2021 | Third Quarter Edition
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Even with another abnormal year almost behind us, I’m very proud of what AIA Arkansas has been able to accomplish over the past 11 months. Our board and committees took this past year to really evaluate our strategic plan, our existing programs and committees, and our existing Allied program. It’s through this introspection that we’ve been able to roll out new programs, committees and areas of focus for our organization to deliver value to our membership across the state.
As you all have seen, our Allied Membership Sponsor program along with our State Convention was revised this past year. In shifting to a more a la carte menu for our Allied Membership, they were able to select the engagement opportunities that were most impactful for them. Our Convention Committee, led by Rich Brya, hosted a modified version of the Hot Springs Convention both virtually and in person in combination with the ongoing online featured speaker lecture series. I’ve heard from many of our members that these modified events were very helpful and appreciated while addressing any concerns about COVID. I also heard how important it was for our chapter to gather together and celebrate the successes of our organization with our Design Awards ceremony in person. It had been a long time coming and I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate our newly licensed members and award recipients again – congratulations!  
We’re always looking for more members to be a part of our board, committees and task forces. A call for volunteers video will be sent out to members and Allied members to fill positions on these groups in the next couple of weeks. We’d really like to start filling positions prior to our AIA Board retreat in January to make it as productive as possible. Volunteering is a wonderful way to engage with AIA Arkansas, gain leadership skills, work to better the profession and participate in outreach opportunities across the state.
Our Legislative Committee, led by Blake Dunn, is working very hard to amend legislation HB 1264 to shift from a dollar amount base standard to being more in line with NCARB definitions and standards. If you are interested in talking to representatives to help get this House bill revised, we’re always looking for passionate members to be involved with this committee.
Our Outreach Committee, led by Amanda Sturgell, is looking at engaging a couple of school districts to test our videos and the program packet that will accompany them into the classroom. At the convention, we received several positive comments about AIA Arkansas taking the initiative to be proactive about engaging with our public schools to create a better understanding of architecture and design.
We are very excited to get our Sustainability Committee back up and running and thrilled to announce Michael Buono (who many of you know as a former dean at the U of A) is on board to help us get our Fellowship Committee started. We’re working on finalizing our strategic plan updates and the end-of-the-year review, so be on the lookout as you should see both of those being posted close of the beginning of the year.
Thank you all for taking the time to read about all the great things our chapter has been up to. I appreciate the opportunity to serve as your 2021 AIA Arkansas president. It was a different kind of year, but we remained very active and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

Jonathan Opitz, AIA
2021 AIA Arkansas President
AMR Architects, Inc.
Design Awards, Chapter Awards
Presented at State Convention
AIA Arkansas presented its Design Awards at the State Convention. The Design Awards program honors works of distinction of AIA Arkansas members and draws public attention to examples of outstanding architecture. Three projects received awards of honor – the highest award, granted for overall design excellence – and five were presented awards of merit – granted to projects worthy of recognition because of their design quality. Chapter awards were also presented at the convention.
The honorees are:
Honor Awards
Red Barn, Modus Studio
Thaden School Bike Barn, Marlon Blackwell Architects
The Meteor, Hufft
Merit Awards
Hobbs State Park Trail Structures, Hufft
Sue Walk Burnett Journalism and Student Media Center, MAHG Architecture, Inc.
Tanglewood Cabin, Marlon Blackwell Architects
ASC Arts X3, AMR Architects, Inc.
Willis Residence, DEMX Architecture

Member Choice Award
Little Rock Southwest High School, Polk Stanley Wilcox
People’s Choice Award
The Grumpy Rabbit American Eatery, Ryan Biles Architect
Chapter Awards
Award of Merit – Peter MacKeith
Emerging Professional – Amanda Sturgelll
Diversity Award – Brandy Bibby/Building Momentum
Details on the winning projects and more information on the chapter award winners are included in our publication that was a supplement to Arkansas Money & Politics magazine. You can access it here.
