Fostering a passion for design

Mar 03, 2024

Legacy programs reinforce a firm’s commitment to nurturing talent, fostering innovation, and preserving a dynamic, forward-thinking design culture.

At Hanbury, our approach to architecture is driven by a profound passion for creating meaningful designs for educational institutions, life science corporations, and our communities. Yet, it is important for us to periodically reconnect with the foundational reasons for entering this field – the driving forces that instilled in us a belief in our ability to effect change.

Our relentless pursuit of design excellence is more than a professional obligation; it’s a journey enriched with learning, exploration, and mentorship. To reflect these values, more than 20 years ago, three of our partners established programs to inspire, rejuvenate, and reconnect us with our love for design. Our three Legacy Programs are pivotal in sustaining this ethos. Each program is a fundamental part of our commitment to nurturing talent, fostering innovation, and preserving a dynamic, forward-thinking design culture. The programs include the:

  • Jane Cady Rathbone Design Retreat. Named after our esteemed former board chair and CEO emeritus, the Jane Cady Rathbone Design Retreat is grounded in the belief that experiencing great design is essential to creating it. This annual event, open to all employees, serves as a professional pilgrimage that immerses our team in design-centric dialogues amidst contemporary, vernacular, and historic architecture. Annually, 12-15 of us travel to global destinations like Riva San Vitale, Zurich, Genoa, Lucerne, Venice, Cuba, Barcelona, Bilbao, Egypt, London, Finland, Sweden, Brazil, Japan, and Lisbon. This retreat profoundly enriches our design culture and deepens our connection to the art, our practice, academia, and each other.
    Our commitment to travel and exploration is rooted in time-honored traditions within the design community. This learning-through-travel approach has significantly influenced global architectural styles, echoing our college travel-abroad programs. Far from being mere observers, we actively engage with and absorb the essence of diverse architecture through sketching, photographing, and rich discussion. This experiential learning is integral to our design philosophy, continuously refreshing our approach and infusing our workplace with vibrancy and dynamism.
  • Nicholas E. Vlattas Summer Scholars. In tribute to Nick Vlattas, a founding member and former COO, the Nicholas E. Vlattas Summer Scholars program echoes his passion for nurturing emerging talent and expanding Hanbury’s global reach. This unique initiative combines education, mentorship, and practical experience, attracting scholars from prestigious institutions around the globe. Participants immerse themselves in a curriculum involving design critiques, research, and excursions under Hanbury’s expert guidance.
    More than a talent incubator; this program is a catalyst for professional development among Hanbury’s team members who mentor these scholars. This reciprocal learning experience is aligned with the firm’s ethos of being a “learning organization,” emphasizing growth and opportunity at every professional level. Each year the program attracts national and often international applicants to our offices in Virginia and North Carolina. In recent years, we added a research component, usually focused on community impact, guided by the scholars. Their research, community engagement, and insightful contributions have significantly impacted our firm, communities, and most importantly, their burgeoning careers.
    Last year, our program received an overwhelming response with more than 135 applicants for just nine positions, highlighting its effectiveness in diversifying recruitment and enriching our firm’s culture. It offers students a unique experience and equips each scholar with a significant portfolio of achievements.
    See the Summer Scholar Class of 2023 here.
  • S. Michael Evans Virginia Design Medalist. The S. Michael Evans Virginia Design Medalist program, named for a founding member and president/CEO emeritus, forges a link between academic theory and practical architecture. This program is a celebration of continual learning and cross-disciplinary collaboration, inviting distinguished professionals from various design fields each summer to engage and exchange knowledge with Hanbury’s staff.
    This initiative offers a unique perspective on our current projects, enriching the firm’s work through academic insights and fostering a dialogue between theoretical and practical design aspects. Honorees, recognized for their contributions to the field, participate in a 10-day extended week of lectures, project critiques, and collaborative activities, providing invaluable insights that resonate throughout the firm.
    See the 2023 Design Medalists here.

Our three Legacy Programs are more than just initiatives; they are the lifeblood of Hanbury’s culture, symbolizing our dedication to continuous learning, innovation, and talent development. The Jane Cady Rathbone Design Retreat revitalizes our creative spirits, the Nicholas E. Vlattas Summer Scholars program brings fresh talent and perspectives, and the S. Michael Evans Virginia Design Medalist program bridges the gap between academic theory and practical application. Collectively, they form a holistic approach to continuous learning and design innovation.

The influence of these programs extends far beyond the individual participants, creating a ripple effect that revitalizes Hanbury’s culture. This ensures that our passion for design remains vibrant, inspiring the next generation of architects and designers to push boundaries and create meaningful, impactful spaces. 

David Keith, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, is CEO and design principal at Hanbury. Contact him at

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