The Virginia AIA's Emerging Leaders in Architecture program selects sixteen young professionals and students from across the state each year.  The program includes monthly day-long seminars that focus on essential skills such as communication, firm leadership, community service, and professional ethics.  Each seminar is hosted in a different Virginia city or region, and each year participants work together on a real-world class project. 




Applications are closed for 2018. This year's class is working on a site in Charlottesville! We can't wait to see what they do.

Two years ago, our 2015 ELA class was asked to address sea level rise and storm water management issues in Norfolk, Virginia. In response to this challenge, our class created a website to serve as a "digital test lab" for strategies and ideas that could forge a path toward a more resilient city of Norfolk in the future.  The website is a place for citizens, designers, environmentalists, scientists, and entrepreneurs to collaborate on these issues and test solutions.  Our hope is that through collective knowledge and partnerships created by common interest, some of these ideas will be developed and tested outside the digital realm in the real world.


The ELA program had a significant impact on me both personally and professionally. In addition to forging relationships with peers across the state of Virginia, speakers and seminars reminded me that design thinking and leadership are valuable tools for community involvement. Following this course, I hope to put these skills to bear in my own community.

Much of the website,, gathers relevant information on the issue of sea level rise and water management in Norfolk.  We made a video to bring awareness to the issue, as well as links to local organizations that are already facing the issue of resiliency head-on.  We populated the site with a few of our own ideas, or "interventions," such as restored shorelines, suitcase gardens for homeowners, and re-purposing old parking structures for solar and rainwater capture.  All are encouraged to submit an idea or comment to the site and contribute to the conversation.

Following a presentation to the community in Norfolk, our 2015 ELA Program culminated with a seminar session at the AIA's Arch Exchange East Conference in November.  We were thrilled to share our experience and website with fellow members of the architecture community and hope that our project lives on beyond our program.  Our group is in communication with a few organizations that are excited to take over our site and vision for resiliency in Norfolk.