An Uncommon Monday: Winchester Architectural Tour Wrap-up

Photo Credit ©️ Jaclyn Toole

On Monday, May 13, approximately 40 members of AIA Northern Virginia were treated to “An Uncommon Monday,” led by AIA NoVA Board Director Chuck Swartz, FAIA, alongside his design/life partner Beth Reader, FAIA (founders of Reader & Swartz Architects, and Metrobilly Quarterly) and their team, with special guest and current AIA Virginia President, Kelly Callahan, AIA, of VMDO.

Our “fast-paced tour of a slow-paced place” was indeed as advertised; lasting over three (!) hours as our old-timey Winchester trolley took us through an excellent range of architectural sites, all touched in some way by Reader & Swartz and their partners.

We flew by award-winning Habitat for Humanity houses; strolled through the renovated John Handley High School; visited Handley’s Shiladeh Innovation Center; invaded our gracious hosts’ upside-down house with all of its deep cerulean, excellent wood details, and art; and finally alighted from our trolley at the stately – and somewhat oddly-proportioned – Handley Library to disrupt the calm of its hundred-year-old Reading Room. Somewhere along the way, we also passed Patsy Cline’s childhood home, although I don’t believe Reader & Swartz designed that one.

From there, we wandered over to the Peter Bullough Foundation to explore its glassy details, hidden doors, esoteric collections, and miniature meditative garden without breaking anything, before jaywalking (!) over to a private tour of the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum where some of us played with a laser harp, others tried to figure out how to turn on the giant plasma ball, and we all took respite on its breezy roof and learned that chimneys in Winchester all seem to lean north.

A stroll/sprint down Old Town Winchester’s pedestrian mall led to a stopover at the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, where AIA NoVA’s Board of Directors exited (stage right) to the Michael Graves-designed Museum of the Shenandoah Valley for its May Board meeting.

My understanding is that our remaining tourmates visited Winchester’s Hiram Lodge No. 21 before we reconvened at the Glen Burnie House and gardens for refreshments and connection on an absolutely beautiful night. 

Photo Credit ©️ Anh Tran

Although the speed of the tour may have been slightly dizzying, the variety and specificity of each building we visited illustrated how deep curiosity and affection for a city and place can inform thoughtful design for all manner of purposes. Beth and Chuck took the time to tell us how every project came to be, including their collaborative approaches with the client and construction teams. Each place we visited connected back into Winchester, often using local makers and artists to produce architectural details and features as part of the building’s story. It was a highly enjoyable ramble through different ways to knit new ideas into historic fabric, re-purposing and re-inventing where possible.

Immense gratitude to our hosts, Beth & Chuck, for coordinating a lovely expedition on a gorgeous day, despite some setbacks in timing and traffic. If you missed out on one of the most fun ways I’ve ever earned CE LUs, please stay tuned for upcoming AIA NoVA events, and we’ll hope to see you soon. In addition, if you have a project or community for which you would like to coordinate a tour, please reach out to the Chapter.

– Anh Tran, AIA, 2024 Treasurer

Published: 05/22/2024
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