One Firm and Community-Based Architecture

Our Sight Lines series highlights how different perspectives and practices come together to deliver value for specific clients and communities, through the lens of Quinn Evans projects and locations.

Having diverse perspectives across the Quinn Evans team leads to a unique approach to projects that serve communities in more ways than one. Across the country, the Quinn Evans team strives to see projects from multiple angles and merge these perspectives to create something that addresses the needs of a community, solves unique challenges, and is built to last.

“What I appreciate about Quinn Evans’ work is there is more richness to the work, a fullness to the work, where people are coming at it from many different experiences and many different perspectives,” says Charles Sparkman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C. “The result of that is the firm is doing work that is actually responding to the client and the context appropriately, not just delivering the same agenda against every project.”

As a firm that seeks to engage with the communities it works within and understand their distinct needs, our projects leave positive and lasting impacts while accounting for people of all abilities and backgrounds that live and work in those communities.

“Architecture shapes communities,” says Quinn Evans Staff Designer Byronae Lewis. “The spaces we create now will affect how future generations move within their environment. At Quinn Evans, our designs improve for multiple generations as we intentionally include spaces for accessibility and diversity.”

Let’s explore some Quinn Evans projects that exemplify how Quinn Evans strives to engage community voices, integrate community insights, and involve stakeholders.

Henley Middle School Fit for Life Center

Henley Middle School in Albemarle County, VA, needed an auxiliary gym with more basketball courts because there were too many students to fit in one gym during recess. However, Quinn Evans knew the school system and superintendent well and thought there was an opportunity to collaborate and evolve the design to create a space that could serve even more community needs.

“We knew the client very well and knew that this would be a risk worth taking: to walk into the interview and tell them they didn’t need an auxiliary gym,” says Quinn Evans Interior Designer Erin Carver, CID, IIDA. 

Inspired by the Quinn Evans value of community listening and engagement, Quinn Evans team members worked closely with a large group of community stakeholders, from the principal to the PE teachers to people in the administration to explore everything the space could be.

“It came to be that it was just as we imagined: a really cool place that was really multi-functional with interdisciplinary capabilities,” Carver explains. “They have been able to really expand their programming for the students, too.”

Rather than just a “gym”, the group decided to call it the Henley Middle School Fit for Life Center. Now, the Fit for Life Center is used not only for P.E., but also for lessons in biology, stress management, and more.

Through engagement with the community, we also heard that there was a need for a space that did more than just serve one middle school. The result is a facility that provides a fitness space for anyone in the community who wants to use it.

Chesterfield Career and Technical Center - Hull Campus

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The Chesterfield County, VA, school system was looking to expand their career and technical education space. They were also renting out space for administrative offices and for training and conferences. 

What they did have, however, was an old high school building that had not been in use for years. Through conversations with the community, Quinn Evans and local stakeholders were able to clarify a vision for the project: this building could be the answer for all their needs.

Quinn Evans worked with the community to listen to their needs and bring everything together under one roof.

“It became a really cool space because the career and technical programs -- some of them are culinary arts, hospitality, baking arts -- can support the conference center and the students get real-world experience,” Carver says. 

Engaging community voices resulted in an incredible, multi-dimensional space – one where students and administrators could work side-by-side, facilitating training opportunities. Students could see -- and be inspired by -- how the administrators worked, and administrators could engage with learning opportunities alongside their day-to-day work.

“They are more interactive and it opens up a lot more opportunities for mentorship and real world experience,” Carver says.

Tryon Palace North Carolina History Center

While designing a visitor center that ultimately became the Tryon Palace North Carolina History Center, Quinn Evans team members engaged with stakeholders in New Bern, NC, and strived to create a space that embodies what it means to be a good neighbor. 

“We built in the ability to address gathering space needs that the town saw,” says Quinn Evans President and CEO Alyson Steele, FAIA, LEED AP. “It was not so much changing the program requirements, but adapting them so it could serve multiple needs at the same time.”

Through conversations with the community, Quinn Evans team members and stakeholders identified an opportunity for the project to become a multi-purpose space.

“There are very few really important places that have just one purpose,” says Steele, emphasizing this is the essence of placemaking. “Different people come for different reasons, and then they’re all together having shared experiences.”

Quinn Evans and community members envisioned the structure as an opportunity to build something lasting that would also serve generations to come. 

“We want to ensure that the solution we come up with is not only addressing the surface of things, but is going to hold up for a very long time,” Steele says. “By understanding the underlying motivations, and where these things are coming from, the project outcomes are more resilient over time.”

What comes next?

In our Sight Lines series, we will continue to tell the story of One Firm through the lens of specific sites and locations. We will highlight how Quinn Evans works with clients to create more than just a physical building and highlight how different perspectives and practices come together to deliver value for specific clients and communities.

In the coming months, we will explore:

  • Designing for and beyond the human experience, such as for animals at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
  • Architecture commemorating Black voices, histories, perspectives, and experiences.

Thank you for joining us as we explore the Sight Lines that connect us all.

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