The lead (AIA) AR Member Highlight is an opportunity for AIAAR members to learn a bit more about fellow members. Every conversation yields insights and inspiration as an AIAAR board member visits with a member who is making a positive impact. 

On Community Involvement
Esteban spoke with Katherine Lashley, AIAAR PR Committee Member, in August 2021 to discuss community involvement. 
Since he was little, Esteban Ayala Medel was always intrigued by how things worked and enjoyed building puzzles or opening up toys to see their inner workings. This translated into a love of working on cars and evolved further into an interest in understanding how the house he lived in was put together. The study of components and their relationship to a whole which was so prevalent throughout his childhood led Esteban to pursue the study of architecture.
Esteban was born in Mexico, moved to the U.S. when he was 13 and was the first member of his family to go to college. So, in addition to earning credits to graduate high school, he was also learning a new language. Esteban cites his lifelong curiosity for understanding how things come together as a helpful tool in creating a system to understand the structure of the English language. He worked immediately following high school to save money for college, but never stopped taking classes. He attended a community college for a couple of years and then transferred to the U of A where he received his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 2014. Upon graduation, Esteban started working with Hight Jackson Associates in Rogers and earned his license three years later.
Esteban continues to work with Hight Jackson Associates and is passionate about community involvement. He serves on AIA Arkansas’ Emerging Professionals Committee and Educational Outreach Committee.
How do you stay involved in the community? Can you speak a bit on the programs you work with?
EA: One is through a car club I’m a part of, where we fix cars and customize them. We also do fundraisers by organizing car shows and using the entry proceeds to help members of the community that have some sort of need (economical, medical, educational, etc.). I’ve been part of the car club for four years and we’ve created a good relationship with the city where they let us use the downtown area for our events and promote the diversity in our car club. Sometimes we do bigger events where we team up with other clubs for a fundraiser.
Another way I stay involved in the community is through my work at Hight Jackson Associates. We like to work on small community projects that can make a real difference. Typically, the partners will pick these community projects and propose them to the whole office and whoever wants to work on them will jump in. Some of these projects are a one-time opportunity, like building an outdoor classroom for a school that dedicates their resources to helping kids that need a second chance or face greater struggles in their lives due to their backgrounds or family situations. With others, we’ve created longer relationships, like with United Way, where we volunteer to help organize and clean up the facilities of a local organization that dedicates their resources to helping out women with kids that ran out of options and need help getting back on their feet. We’ve been doing this for the last five years.
What is the importance of community involvement?
EA: This is essential for the practice of architecture in order to better understand the needs of their inhabitants, and create a building fabric that can better respond to, not only the present, but the future needs of their environment. By paying attention to their individual members, we can create a more responsive building.
How do you think architects are uniquely situated to be key influences and supporters of healthy communities?
EA: I think that through our training and field experience, we can identify the key positive components within a community that can be extracted and assembled into a built environment which then can become a catalyst for positive change.
What do you consider key considerations when working on community-based architectural projects?
EA: The context influencing the community, as well as the reaction of their members to that context. By looking at the reaction of the individual members to the whole context, we can have a more suitable solution to the needs of the community.
How can communities and individuals foster a cultural richness?
EA: By engaging one another with an open mind and promoting engagement in public discussions for the benefit the whole community. Coming from a minority background, I know it is not very popular in Mexican communities to get involved in community development discussions due to the lack of information about those opportunities (not knowing about community meetings) and also the fear of not being welcomed. I feel promoting more intentional engagement with minority ethnic groups is an important way to bring about a more diverse community and a healthier environment.
As a first-generation American, college student and architect, what one piece of advice would you most want to pass on to others on a similar journey?
Don’t get discouraged, because along the way you will get a lot of negative feedback. Since you don’t have a lot of references to fall back on, most people don’t think you can do it. I would say, if you put your mind into it and put in the effort – because it’s probably going to be two or three times the effort of anyone under normal conditions – it’s possible! Be really stubborn. Mainly, just don’t give up!
How can architects help remove barriers for young individuals considering a future in architecture? Do you see the AIA Educational Outreach Committee as a way of doing this?
That’s why I joined the AIA Arkansas Educational Outreach Committee. I really loved the idea of this program because I remember when I was little, I never really thought of architecture as a possibility. I thought of architects as people who were in a whole different world and that it was something that I would never be a part of. Reaching out to the younger generation via the Educational Outreach Committee to explain what architecture is, get that spark and ease any doubts in their minds – that is bringing architecture to a level that they understand and presenting it as an option for their future. Because they might be interested in architecture, and they don’t even know how to explain it and this could help give them the momentum they need to pursue that career.
Keep an eye out for the forthcoming Education Outreach Video Series, developed by AIA Arkansas. Esteban, along with many other architects and designers have worked to put their passion for design into words to increase awareness about the architectural profession in K-12 institutions and communities around the state. This will lead to a better understanding of our value, in the hope to inspire the next generation of design leaders in Arkansas.
Congratulations to Newly Licensed Architects
Join us in congratulating these newly licensed architects!
Christopher McCray
Christopher Estill
Leah Trask
Kathryn Edwards
Callan Meek
Brett Meek
Amber Banks
Krista Liesch
Seth Spradlin
Timothy Varner
MAHG Architecture Promotes Nate Deason & Timothy Varner
The Directors of MAHG Architecture are thrilled to announce the expansion of our leadership team with two well-deserved promotions. Join us in congratulating Nate Deason, AIA and Timothy Varner, AIA for their commitment to our mission of creating inspiring places to learn, to work, to heal, to live and to have fun.
MAHG Architecture is proud to announce the promotion of Nathaniel (Nate) Deason to associate principal. Since joining the firm in 2013, Nate has been instrumental in the design and construction of a wide range of project types and scales, from police stations to campus master plans, office buildings, public libraries and schools. His inquisitive nature, knack for problem-solving and attention to detail have made him a good student of life, design and architecture – all driving a passion for working with clients to translate their values and goals into responsive spaces that are full of potential, meaning and beauty. 
Nate is also an ardent volunteer and advocate for the architectural profession in his community and the state of Arkansas. Having served the American Institute of Architects Arkansas Chapter as the Fort Smith Section chair, an emerging professionals representative and the assistant associates director, as well as leadership in many other committees, Nate firmly believes in the betterment of the profession and the use of architecture and design as a powerful tool in the transformation of our locales.  
Originally from Springfield, Mo., Nate graduated with his bachelor of architecture cum laude from Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University with minors in design art, french language, art history and global studies. While in school, Nate was nominated for the Librarium Prize five times, was inducted into the Tau Sigma Delta architectural honors society and was bestowed the Founders Award for Design Excellence upon graduation. 
MAHG Architecture is also proud to announce the promotion of Timothy Varner, AIA to associate. Timothy joined MAHG in 2015. In the position of project architect, he has been responsible for master planning, design and construction administration. Timothy is inspired to create a shared positive experience by helping create quality architecture for surrounding communities and prides himself in developing meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues.
A native of Reeds Spring, Mo., he moved to Fort Smith after graduating from the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design where he focused his studies on urban design, architectural theory and sustainability. During his time at the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, Varner was part of the UACDC team that won the 2015 World Architecture News Future Project Urban Design Award for their project titled Slow Street: A New Town Center for Mayflower.
Active in local and state professional organizations, Varner has served as a director for both the Fort Smith Section of AIA Arkansas and on the State Board of AIA Arkansas. He currently serves as the program chair for the Fort Smith Section, coordinating all Allied sponsor and continuing education events for the membership. He served as the 2019 AIA Arkansas Design Awards chair and is currently serving his second term as the featured speakers chair for the AIA Arkansas State Convention. 
WER Hires Interior Designer & BIM Technician
WER is pleased to announce the hiring of Morganne Weaver, ASID, NCIDQ as an interior designer in our Northwest Arkansas office, and Lucas Strack as a BIM Technician in our Little Rock office.
