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Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center celebrates 35 years in Old Town Alexandria

WAAC Building 1001 Prince Street in Old Town Alexandria has been home to the WAAC since 1991.

The Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) will celebrate 35 years in Old Town Alexandria at an event for faculty, staff, and alumni on Saturday, Oct. 22.

It all began in 1981. Following a successful pilot in the preceding year, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) formally launched the WAAC in leased facilities at 101 Columbus Street. The Virginia Tech Foundation purchased the building in 1985 and a year later, the WAAC established the Architecture Consortium which allows participating universities from around the world to send students and faculty members to Alexandria for a semester or full academic year.

In 1991, the Foundation sold the building at 101 Columbus Street and purchased a historic building at 1001 Prince Street as a permanent home for the WAAC. Built in 1910 as the Lee School for Girls, the City of Alexandria used the building as a public school until 1980.

In January 2011, the WAAC expanded its footprint in Old Town, leasing a corner property one block east of its main building on Prince Street. The new property at 901 Prince included studio, seminar, and office space for National Capital Region faculty and students in the architecture and landscape architecture programs. (The landscape architecture program began at WAAC in 1999.)

When the lease at 901 terminated two years later, the Foundation purchased a 1,200-square-foot Greek Revival-style Romanesque church building constructed in 1840 at 601 Prince Street, which houses offices for seven faculty members and design studio space for 75 students enrolled in masters and Ph.D. programs.

Jaan Holt’s leadership was instrumental in establishing Virginia Tech’s presence in the National Capital Region for the past 35 years. Holt, the Patrick and Nancy Lathrop Professor of Architecture and professor emeritus, was chair of the architecture program from 1976 through 1982, and appointed director of the WAAC in 1984. He served in that capacity until 2015.

Holt managed several high-profile design competitions, including the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial and created the logistical plan for the inaugural Solar Decathlon in 2002 for the U.S. Department of Energy.

He taught more than 3,500 undergraduates and graduate students in his career, and is regarded as educator who cares deeply about his students as individuals.

Holt received the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Career Achievement Award in 2007 and the college’s Lifetime Contribution Award in 2016.

The WAAC currently offers several academic programs: hosting fourth and fifth year students from the main campus for study-away; a two-year first professional master of architecture; a one-year post-professional master of architecture; a Ph.D. in architecture and design research; a first professional master of landscape architecture; and urban design concentration in the master of science in architecture.

Professor of Architecture Susan Piedmont-Palladino is the current director at the WAAC, appointed in July of this year. She joined Virginia Tech 25 years ago.

“We are very proud to be celebrating 35 years in Old Town Alexandria. As we have grown over the years, our proximity to the area’s cultural institutions, design firms, non-governmental organizations, and both local and federal governments have provided our faculty and students many opportunities to enrich our knowledge and serve the community,” said Piedmont-Palladino.

“The vibrant and successful community of WAAC alumni working in the Washington, D.C., area is a testament to Virginia Tech’s presence here,” she said.

Posted October 18, 2016