Recent Posts



VIA is hard at work on the new location for the Tacoma Amtrak Station at Freighthouse Square. The project was featured yesterday in Tacoma’s local new site, The News Tribune:

Nearly two years after state officials unveiled a preliminary design for Tacoma’s new Amtrak station to critical comments from Tacoma citizens and the architectural community, a final rendering is being rolled out this week by the Washington Department of Transportation.

The final image bears little resemblance to the warehouse-like initial concept. The planned station has been relocated from the west end of historic Freighthouse Square to the 100-year-old former Milwaukee Road freighthouse’s middle section. The corrugated metal walls envisioned in the original plan have been replaced with extensive glass walls, some of which will move upward in pleasant weather to make the station area open-air. A second track and an additional loading platform have been added to the station’s south side to allow for two trains to be handled simultaneously. A public corridor also has been added on the station’s street side to connect the two sections of Freighthouse Square separated by the station.

Read more at The News Tribune.

Last weekend, VIA hosted an interactive table at Design in Public’s Seattle Design Festival Block Party we called Share the City.

Block Party attendees were invited to try their hand at city planning by placing yellow LEGO® bricks onto a large map of Seattle. The goal of the activity was to educate the participants on how and where Seattle is planning to grow, and what tradeoffs the City must consider when planning for that growth. Participants had the opportunity to shape their own solutions for how to accommodate the 120,000 new neighbors projected to arrive in Seattle between now and 2035.

Practice Session
A dry run at VIA Seattle

The VIA team started with a map of the Seattle’s urban villages—areas the City designates in its comprehensive plan as centers for growth. In each urban village, we calculated the approximate number of people that center was expected to add and decided to represent those people with yellow LEGO® bricks, with each brick representing roughly 100 people. The task was to distribute the bricks across the urban villages according to City plans, or to propose one’s own strategy for providing homes for Seattle’s growing population.

What we found was no surprise—while people were interested in learning about the City’s plans, they were much more interested in creating their own rules. Creative new ideas about housing, many from the City’s next generation, included a wide range of approaches—from a new multifamily Space Needle to a neighborhood-sized treehouse to a residential megastructure bridging Elliott Bay.


Many cited proximity to parks and transit when placing their bricks, and others questioned convention by placing theirs over water as well as within industrial districts. Over the course of the event one thing became clear: when invited to collaborate and engage in creative activity, people approach a complex problem in a playful way, crossing demographic barriers and giving rise to a rich diversity of outcomes.

Given all the challenges we face as a growing city, VIA will continue to look for creative ways to engage our clients and the public in a creative dialogue about our common future.



Neah Bay, WA

In collaboration with the Pomegranate Center, VIA’s Community Design Studio is providing design services for a free-standing beach house pavilion in Neah Bay, WA.  Situated on the dramatic Pacific Ocean-facing shore known as Hobuck Beach, the pavilion is located near the northwest tip of the contiguous United States.  Its covered space will provide the Makah Tribe with gathering space for community events and dance rehearsals, as well as a separate artist studio designed to accommodate carving and weaving activities.  The heavy timber columns showcase carved designs by the local artists.


Totem Painting


The majority of the structure was completed in the winter of 2014/2015, and it has been named Be?is, which means “Beach House” in the traditional Makah language.  From today (Friday, April 10) through Thursday, April 15 the Makah community, the Pomegranate Center, Forterra, and a few representatives from VIA will be participating in a build event to complete the remaining artistic elements of the project.


Live Edges and Pillar DetailBe?Is, Beach House

A total of 40 cedar benches will be constructed and carved.  The carved elements are designed such that, when not in use, the benches can be stacked in groups of five to reveal a complete image.  During inclement weather, the bench stacks can be placed between the carved columns to block wind-driven rain and allow the events to continue.



Large profile cedar channel siding will be installed on the artist studio, referencing the traditional Makah longhouse construction in a modern way.  The leftover live edge cuts from the benches will be used as creative treatment around the doors and edges of the artist studio to make it unique and eliminate material waste.  Artists will be creating woven cedar elements which will be cast in resin panels and installed in lieu of glass into the doors to the studio.

An outdoor fire circle will be constructed of stones from the site, along with stepped access down to the beach.

This is going to be a very exciting event, bringing together folks from all walks of life and various communities to create art and realize a vision.  Stay tuned for final project images!


