Panelist Biographies


KEYNOTE: Architecture Expanded

Katie Swenson | Vice President, National Design Initiatives Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.| Columbia, MD

Katie Swenson is a national leader in sustainable design for low-income communities. Katie oversees National Design Initiatives for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., directing the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute and the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship , nurturing a new generation of community architects through hands-on experience and high-impact projects. Under her tutelage, 35 fellows are responsible for completing 7,000 units of housing and 46 community facilities. About 3,000 units are currently in the development pipeline, plus five community facilities. The program fellows remain leaders in community design, spearheading a national movement of architects back to community service and social activism.

Katie founded the Charlottesville Community Design Center and, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity led it to establish an influential and acclaimed international design competition. The competition’s innovative lessons are recounted in “Growing Urban Habitats: Seeking a New Housing Development Model,” which Katie co-authored with William Morrish and Susanne Schindler. Named an emerging leader by the Design Futures Council, Katie is also listed among Steelcase’s prestigious Green Giants. Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from the University of California-Berkeley and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Virginia.

Session 1

9:00 - 10:30am | Campbell, 160

CONNECT: Interface + Maps + Strategies

Sydnor Scholer | UVa M. Arch Candidate '12 | Moderator
  • Catherine Dee | Director of User Interface/User Experience | Silverchair | Charlottesville
  • Jen Siomacco | Designer of User Interface/User Experience | Silverchair | Charlottesville
  • Michael Lewis | Senior Strategist | R/GA | NY, NY
  • Thomas Pollman | GIS Analyst | Office of Emergency Management | NY, NY

Catherine Dee | Director of User Interface/User Experience | Silverchair | Charlottesville

Catherine Dee (BS Architecture, UVa, 1986) is Director of UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) Design at Silverchair, a Charlottesville-based company that specializes in developing digital products for scientific and medical publishers. She has been with the company for over ten years, during which the UI/UX Design and Development departments have grown from a team of two to a team of over fifty. She and her team of five designers (two of whom have architecture degrees) share a deep commitment to the semantic web and to the practice of user-centered design. Catherine and her team design product interfaces for clients that include the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, Wolters Kluwer, McGraw Hill, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, Springer, and the NIH. Additionally, they work on internal Silverchair applications that manage and apply semantic meta data to content delivered online.

After graduating from the UVa School of Architecture, Catherine worked as a print graphic designer. She subsequently transitioned to working in film production and on two NEH-funded PBS documentary series (Out of Ireland; Tell About the South). Continuing her work with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Wagner, she then helped to produce Windhorse, a full-length feature film documenting the plight of the Tibetan people that was shot illegally in Nepal and Tibet. She is a co-founder of Light

House, a non-profit filmmaking center for teenagers, and has extensive and longstanding volunteer commitments to local arts and theatre organizations (Live Arts, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, Foolery, and CLAW: Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers).

Jen Siomacco | Designer of User Interface/User Experience | Silverchair | Charlottesville

Jen Siomacco (BS Architecture, UVa, 2008) is a UI/UX Designer at Silverchair. She has been with the company since graduating from UVa in May 2008. Jen is part of a team of six designers who are responsible for designing user-centered interfaces for Silverchair's many clients.

While at UVa, Jen was a member of the Learning Barge design/build team during the 2007-2008 year, participated in the Robotic Ecologies seminar, and served as president of UVa's film organization, OFFscreen. Since graduating, Jen has volunteered her time with the Charlottesville Annual Design Marathon and the Central Virginia AlA Architecture Week, assisting in the organization of their annual film series. In her free time, she puts her graphic skills to work creating her own line of cards and paper goods that can be found at local craft fairs and in local shops.

Michael Lewis | Senior Strategist | R/GA | NY, NY

As a senior strategist at R/GA, Michael works with interdisciplinary teams to solve complex business problems, applying a mix of research, analysis, design thinking, engineering, digital technology, and hard

work. He's worked on large-scale digital products and services for clients including Nokia, Hewlett Packard, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, MasterCard, and Barnes & Noble.

Prior to joining R/GA Michael was a design director in the New York office of the interactive agency Schematic. Here he led teams of interaction designers to deliver new digital experiences across a range of technology platforms, experiences that are now used daily by tens of millions of users around the world. When he wasn't developing user-centered design techniques, or working with software developers to refine early prototypes, Michael could be found in the back of the Schematic creative department losing ping-pong games.

Michael was a Path A graduate student at UVA, and received his M.Arch from the School of Architecture in 2006.

