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Announcing our new Community Design Studio

Jul 08, 2011

VIA Architecture is pleased to announce the formal roll-out of its Community Design Studio (CDS). Informally conceived in 2009 as an initiative to serve smaller-scale, yet equally visionary projects that have not been traditionally taken on by architecture firms, we are ready to introduce this approach to a broader audience.

VIA has built its reputation on integrated architectural design and community planning over a period of 26+ years, and we are perhaps best known for our large-scale projects such as the various phases of Vancouver’s SkyTrain system, the Seattle Monorail Project, and master planning for communities as diverse as Southeast False Creek, Bremerton, Kelowna and Tacoma. Yet quietly in the background, we have long served community groups, non-profits, and other smaller clients with thoughtful, crafted responses to much more humble needs. It is this work that we are now bringing to the forefront.

We are inspired by the growing interest locally and globally in urban agriculture, homesteading, community-shared resources, the revival of practical skills and preservation. Simultaneously, we are aware of communities across the country that are, in some measure, fragmented or even broken due to social, economic and environmental factors such as missing infrastructure, unequal access to food and outdated regulations. We recognize the great potential to address these issues in profound ways through small-scale, hands-on design approaches that can have a powerful cumulative effect.

Our focus with the CDS will be issues of applied craft, community resilience, planning and design for food production, and other problems where we can be of direct assistance to improving the quality of life for our clients. Our work seeks to restore and reinvigorate communities through thoughtful, practical and cooperative solutions around food, mobility and open space.

The CDS consists of architects and community planners within the VIA team who share a passion for helping to create connective communities that are resilient and thriving. The team is led by Catherine Calvert, VIA’s Director of Community Sustainability, who brings a background of not only architecture and sustainability work, but specialized training in areas such as Farm Design and Permaculture.

Our services include:

  • Integrated design and planning for small-scale residential, commercial and institutional projects in rural and semi-urban areas.
  • Visualization and early design services for agriculture-focused site planning and building projects, both urban and rural.
  • Education around issues of strategic sustainability, local resilience and design for self-sufficiency.
  • Resolution of regulatory barriers to community-based projects.
  • Facilitation of community discussions or workshops.

To date we have worked on a variety of projects in the Seattle area, including:

Rainier Vista Community Farm – VIA has been assisting Common Ground in the design of shelters made from salvage materials.

Atlantic City Urban Farm – VIA has been working with Seattle Tilth and the Friends of the Atlantic City Nursery on site planning concepts for conversion of the former Seattle Parks nursery to a new urban farm.

Spectrum School Farm – VIA provided early site design concepts for a one-acre farm on the campus of the North Kitsap High School, designed to support the school science curriculum and provide food for the school kitchen

Finn River Cidery in Chimacum WA – VIA is working with this 33-acre organic farm on site planning concepts, as well as the design of the Chum Hut, a shelter for educational gatherings adjacent to the salmon-bearing Chimacum Creek that runs through the property.

Our projects are both urban and rural in location, serving the Puget Sound and Fraser Valley regions to date but with the potential to expand beyond these areas to wherever we can be of assistance.

VIA has been actively interested in the topics of food security, planning for agriculture, and issues around integrating art and agriculture in urban areas. See our previous blog posts on these topics: