Jaan Holt, professor and director of the Virginia Tech Washington Alexandria Architecture Center was awarded a 2010 Park and Recreation CIVIC Award from the City of Alexandria in recognition of his 30 years of exemplary service in design education, public outreach, and professional work in addition to instilling the core value of community service to alumni of the city's only academy of architecture and design.
Holt accepted the award during a recent waterfront celebration of the City of Alexandria's 261st birthday. The CIVIC Awards, presented for the past 25 years, recognize the unsung volunteer efforts of Alexandrians who provide a valuable service in meeting recreation, park, or cultural needs.
In nominating him for the award, Ron Kagawa, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) LEED AP, and Henry Hollander, American Institute of Architects, wrote that Holt's "on-going guidance and mentorship remain the catalyst for multiple generations of students and professionals who -- by using Alexandria as a learning and professional practice laboratory -- have contributed to the preservation, design, and construction of the city's urban fabric."
Holt moved from Blacksburg to the National Capital Region in fall of 1980 with 15 architecture students and established a design studio on the third floor above what was then a CVS Pharmacy at the corner of King and Columbus Streets in Old Town Alexandria. This was the beginning of the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center, Virginia Tech's first urban architecture program and permanent off-campus design program.
Today, under Holt's continued direction, the center (now located at 1001 Prince Street) includes internationally recognized undergraduate and graduate programs offering interdisciplinary education in architecture, urban affairs and planning, and landscape architecture. The WAAC has served 20 domestic and international universities, each of which provides students and faculty to the center's consortium of cultural learning. These include such prestigious schools as Oxford Brookes University, London, United Kingdom; Bauhaus-University Weimar, Germany; Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Israel, and Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile.
In its 30 years, the center has educated more than 3,500 students, instilling in them the core value of community service that is the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). Students from the center have made contributions to the built fabric and environment of Alexandria, engaging in tens of thousands of public service hours on projects such as historic building documentation of the Old Town Theater; the Ramsey House Visitor's Center; and the (now demolished) Ford Plant, designed by architect Albert Kahn. These projects might not have been undertaken were it not for the center's endeavors.
Virginia Tech alumni have also been active in the City of Alexandria, serving on the city's two Boards of Architectural Review -- the Old and Historic Alexandria District and the Parker-Gray District. They have also served on the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities' Alexandria Waterfront Commission and as volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and The Nature Conservancy.
In addition, professional work by alumni in private practice and in city staff positions is represented in much of the late 20th and early 21st century architecture, planning, and landscape thriving today in the City of Alexandria.
"I am very honored to receive this Civic Award from the Park and Recreation Commission," said Holt. "Virginia Tech has thrived since establishing its presence here some 30 years ago and I am proud of the many successful collaborations that our students, alumni, and faculty in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning have had with the city of Alexandria during the years. We look forward to extending mutual activities and projects in the years to come."
- Washington Alexandria Architecture Center Ph.D. students present Constructing Imagination: A Symposium on the 'Matter' of Architectural Scholarship