Thomas Pollman | GIS Analyst | Office of Emergency Management | NY, NY

Thomas Pollman is an architect, designer, and geographic information systems (GIS) analyst focused on issues of data visualization, spatial analysis, and the built environment. He is the director of Thomas Pollman Studio and a member of the GIS Division at the New York City Office of Emergency Management where he works to enhance situational awareness for first responders.

In addition to day-to-day mapping responsibilities, his current projects at OEM include a three-dimensional GIS study of the critical infrastructure systems surrounding Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, the development of an urban post-disaster housing prototype for New York City, and the creation of the first comprehensive GIS dataset illustrating geo-referenced floor plans of all 468 New York City subway stations - for use in support of emergency planning and response operations.

Focused on spatial data visualization as design research and creative practice, the work of Thomas Pollman Studio has been published and exhibited internationally – most recently at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City and the School of Art, Architecture, & Design at the Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico.

Pollman holds a B-Arch from Auburn University (1999) and an M-Arch from the University of Virginia (2005). He has taught design studios at Auburn University and the University of Virginia, and has been a guest critic at Columbia University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the Pratt Institute. Pollman is an associate editor at d3:dialog, and a registered architect in the state of New York.

Session 2

10:45 - 12:15pm | Campbell, 160

DESIGN: Film + Fashion + Environment

Colin Curley | UVa BS Arch Design, '11 | Moderator
  • Leslie McDonald | Design Professional & Assistant Project Manager | Abrahamse & Company | Charlottesville
  • Becca McCharen | Creative Director + Founder | Chromat | NY, NY
  • Hara Woltz | Environmental Scientist, Artist, Activist | NY, NY

Leslie McDonald | Design Professional & Assistant Project Manager | Abrahamse & Company | Charlottesville

Leslie McDonald joined Abrahamse & Company in 2010 as a Design Professional & Assistant Project Manager.

During the 23 years she spent in Hollywood designing sets as a Production Designer and Art Director, she was involved in such films as Barton Fink, Field of Dreams, Bugsy, Minority Report, Intolerable Cruelty and Forrest Gump. She made a big change in life, moved to Charlottesville, and earned a Masters Degree in Architecture from the University of Virginia. In 2009 she worked as the Construction Manager of the School of Architecture’s ecoMOD4 project in Charlottesville.

Becca McCharen | Creative Director + Founder | Chromat | NY, NY

Becca McCharen is the creative director and founder of the fashion and accessories label Chromat. Drawing from McCharen’s theoretical background in architectural and urban design, Chromat focuses on interior and exterior structural experiments for the human body.

McCharen graduated from the University of Virginia School of Architecture in 2006. After graduation, McCharen worked as an architectural intern in Portland, Oregon, joined the Peace Corps to work as a municipal development volunteer in El Salvador and then worked as an urban planner in Lynchburg, Virginia. She now lives in New York City and focuses exclusively on the Chromat label.

The past collections designed by McCharen for Chromat have been inspired by a diversity of references including the Pompidou, bodybuilders, royalty, origami cranes and Olympic athletes. In the past few seasons, the work of Chromat has explored the construction of garments and accessories that functions as exterior scaffolding for the body. These body cages are worn as the outermost layer of clothing and define new volumes on the wearer.

Chromat cages are currently sold in several places in NYC and LA as well as in Singapore, Hong Kong and Antwerp. McCharen has been commissioned to create custom cages for the rapper Nicki Minaj and Usher’s backup dancers. Her work has been featured in many magazines and websites such as Zink, XXL, Blink and Glamour.

Hara Woltz | Environmental Scientist, Artist, Activist | NY, NY

Hara Woltz is an environmental scientist, artist, and activist. Through her art and science practice, she addresses aspects of the destruction and conservation of ecological systems.

Much ecological degradation occurs at the edges of human awareness. Every hour, species quietly go extinct, wetlands slowly disappear, and air subtly warms.
Humans are deeply connected to these shifts, yet a false sense of remoteness pervades. Hara finds a mutual resonance among all life forms, and through her work explores the biotic realities of this planet that bind, separate, repulse, and compel us.

Her work addresses threats to nature that disrupt the patterns necessary for biodiversity to persist, such as habitat fragmentation and pollution.
Field research is integral to her paintings, photographs, texts, and site installations. Informed through direct immersion, she documents and mitigates the impacts of human constructs—perceived and concrete—on the environment and its inhabitants.

Hara has worked on a variety of ecological design projects throughout the world. Her works are in a number of corporate and private collections, and past awards include an American Museum of Natural History fellowship, a Columbia University research award, and a Peggy Guggenheim fellowship. In addition, her work has appeared in such publications as Biological Conservation, Popular Science, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and ORION magazine.