Receiving her bachelor of interior design from the University of Arkansas, Morganne joined the WER team in the fall of 2021. She is registered in Arkansas and is also a certified interior designer through the National Counsel for Interior Design Qualification. Morganne has worked on a diverse collection of project types that range from architectural to urban design, both residential and commercial. Morganne also has experience in project management, leading projects from conception through project completion.
Included in Morganne’s professional passions are historic preservation, adaptive reuse and sustainability. She has worked on National Historic Register projects in Arkansas and actively incorporates sustainable practices into her design solutions. Morganne strives to improve the quality of life for end-users by shaping interior and exterior space through design. She has a passion for serving others as well as creating meaningful connections with clients, contractors and other design professionals. Outside of the office, she enjoys working with local un-housed neighbors by participating in outreaches that provide emergency care items, building a mobile shower trailer and mentoring individuals to find long-term solutions to their situation. Morganne also loves spending time outdoors and improving her yoga practice.
Lucas has always had an interest in the built environment and how the construction comes together. This interest led him to pursue architecture at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and after graduation began exploring woodworking and furniture making. Lucas joined WER as a BIM Technician, using his extensive experience in architectural drafting, design and BIM knowledge on a daily basis for our clients.
He also has a side business where he designs and builds custom furniture. If you swing by our Little Rock office, our favorite shuffleboard table is a Strack original. Lucas is also an avid outdoorsmen and lover all things Arkansas.
Building Momentum Launches
At AIAAR Convention
Building Momentum founders Jordan Arrington, ASID, NCIDQ, Brandon Bibby, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, and Holly Vetsch, PE, AIA Assoc., presented the program to the 2021 AIA Arkansas Convention in October. Building Momentum is a design mentorship program targeting high school students throughout Arkansas. We are design professionals who believe that all voices have value in the design of the built environment. Diverse perspectives make the environments we produce more impactful, which is why we strive for more inclusive opportunities for exposure to our professions.
Our focus is shaping a future that increases diversity in building design by building momentum towards an equitable foundation for future designers. The value is in investing in our youth and generating genuine relationships and mentorships throughout the process. Our mission is to share what we do, how we got here and why design matters.
We cannot do this alone and are thrilled that so many of you signed up to join our team as Building Momentum mentors. Thank you for your trust in us and in volunteering your time to make our design community more inclusive to any student interested in the design field.
We are currently making connections with school districts and reaching out to mentors to build these relationships. If you are interested in finding out more about the program and becoming a mentor – we would love to have you. Visit MyDesignFuture.com or head over to IG @buildingmomentum.design.
studioMAIN Introduces RISE Mentorship,
Scholarship Program
RISE (Reinvest In Students Everywhere) is being introduced by studioMAIN. RISE is a mentorship and scholarship program whose goal is to make a difference in the future of architecture and design by educating and encouraging students in the underserved areas of Arkansas to pursue a career in the design field.
Do you want to help us create a more inclusive design community? Follow the link below to learn more about RISE and help be a catalyst in getting it up and off the ground.
Community Design Center Project
Wins American Architecture Award
A U of A Community Design Center project, "Markham Square Housing District," was recently recognized in the 2021 American Architecture Awards, the nation's highest public awards given by a non-commercial, non-trade affiliated, public arts, culture and educational institution. The project received an American Architecture Award in the Multi-Family Housing category. Now in its 27th year, the American Architecture Awards program is organized by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, which jointly present this prestigious annual program for design excellence and for the best and next contributions to innovative contemporary American architecture. 
The "Markham Square Housing District" project is a downtown regeneration proposal for an industrial brownfields site, a former scrap metal yard four blocks north of Conway's main commercial street, re-imagined as a new square surrounded by a mixed-use residential district. The vision for this new square features "wilded," or natural, landscapes that will help manage stormwater runoff and control flooding. It also proposes multifamily housing with distinct frontages – including two-story screened porches, balconies, terraces, patios and courtyards – that line the edge of "green" streets incorporating stormwater treatment landscapes. The housing types consist of affordable walk-up residential multifamily typologies – row houses, bungalows, triplexes, courtyard housing and townhouses – that have not been built since the dominance of 1950s suburban policy. These housing typologies, also called missing middle housing, are compatible with single-family housing. They are affordable types (between 900 and 2,100 square feet) that are key to revitalizing small and mid-sized downtowns without the population dislocations that accompany gentrification.