Queensway Canopy, photo by Scott Taylor

All photos by Scott Taylor

The Queensway Transit Exchange in Kelowna British Columbia acts as a gateway to Kelowna’s downtown. While providing transit connectivity to the best of the City’s entertainment, cultural, and employment districts, the Exchange acts as a placemaker and visual enhancement to Kelowna’s core.

This landmark canopy is a single-story, semi-enclosed structure with a curved roof that provides weather protection for the transit island and its eight bus stops.  In line with VIA’s Third Idea, BC’s Wood First Act plays an important role in the design and construction of the canopy.

Queensway Canopy, photo by Scott Taylor

Queensway Canopy, photo by Scott Taylor

The glue-laminated timber beam and decking panel provide a naturally beautiful structural roof span nine meters wide by 57 meters long.  Minimal steel tree columns delicately hold up the roof span, increasing visual access throughout the facility, enhancing overall visibility and sightline safety. A lattice screen, together with wind deflectors, will provide additional shelter from the elements. Seating pods at each of the three wind deflectors will be arranged loosely in an arc under the canopy to encourage transit patrons to sit and congregate while awaiting their next transfer.

Queensway Canopy, photo by Scott Taylor

Queensway Canopy, photo by Scott Taylor

This canopy is currently under construction and is projected to be fully operational by the end of April 2015.

We are interested in exceptional candidates with strong analytical and communication skills who are passionate and involved in community-building at all scales. This person will work within our multidisciplinary team to provide management and leadership on high-rise residential, commercial and public transit projects.

Experience Requirements

  • Registered architect with 10 to 15 years of project management experience
  • LEED AP preferred

Key Skills

  • Dedicated team player, excellent communicator, possessing demonstrated skill at management of technically complex projects.
  • Strong client relations experience and interest in business development.
  • Experience with project controls on complex building types, including scope, schedule and budget development, change management, tracking and reporting.
  • Passion for high quality design and sustainable design. Experience with sustainable building rating systems an asset.
  • Thorough familiarity with the technical considerations involved in coordinating and executing high-rise residential, commercial, and public transit building types.
  • Strong experience in the management of documentation created in Revit 3D Building Information Modeling and AutoCAD. Fluency with production in these programs and other drawing programs such as Google Sketchup an asset.
  • Skill in the management and coordination of project documentation and preparation of graphic presentation material.
  • Strong experience in the management of collaborative design disciplines, including integrated project delivery experience.

Salary and Benefits

Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience. Generous benefits, including medical/dental insurance, retirement funds contribution matching, and transit subsidy.

How to Apply

Please email resume in PDF with cover letter/email, and “Project Manager” in subject-line, attention Catherine Calvert, AIA,

  •  Please include samples of your work, keeping total email size below 2 MB.
  • No phone calls or office visits please.
  • Applicants must meet minimum experience qualifications to be considered for these positions.

Intermediate Planner/Urban Designer

We are currently seeking candidates to join our team for the position of Intermediate Planner/Urban Designer to manage long-range planning and policy assignments, including station area, comprehensive and sub area plans as well as large scale infrastructure policy and planning. This person will work closely with our cross disciplinary team committed to place-based design.

We are interested in exceptional candidates with strong analytical and communication skills who are passionate and involved in community building at all scales.

Educational Requirements

  • Masters in Urban Planning (with a focus on Urban Design preferred)
  • or Masters in Landscape Architecture
  • or Architecture with a strong basis in Planning or Urban Design

Experience Requirement

  • 5 to 10 years as a Planner or Urban Designer in the public or private sector
  • Professional Registration preferred (AICP, MCIP or equivalent)
  • LEED AP ND registration an asset

Key Skills

  • Passion for building community and urban livability
  • Career focus on urban design, architecture, sustainability, transportation planning and economic development
  • Experience with planning legislation, drafting municipal codes, design guidelines, development agreements, rezoning processes or ordinances
  • Strong urban design skills
  • Demonstrated public engagement, meeting facilitation, and consensus building skills
  • Positive and collaborative attitude, must be a team player
  • Experience with project management and client relations
  • Excellent written, visual, and verbal communication skills
  • Working knowledge of GIS; familiarity and interest in emerging planning sector software such as tools for GHG or VMT analysis
  • Experience with business development and marketing
  • Strong experience in SketchUp, Autocad and Revit
  • Strong experience with Adobe Creative Suite
  • Strong graphic communication skills

How to Apply

Please email resume in PDF with cover letter/email, and Intermediate Planner/Urban Designer in subject-line, attention:

Charlene Kovacs, Architect AIBC, Managing Director

  • Please include samples of your work, keeping total email size below 3 mb.
  • No phone calls or office visits please.

