Virginia Design Medalists Cover Everything from Business Development to Design Equity

The workplace changes necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions created an opportunity to reimagine our long-standing Virginia Design Medalist Program. Unlike our traditional format, with one or two medalists spending their term in our offices observing, teaching and mentoring; the 2020 virtual format allowed each of the offices to more fully share in the program and gave all Hanbury staff access to the medalists.

As always, we recruit Virginia Design Medalists on the basis of their expertise, and how their insights and experience align with the interests of the firm. We’re always looking to be inspired by the medalist’s knowledge, body of work, or accomplishments, and we make it clear that we expect tangible lessons that we can directly apply in our practice.

This year, after agreeing to host a series of keynotes, we more directly engaged all of our offices in the discussion of potential themes or topics. It was immediately clear that each office wanted to select a keynote speaker on the basis of what that office determined to be of interest or value to the firm, without limitations from an overarching theme or relationship between speakers or topics. What was also clear though, was an interest in bringing in perspectives relevant to the myriad issues related to the immediate and long-term social, environmental, and architectural impacts of this COVID-19 period.

The resulting 2020 Virginia Design Medalist Program included four speakers and four independent topics:

  • Iben Falconer "Strategy By Design: How to Create a Culture of Business Development"
  • Alan Organschi "Building a Global Carbon Sink"
  • Kia Weatherspoon "Design Without Labels: Design Equity Strategies for All People"
  • Pascale Sablan "I Was Asked to Stand"

After participating in each of these conversations, I'm observing ripples from the Medalists' messages, even as we continue to work remotely. There is a heightened awareness—with tangible results—of the role everyone can play in bringing forward new project opportunities. I hear conversations shifting toward topics of design equity in our work as well as a reflection that we aren't as diverse as we once were (at one point we had +/-12 languages spoken). We understand the need for diverse design teams in order to design the best solutions for diverse communities – we need to be intentional if we want to truly be diversified. While sustainability has always been important, there is a new urgency which is manifesting in the types of projects we pursue and a renewed hunger for information and input to inform and improve our design performance. Across the firm there is a sense that with heightened awareness, comes a greater responsibility to act.

For the first time, these personally and professionally relevant stories were accessible to our whole firm. Over the coming days, I've asked select Hanbury staff members to discuss the messages that impacted them most.

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