Purposeful Architecture – “Galaxy of Possibilities” Gala

You know the name “Purple Cherry Architects”, but how well do you know “Purposeful Architecture”? If you google it, it’s the first thing that comes up. The logo looks strikingly similar to that of Purple Cherry Architects’ logo! That’s because Purposeful Architecture is a design studio within Purple Cherry Architects that specializes in “creating learning and living environments that inspire creativity and individuality in children and adults with special needs.”

Purposeful Architecture and Purple Cherry Architects are likely names that you have seen around the metro area for several decades. You have also seen them associated with local non-profits such as Hospice of the Chesapeake, Arundel Lodge, and the Ronald McDonald House just to name a few. But two plus years ago, Purple Cherry expanded into the Charlottesville area and with that, so did Purposeful Architecture.

While Purposeful Architecture has worked on non-profit projects, special needs schools, group homes, vocational day facilities, etc. from the Annapolis area all the way out to Utah, Arizona and even Saudi Arabia, one of the more recent non-profits pairings is with the Virginia Institute of Autism, or as we call it simply – VIA. Early in October, VIA hosted their Annual Gala, “A Galaxy of Possibilities”, to help kick off their fundraising campaign for their new Charlottesville facility to serve transitioning teens and adults with Autism into the community.

The evening was hosted by Castle Hill Cider near Charlottesville and silent auction Items lined the perimeter of the timber-framed hall as all the stars in the galaxy were shining just above attendees heads. Okay, so they were actually twinkle lights but we’re talking about a theme here!  Cathy Cherry, Ashley Marshall, and John Daly from our team were all in attendance! It wasn’t just the PCA team that supported VIA–our team was joined by some notable colleagues like Doug Croker of Ilex Construction, who has been working with PCA on various projects in Maryland and Virginia, and Alison Dickie the fabulous editor of Albemarle Magazine. The night went off without a hitch and was full of speeches, live auction items, dancing, laughing and even a little photo booth time. It was truly a night to remember with some great people for an even better cause.

With the gala in the past, the real work begins! The project is the renovation of an existing senior center on Hillsdale Drive. The use, materials and team all play a critical role in the redesign of this new space. One of the biggest things needing attention is the roof, but let me tell you a little bit about the other parts.

Individuals with autism can be more sensitive to sounds, smells, etc. It is key that the team at B&R Construction Services–the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers on the project–pays close attention to this when working through their design. Ever turn on the lights in a conference room and hear a buzzing or humming noise? That is a “no-go” in the world of special needs design! Switching out the noisy bright fluorescent bulbs for quiet warm 2700 kelvin LED bulbs can help to alleviate sensitivity.

When students need a break from all the commotion, they often need a secluded space to distance themselves from all the things causing stress. Thus why sensory rooms have been located within the four major classrooms.

In addition to these sensory rooms in the classrooms, VIA will also be building out the basement into a large vocational classroom that will be mocked up like an apartment. This gives the students and adults opportunities to learn how to clean, do laundry, cook, etc., all of which can help them get jobs out in the community and better their life experiences!

If they aren’t learning life skills in the model apartment classroom, they could be spending time in the VIAble ventures lab. What is VIAble ventures you ask? It’s a social impact program to develop small sustainable businesses tailored to give adults with autism jobs! The first venture – candle making. Who doesn’t love a good candle? Be on the lookout because their first inventory is coming soon!

As this project becomes more and more of a reality, we certainly cannot do it without the work of some of the other local consultants on the project like DMWPV Structural Engineers and Timmons Group for the exterior civil and garden work!

Want to learn a little more about what VIA is doing? Check out these links featured on the local Charlottesville news! Take a look at the Daily Press . Interested in other ways to get involved? Go to viaschool.org to read more and learn how. See you in Cville!

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA

Architecture & Interiors