Applicants must meet minimum qualifications for education and experience to be considered for this position.

 In 2013, VIA’s Matt Roewe, his wife, and his sketchbooks took a trip through Europe. These are some of his sketches (you may click an image to view it larger).



Travel Route



Paris Storefront

Vaison la Romaine, France

Hotel de Ville, Paris

The Seine


Istanbul Istanbul


Hydra, Greece





Uptown Parklet

You may have seen them around town. You might even enjoy one daily as you grab your morning coffee, or take a walk through your very own urban village—  they’re called Parklets. These little dynamos of public space are changing the experience of the pedestrian environment throughout the city.

Parklets were first popularized by PARK(ing) Day, a nationwide annual celebration of guerilla urban design. On PARK(ing) day, street parking stalls are taken over in cities across the country— by artists, activists, designers, every day people wanting to take back their public spaces— and turned into temporary public parks. These little parks help mitigate the automobile-focused environment of urban areas, creating urban oases of seating, bicycle parking, and human-scale space.

PARKing Day Poster_080114

Recognizing the success of PARK(ing) Day and the community value of these spaces, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) as part of its Public Space Management program, began the Pilot Parklet Program. The proposed program takes a cue from cities with successful parklet programs such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal.  Last year, SDOT began a call for applications to begin placing these parklets permanently around Seattle— parks to be designed and built as usable public spaces that are privately funded and maintained.

VIA Seattle’s James Underwood and Katie Idziorek, on behalf of VIA’s Community Design Studio, worked with The Uptown Alliance, a civic organization representing the Uptown neighborhood and urban center, to submit proposals for two different sites in the Uptown neighborhood. Of those two sites, one (in front of SIFF Cinema Uptown on Queen Anne Avenue North & Republican) was selected along with 14 others to begin construction. With the addition of Jared Slater of Slater Construction, the team set to work.

1Working on a tight schedule set by SDOT, the process began with several design workshops facilitated by the Uptown Alliance to which members of the community and local business owners were invited to get involved and be a part of the application and design process. These workshops helped to inform the process and determine the scope of the project. Throughout the community design process, the goals remained focused on reflecting the arts and culture identity of the Uptown neighborhood while providing a safe and well-lit space that was easy to maintain, engaging and interactive for the public, and that fit well with its neighborhood context.

In addition to the Seattle Parks Foundation signing on as the project’s fiscal sponsor providing support throughout the course of the work, a crowdfunding campaign was started to fund the project— everything was welcomed, from volunteer labor to materials and monetary donations. The crowdfunding campaign was a huge success, collecting donations both large and small from more than 90 community supporters. After a few permitting hurdles were cleared, construction on the parklet began in January, 2015.

IMG_20150209_124558With materials and funds donated by local businesses and time and labor donated by Jared Slater, VIA, James Underwood, and Katie Idziorek, construction has been moving along. Working to bring their design to life, the team has been pulling each part of the parklet’s anatomy together one piece at a time. The film reels that accent the railing (donated by SIFF); Uptown’s first Free Little Library; the bike racks (donated by Landscape Forms); the park furniture (which matches nearby Counterbalance Park); and the Walk of Fame, highlighting local donors, are making their way into their final places and will soon be open to the public.

After almost a year of hard work, The Uptown Parklet is slated to open in late February, with a grand opening event on Saturday, February 21 from 1PM to 3PM. The event is set to include Mayor Murray along with members of the Uptown Alliance and the community design groups to welcome the parklet as the sixth completed project of SDOT’s Pilot Parklet Program.

Anatomy of a Parklet

The Anatomy of a Parklet

For more event information, project progress photos, and more, visit the Uptown Parklet on Facebook.

by Zhaleh Moulaei, Intern Architect AIBC, VIA Architecture Vancouver


Have you ever experienced the excitement that comes from discovering something that used to be almost invisible to you? Then you start to see it everywhere and contemplate its importance?

That’s my story with wayfinding. A TransLink wayfinding project that I began working on at VIA revealed a whole new world to me: the world of wayfinding.

Now, when I think about connected communities and walkable, transit-oriented cities, the picture is not complete, or is rather dysfunctional without wayfinding elements in it– those small organs that make the whole system work the way it is designed to work. We can design cities that are perfectly connected with different modes of transit, and yet, if we fail to assist users in finding their way from Point A to Point B, our system has failed. This layer of information architecture is as important as the orchestration of the rest of the system.