Anthony Timberlands Center Project
Breaks Ground in Windgate District
The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design held a groundbreaking ceremony for its newest addition, the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, on Nov. 5. Located in the Windgate Art and Design District, the structure will be a center of excellence for innovation in wood design and product development to expand the use of Arkansas-sourced timber and wood in architectural design, construction techniques and product design. 
The $26.5 million, nearly 45,000-square-foot building will include a high-bay fabrication workshop, studios, seminar and conference rooms, faculty offices and outdoor terraces. The center will also include a small auditorium and a public exhibition space. This project is being designed and constructed according to LEED Gold standards. The planned center will serve as the epicenter for the Fay Jones School’s multiple timber and wood design initiatives, house the school’s existing and expanding design-build program and fabrication technologies laboratories, and serve as the new home to the school’s emerging graduate program in timber and wood design.
Project Architect - Fennell Purifoy Architects, Little Rock
Fennell Purifoy Architects is looking for a project architect to join our Little Rock office. Applicants should be creative, have a strong design sense, as well as the skill and desire to detail projects. The ability to work both individually on self-directed projects and as part of a collaborative effort is very important. Ideal candidates should have a minimum three years of experience in a design firm.
Applicant Requirements
  • Architectural degree from an accredited program
  • Three to five years of relevant work experience
  • Strong design and detailing skills
  • Proficient in Revit as well as other drafting and graphic programs such as Lumion, Photoshop, and In-Design
  • Good communication skills with clients, colleagues, and consultants (orally, written & graphically) are a must
  • Professional licensure is preferred
Interested applicants should send their resume as well as a sample of their portfolio to [email protected]
To find out more about us please check out our website at fennellpurifoy.com
WER is Hiring in Little Rock & Fayetteville
WER Architects is seeking forward-thinking, energetic Architects to join our design teams in both Little Rock and Fayetteville offices. We are hiring for the positions of Project Architect, Architect and Architectural Design Intern in both offices. Ideal applicants will exhibit a commitment to excellence in architectural design, have a positive approach, and be a great collaborator. Please visit the Connect page at werarch.com to read full job descriptions and required qualifications for each position.
  • Project Architect applicants should have a minimum 6 years of experience and architecture registration.
  • Architect applicants should have a minimum 2 years of experience and a professional degree in architecture.
  • Architectural Design Intern applicants should have a professional degree in architecture.
Be sure to check us out on Instagram and Facebook for more information on WER, our work, culture and our people. To apply send a digital copy of your resume and sample of your portfolio to [email protected]
Ways for Small Businesses To Maximize Tax Savings
This year, some businesses are thriving while others are still struggling to recover from the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Whatever your business’s situation, taking full advantage of available tax breaks for small businesses – including temporary relief in response to the crisis – is critical. And changes under the TCJA still demand attention, too. Landmark CPAs provides information to help in an article entitled “Tax Breaks for Small Businesses: 5 Ways to Maximize Tax Savings.” Access it here.
Arkansas Ready Mixed Concrete Association
Benjamin Moore
CDI Contractors
Crow Group
Corporate Tax Advisors
Design Resource Group (DRG)
Engineering Consultants, Inc.
Featured Systems
Henderson Engineers
Hunt Design Group
Hydco, Inc
Insight Engineering
JE Allen Co
Johnson Architectural Systems
KI/Glen Jones & Associates
Landmark CPAs
Long Sales Agency
Malmstrom White
Mays Maune McWard
McClelland Consulting Engineers
McKay Consulting
Minick Materials
Missco Interior Concepts
Pettit & Pettit Engineers
Powers of Arkansas
Southwest Terrazo Association
Tatum Smith Welcher Engineers
WoodWorks Wood Products Council
American Institute of Architects
Arkansas Chapter

318 S. Pulaski Street
Little Rock, AR 72201