UVA School of Architecture Dominates 2024 AIA Virginia Prize: Graham Gewirz and Philip Edmonston Shine

Headshots of architecture student winners of 2024 Virginia Prize
(l–r) Graham Gewirz (M. Arch '24) and Philip Edmonston (BS Arch '24) respectively took first and second place in the 2024 Virginia Prize, presented by AIA Virginia. 


The Virginia chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ annual Virginia Prize challenges aspiring architects across the Commonwealth to push boundaries and reimagine the built environment. In February 2024, nine students from the University of Virginia School of Architecture participated in the competition, with Graham Gewirz (M. Arch ‘24) and Philip Edmonston (BS Arch ‘24) clinching the first and second places respectively.

Since its inception in 1980, the AIA Virginia Prize has been a design charrette inviting architecture students from accredited architecture programs across Virginia to participate. The event provides a platform for emerging talents to showcase their skills and vision. This year, students from UVA School of Architecture, James Madison University, Hampton University, and Virginia Tech—including their Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC)—put their creativity to the test.

Entrants were tasked with designing a "bookless" public library in Phoebus, Virginia, envisioned as a vibrant community hub embracing digital culture while fostering inclusivity and safety. Led by professors from Hampton University, the brief urged students to think beyond traditional library concepts, emphasizing connectivity, resilience, and community engagement.

Graham Gewirz, M. Arch '24

Community and Common Grounds: A Study of Inclusive and Accessible Gathering

winning student work submission to 2024 Virginia Prize, presented by AIA VA
In Graham Gewirz's winning submission "Community and Common Grounds," a circular library and circular community volume overlap to form a central gathering space that can open and close to the outdoors. © Graham Gewirz

Claiming the top spot in the competition was Graham Gewirz, a Master of Architecture student at UVA. Gewirz's project, titled Community and Common Grounds: A Study of Inclusive and Accessible Gathering, captivated the jury with its clarity and ingenuity. His design seamlessly integrated a community room with a library, symbolized by a Venn diagram, a metaphor for intersectionality and inclusivity.

Gewirz's design ethos prioritized accessibility, boasting zero stairs and instead embracing ADA ramps for universal circulation. His vision not only envisioned spaces for gathering but also aimed to uplift marginalized communities, emphasizing architecture's role in fostering social cohesion and equity. "I hope the project can stand as a small testament to architecture’s role in both bringing people together and uplifting the disadvantaged," said Gewirz.

Reflecting on his experience, Gewirz shared the exhilaration and challenges of his first design competition. He credited the tight deadline for pushing him to make bold decisions and stick to clear design principles. Gewirz's future journey includes a stint at Harvard GSD for a Master's in Urban Design, a testament to his ambition and talent. 

Philip Edmonston, BS Arch '24

Phoebus Community Campus: Library, Public Meeting Space, Arts Space

Site, plan, and process drawings of a library and community center proposed by a student for Phoebus, Virginia
Philip Edmonston's "Phoebus Community Campus," plan and process images. © Philip Edmonston

Securing the second position was Philip Edmonston, a Bachelor of Science in Architecture student at UVA. His project, Phoebus Community Campus proposes an addition to the town's existing library as the beginning of a larger arts and culture network for Phoebus' downtown. The jurors commended the project for its contextual sensitivity that artfully bridged tradition with innovation.

Edmonston's meticulous approach involved intensive sketching and modeling, allowing him to develop a layout that seamlessly integrated with the neighborhood. His design emphasized pedestrian circulation, with a strategic focus on outdoor movement and social spaces. A bridge connecting old and new structures symbolized continuity and unity, ensuring a harmonious blend of the past and present. 

Looking ahead, Edmonston expressed his excitement for future endeavors, including gaining professional experience before pursuing graduate studies. 

The success of Gewirz and Edmonston, and all the UVA finalists underscores the excellence nurtured at the School of Architecture. Their Virginia Prize achievements not only highlight individual talent but also reflect the School's commitment to fostering creativity, critical thinking, and social responsibility.

As Gewirz embarks on his journey to Harvard GSD and Edmonston prepares for professional endeavors, their honors serve as inspiration for aspiring architects at UVA and throughout the Commonwealth.

UVA School of Architecture Finalists, 2024 AIA Virginia Prize:

Upturn: Bringing the Outside In
Ammon Embleton, M. Arch ‘24

Hampton Public Library_Phoebus Branch Extensio
Matias Hendi, M. Arch ‘26

Connecting Communities
Nicholas Karayianis, BS Arch ‘24

Phoebus Public Library + Community Hub
Maggie Leddy, BS Arch ‘24

The Phoebus Digital Library: Responding to the Past and Preparing for the Future
Brandon Meinders, M. Arch ‘24

The Digital Wharf: A Resilient Community Mooring Berth for Ideas
Leopold Wehner, M. Arch ‘26

Hampton Digital Discovery Library Center, Phoebus, VA
Jia Ming Zheng, M. Arch ‘24

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