Wayfinding Through Time

For thousands of years, humans have needed to be directed on where they need to go. The concept hasn’t changed, only the techniques and the materials used. As we became more civilized and our cities more complicated, so did the need for more sophisticated ways of directing people.

In 1960, urban planner and teacher Kevin Lynch coined the term wayfinding in his landmark book, The Image of the City:

“To become completely lost is perhaps a rather rare experience for most people in the modern city. We are supported by the presence of others and by special way-finding devices: maps, street numbers, route signs, bus placards. But let the mishap of disorientation occur, and the sense of anxiety and even terror that accompanies it reveals to us how closely it is linked to our sense of balance and well-being. The very word “lost” in our language means much more than simple geographical uncertainty; it carries overtones of utter disaster”

Twenty years later Romedi Passini wrote Wayfinding in Architecture. In 1992 he coauthored Wayfinding: People, Signs, and Architecture with Paul Arthur. Edward Tufte’s Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) and Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Architects (1996) have each greatly influenced the field of wayfinding. Over time, Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) became the preferred umbrella term to describe any communications intended for spatial application, ranging from wayfinding sign programs to branded spaces, exhibitions, and even public art. During the past forty years, as the EGD profession matured, the range of wayfinding projects rapidly expanded. Today, almost every type of public space and most private complexes need a wayfinding scheme. Lynch writes:

 “Despite a few remaining puzzles, it now seems unlikely that there is any mystic “instinct” of wayfinding. Rather there is a consistent use and organization of definite sensory cues from the external environment”

His research found that people form individually-customized mental maps from the physical world, often based around five elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks to navigate through space. Successful cities have enough of these elements to help people create their own mental map to find their way. Time is an important element in creating one’s mental maps. In cities that are becoming more global, and where people move in and out at such a fast pace, there might not be enough time to create these individually-customized mental maps. We need other tools on which to rely.

Beginning two decades ago, some cities started programs to improve their wayfinding signage systems, and therefore to encourage and support walkability for both residents and tourists. Among these cities are London (Legible London project), Glasgow, Bristol, Philadelphia, New York City, Sydney, Melbourne, Helsinki, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

Wayfinding in Vancouver BC

In anticipation of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the City of Vancouver began to install pedestrian wayfinding map stands to provide walking information for residents and visitors looking for Olympic venues and other destinations. Recognizing the instrumental role of pedestrian wayfinding to promote walkability throughout the City, a pilot wayfinding study was launched in 2012 in partnership with TransLink, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), and the City to test the performance of an integrated system. The pilot focused on updating the existing map stands’ content to provide more consistent, legible, and up-to-date map content that would help pedestrians better understand their environment. The study showed success in increasing pedestrian trips and the City decided to implement the new system city-wide.

To support a seamless wayfinding system, TransLink also started developing a new wayfinding strategy in 2008. Prior to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, TransLink began installing wayfinding prototype products at select SkyTrain stations in Vancouver and Richmond, such as the new “T” sign. Since then, TransLink wayfinding strategy has expanded to include journey planning information walls providing content like “Metro Vancouver Transit,” “Buses From Here,” and “Walking From Here” maps to support the City’s updated wayfinding effort.

New TransLink “T” Signs

Jeff Deby, Wayfinding Planner at TransLink, talks about some of the new ideas in the new TransLink wayfinding strategy in his Pecha Kucha, available at this link.

New strategies include:

  •  Having a consistent language of signage among stations to create an identity
  • Being predictable: consistency in signage locations and contents create a sense of confidence in users to predict where to look for what information even in a new station
  • Disclosing information progressively: show the information only at the point where it is needed
  • Providing just the right amount of information on each piece of signage
  • Using easy to understand symbols and graphics: users do not have much time to solve a puzzle

An Impressive Example

Harry Beck’s precedent-setting map design for the London Underground, issued in 1933, is a good example of the implementation of the last two strategies. Before him, the various underground lines had been laid out geographically, often superimposed over the roadway of a city map. This meant that the centrally-located stations were shown very close together and the out of town stations spaced far apart.

London Underground Map of 1908, Image credit: Wikipedia

Beck believed that passengers riding the Underground were not concerned with geographical accuracy, and were more interested in exchanges and how to get from one station to another. He came up with a map where the spaghetti of routes were organized into a system of lines drawn at consistent angles with stations that were more or less equally-spaced.