As an undergraduate, she studied studio art and biology at Duke University. She has an MA in landscape architecture from the University of Virginia, an MA in conservation biology from Columbia University, and is currently pursuing a PhD at Columbia.

Session 3

1:00 - 2:30pm | Campbell, 160

CONSTRUCT: Communities + Structures + Objects

Brad Schuck | UVa M. Arch (Post-Professional) Candidate '11 | Moderator
  • L. Bernard Harkless Jr. |Project Engineer | Clark Construction Group, LLC | Charlottesville
  • Kate Snider Tabony | Designer | Alloy Workshop
  • Alexander Kitchin | Adjunct Lecturer + Owner, elbwrm – design.fabrication.research.concrete | Charlottesville

L. Bernard Harkless Jr. |Project Engineer | Clark Construction Group, LLC | Charlottesville

Bernard graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007 with a major in Architecture along with double minors in both Philosophy and Urban Planning. Since graduation, he has worked for Clark Construction Group, LLC one of the largest general contractors in the United States. As a Project Engineer, he is responsible for managing the on-site compliance of contractor work which covers a wide spectrum of trades from painting subcontractors to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. Some of his past projects include the Shakespeare Theatre Harman Center for the Arts and the George Mason University Academic VI/Research II project.

Bernard is currently working on a $52 million science building for Montgomery College located in Rockville, MD, where he is manages the coordination of LEED compliance. Along with his LEED responsibilities Bernard also manages the construction schedule for this project.

In addition to his role at Clark Bernard is also a member of the DC Chapter of the Urban Land Institute, as well as the Corcoran Gallery of Art 1869 Society. As a member of the Urban Land Institute, Bernard is a part of the Young Leader programs committee. The purpose of this committee is to schedule educational and networking programs for industry professionals in the DC metro area.

Kate Snider Tabony | Designer | Alloy Workshop

Kate came to Charlottesville in 1997 to pursue a degree in Architecture at the University of Virginia. Her fruitful years at UVA, including her involvement in the school’s award winning Solar Decathlon Competition, spawned an insatiable passion for design and sustainability that would take her to California and New Mexico where she worked as an apprentice in a small firm called Solar Design & Analysis- designing a completely solar powered 16,000 square foot research center in Capitol Reef National Park, as well as a number of hybrid solar residences around the Southwest. Kate attended Princeton University, receiving her Master’s of Architecture and the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize for her thesis work. Before returning to Charlottesville, Kate spent a year managing projects for Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects in New York City. Kate has taught design studios at Princeton University and the University of Virginia, and is currently a designer at Alloy Workshop- a multidisciplinary design studio in Charlottesville which unites architecture, construction, and graphic design to create a collaborative discipline that is facile in the art of design and production. Kate’s work has been exhibited at the Center for Architecture in New York City, the Architecture League of New York, the 2007 International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam, the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, The College of Santa Fe, Princeton University, and at the University of Virginia.

Alexander Kitchin | Adjunct Lecturer + Owner, elbwrm – design.fabrication.research.concrete | Charlottesville

A native of Virginia, Alexander Kitchin received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia before working in architectural offices for several years. He then moved to Los Angeles for his masters degree in architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). While there, he apprenticed with several noted architects by working in the field as a construction superintendant, overseeing their building projects. As a student, he also studied and worked in Italy and Turkey, before moving back to Virginia to establish a practice and teach at the University of Virginia. Since then, he has been engaged in architecture, design, construction and fabrication projects ranging from books and furniture to custom homes, housing and commercial interiors. His practice has always included a hands-on approach to architecture through an active fabrication shop.

After spending a year in Italy as a Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome , and as the recipient of a Graham Foundation grant, he again returned to Charlottesville to translate his research into the investigation of the timeless and intimate relationships between materials, spaces and people.

Since then, his focus has been on teaching and his design/fabrication studio, elbwrm. The studio is primarily focused on the production of art, furniture and spaces through the design and fabrication of custom concrete pieces. Working on a commission basis, the studio designs objects that are sensuous and seductive, transforming the raw material in an unexpected manner with an emphasis on craft and an interest in combining the uniqueness of the handmade with the precision of the computer.

As adjunct faculty at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, Alexander teaches a design process that investigates the character inherent in materials and how the process of making informs the spaces we design. His research focuses on design that transcends cultures and communities. He has taught, visited and lectured at schools across the country and abroad in architectural design, fabrication, theory, and photography.

For a complete schedule of events, click here.


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