully never will.

Avoiding all-nighters ended up being very beneficial for both my studies and my health. Making a schedule to track all of my assignments in and out of the classroom allowed me to efficiently meet deadlines, avoid overworking myself, and successfully complete my tasks. I kept strict boundaries for myself such as not letting what reviewers had to say about my work — whether negative or positive — affect me too much, avoiding comparing myself to my peers, not staying at my studio desk past 8 pm (a rule that I admittedly broke more often than I would have liked), and waking up before 9 am every day. Waking up early incentivized me to go to bed early as well, so most nights I got plenty of sleep. I avoided becoming obsessive over my schoolwork because I had other passions that needed taking care of. I personally do not operate well when there is only one activity, project, or interest occupying my mind.

Aliyah pointing at screen, defending undergraduate thesis.

Other than being sure to get plenty of sleep to fuel my studies and extracurriculars, I also found time to just exist. Studies show that the mind is the most creative when it is idle. However, finding stillness during a busy day is not easy. If you struggle to find time to do nothing, you can try my method. After classes and during work sessions I would simply look out of a window for five to fifteen minutes (there’s a great article, here, about the benefits of this). In semesters that I would get lucky with the location of my studio, my desk was in front of humongous two-story bay windows, so I would look outside while listening to music or the commotion of frantic architecture students around me. I wouldn’t think about my work or my responsibilities, I would just exist and idly people watch. The art of observing was, and still is, my favorite form of relaxation. I have been fortunate enough to be assigned a desk at work in front of a big window with a view of mountains, trees, and cars passing by. In truth, this is something I have done since I was little and before I knew of the potential benefits, so I have always enjoyed taking my little “window breaks”.

View through office window at Luxor, our Charlottesville office location.

Another important part of finding balance in school was a method my mom taught me when I was young — which I still credit for my healthy work-life balance today. It is the 8 Dimensions of Wellness model, conceptualized by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick of the School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. She defines wellness as, “A conscious, deliberate process that requires a person to become aware of and make choices for a more satisfying lifestyle.” I suggest that people of all personal backgrounds keep an updated priorities list that covers their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, financial, and environmental health. There is a comprehensive guide towards using the wellness model co-written by Dr. Swarbrick, here. Now that I am out of school, I mainly work towards physical, emotional, environmental, and occupational wellness on a day-to-day basis, but am sure to give attention to all 8 long-term to maintain my overall wellness.

Making it through the hustle and bustle of architecture school is rough but doable. If I did not find a groove that worked well for me, I never would have made it, so find what works best for you. It is worth it.

The Importance of Mentorship

The Importance of Mentorship

On today, National Mentoring Day, Aliyah shares about the importance of mentorship and her experience.


When I was in high school, my mom convinced me to join a dual-enrollment vocational program that would allow me to spend half of the school day learning drafting skills. I spent my junior year in engineering design as a prerequisite for the architectural design class I took in my senior year. Both classes were taught by a Black architect. It was the first and last time I had a Black teacher in my architectural education. At the time I did not take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the road ahead of me, and though I am not one for regrets, I do wish that I had.

I did not make meaningful connections with Black mentors or professors until my final year of undergrad at UVA.  I ran into some difficulty with my undergraduate design thesis, which aimed to design a Black student center for the school. I was in desperate need of extra opinions on my work from people who understood where I came from.  Fortunately, there were three Black faculty members at the time that I could talk to outside of class.

I am not the best when it comes to networking. However, this is not because I am not good at talking to and connecting with people. It’s because I generally prefer to be on my own, so my people skills often only come out when they must. Learning to depend on others has been an important part of my journey and takes work every day. The time I spent talking to those people in school affirmed my experiences and encouraged me to continue doing my best despite the obstacles I was facing. They helped equip me with tools to defend myself and the conditions I set for my project.

When I finally had the opportunity to talk with Black advisors, I realized how much easier my time in undergrad could have been. It changed my outlook on my future as a designer and storyteller for the better. Finding people who have gained wisdom from being in the positions that you want to be in is invaluable. They can point you in the right direction for ideas, inspiration, and solutions. Mentorship is a major key to success and using the knowledge of those who came before you can prevent a lot of heartache and headaches.

Aliyah with her teacher in highschool. She holds a poster while winning third in a high school design competition.

Pictured, Aliyah with her high school teacher after she placed 3rd in a regional design competition during her senior year.

Black Women in Architecture

Black Women in Architecture

By Aliyah D. White.


According to The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), just under .5% of licensed architects working in the U.S. in 2022 were Black women. This means that out of the 121,603 licensed architects working in the U.S., 2,492 were Black, and 566 were Black women. Becoming an architect is by no means an easy path – even without considering factors that disproportionately affect people of color. It can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in degrees and exams. Additionally, it takes an average of 13 years to become a licensed architect according to NCARB. The high cost and required level of dedication are factors that keep many people from pursuing architecture, but the added lack of representation can make it especially difficult for Black women to chase after the profession.

I have been drawn to architecture ever since my 7th grade science teacher pointed out how much I enjoyed doodling houses on my schoolwork. However, that enjoyment has not stayed with me through the years like it may have for many others. It has been a ten-year battle of deciding every day that my chosen path is worth it. For me, architectural design provides a way to find and express stories through space. As an architectural designer, who also writes avidly about the Black experience, this means that I feel a responsibility to uncover the ways Black people have been forced to move through space in history, how we have struggled and flourished through that movement, and how we can find better rhythm while moving through present-day constructed spaces.

Though I have dealt with these issues my entire life, they are only recently coming to the forefront of many peoples’ minds due to a heightened awareness of racial disparities in the country and abroad. In large part, this is due to a lack of representation – and consequently a lack of understanding the adversities people of color face as they move through the constructed environment. When Black women do not get to enter the room, we lose the opportunity to influence decisions and solve issues regarding the ways people move through space. Moreover, the people who are gaining entry are missing out on the unique perspectives and understanding we bring to the table. To be a good architect is to be a good listener while in the service of others. To be a great architect is to be a great empathizer while in the service of others.