Beck’s London Underground Map of 1933. In 1997, Beck’s importance was posthumously recognized, and today, the statement “This diagram is an evolution of the original design conceived in 1931 by Harry Beck” is printed on every London Underground map. Image credit: Wikipedia

Future of Wayfinding

Seattle Public Library, Central Branch

Seattle Public Library, Central Branch

One may argue that traditional wayfinding tools – static maps, signage, etc.–  will soon become useless in an age where everyone has all the information they may need in their smart gadgets. True–  we are living in the Age of Information, and the electronic devices we use are way smarter than our built environment, so more research is needed to envision smarter wayfinding tools–  but I would argue there is still so much room both to improve the wayfinding tools that we have and to better integrate them into our built environment. Wayfinding provides us with information, and this information can be better integrated into our spaces. I can think of the Seattle Public Library, which is taking steps toward moving in that direction, but our built spaces in general are not designed with information as a parameter to design around.

Wayfinding, especially in projects where moving users from Point A to Point B is one of the main goals– as in transit infrastructure projects–  should be one of the parameters of the design problem from the onset. This would guarantee a seamless, holistic infrastructure at the end; one that works well. Wayfinding dissolves in such projects. As the saying goes: “Good wayfinding strategies tend to remain invisible to our eyes. It is only when wayfinding strategies are not good enough that we notice their existence.”


Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1960.
2014 Greenest City Scholars Program. (2014). Moving Forward, Opportunities for Vancouver’s Digital Wayfinding Map. SCARP, UBC, Vancouver: Robert W. White.

VIA is seeking a mid-level Transit Architect for our growing San Francisco office.

VIA Architecture is a multi-disciplinary architectural and planning firm of urban strategists creating connected communities. With offices originally in Vancouver and Seattle, we’re now bringing our ability to craft thriving urban places centered around transit and integrative development to San Francisco.

Highly networked across three offices, ours is a highly interactive studio based practice concentrated in urban planning, transit systems planning and design and architecture for urban mixed-use development. Our systems-level sustainable design strategies and community-based design studio set us apart from traditional architectural practice.

About this position
This is your opportunity to make an impact as part of our start-up here in San Francisco while benefiting from the deep intellectual capital, technical resources, and hands-on work-style of a capable mid-size firm. We see this position as a growth opportunity for you to learn the “VIA way” to manage and design transit facilities while moving into increasing project management responsibilities.

Responsibilities (subject to change) will generally be those of a job-captain and initially might include:

  • Participation as team member in conceptual design through construction documentation with an emphasis on leading consultant and/or in-house design and documentation teams in conjunction with the Project Manager and Project Designer.
  • Self-directed research and development of building assemblies and details and their coordination with specifications;
  • Communications and coordination with consultants;
  • Implementation of CAD and BIM standards and construction document production using Revit.

Experience Requirements

  • Architect with 7-10 years of professional practice centered around ground-transit and urban infrastructure projects. (Significant experience in other multi-disciplinary team, large-scale, complex project types will be considered.) High-rise residential, mixed-use and commercial experience a plus.
  • Licensed California Architect (or expected soon) preferred.
  • LEED AP preferred.

Key Skills
Applicants must meet minimum experience and skill qualifications to be considered for this position.

  • Dedicated team player, excellent communicator, with demonstrated skill at the detailed execution of complex transit projects.
  • Proven team leadership experience: responsibility for design team (or sub-group of a larger team) performance, deliverables, and or consultant coordination.
  • Passion for green building; experience with sustainable building rating systems an asset.
  • Fluency in the use Revit 3D Building Information Modeling and AutoCAD, including both strong computer drafting and information management skills.
  • Skill in the coordination and production of project documentation packages and preparation of graphic presentation material.
  • Strong experience in the technical coordination of collaborative design disciplines, including integrated project delivery experience and 3-dimensional resolution of technical issues.

Salary and Benefits
Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience.  Generous benefits are provided to employees and are available for spouses, domestic partners and families, including: medical/dental/vision insurance and retirement funds contribution matching.

How to Apply
VIA is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, religion, disability, sex, sexual-orientation or gender-identity.

Please submit cover letter, resume and work samples in PDF format (no more than 3MB please).

Email with “Transit Architect” in subject line.

Send to: Catherine Calvert, AIA at

No phone calls or office visits please.