Elizabeth River Project’s Ryan Resilience Lab Is a Finalist in Fast Company’s 2024 Innovation by Design Awards

The innovative structure is designed to help the world’s urban coastal residents protect themselves – and nature – as sea levels rise.

The Elizabeth River Project’s Ryan Resilience Lab was recently honored in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards for 2024. The Norfolk project, designed by Work Program Architects (WPA), was recognized as a finalist in the competition’s Urban Design category, alongside the Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts in Houston. Omaha’s Riverfront Revitalization was this year’s winner in the category.

The Innovation by Design Awards, which can be found online and in the Summer 2024 issue of Fast Company, honor the designers and businesses solving the most crucial problems of today and anticipating the pressing issues of tomorrow. The competition, now in its 13th year, features a range of blue-chip companies, emerging startups, and promising young talent. It is one of the most sought-after design awards in the industry.

The Ryan Resilience Lab was designed by WPA to house operations for the Elizabeth River Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring the Elizabeth River, and to showcase what the future of sustainable coastal living might look like.         

“This recognition highlights the importance of this project and the valuable contribution the Elizabeth River Project is making to the restoration, sustainability and resilience of coastal communities around the world,” says WPA CEO Mel Price. “It is also a testament to the hard work that the team at WPA put into this project and the brilliance of the project’s architect, Sam Bowling.” 

The lab was intentionally constructed inside a flood zone along one of Norfolk’s busiest commercial corridors and flanked by multiple residential neighborhoods. Inside and out, visitors will find ways to live sustainably and prepare for rising tides. Everything from the floating entry pavilion and storage shed to a “living shoreline” instead of a hardened shore, an 80,000-watt solar energy system, 10 gallons or rainwater collected and re-used in the toilets and a permeable parking lot to keep polluted runoff from reaching the river. Meanwhile, green roofs and walls covered in vegetation reduce runoff and conserve energy in winter and summer.                                          

“This year’s honorees show how essential creativity is to the process of innovation,” said Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “It’s inspiring to see how some of the best minds across industries are using design to shape our world for the better.”

The judges include renowned designers from a variety of disciplines, business leaders from some of the most innovative companies in the world, and Fast Company’s own writers and editors. Entries are judged on the key ingredients of innovation: functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, user insight, cultural impact, and business impact.

Earlier this summer, WPA gathered with the Elizabeth River Project and members of the community to celebrate the opening of the lab. View WTKR coverage of the event here.

Work Program Architects Names Two New Principals, Updates Staff Titles for Future Growth

Norfolk, Virginia, May 3, 2024 — The principals of Work Program Architects are excited to announce a number of changes to staff titles and roles that position the firm for future growth, including naming architects Erin Agdinaoay and Sam Bowling as associate principals. Agdinaoay and Bowling will join co-founders Mel Price and Thom White in leading the firm. 

In addition to Agdinaoay and Bowling, three other long-time team members have received new titles and responsibilities. 

Stacey Crawshaw has been named marketing director and will collaborate closely with WPA’s urban designers, architects, interior designers and graphic designers while continuing to play a pivotal role in brand development, graphics and print design. Sharon Manana has been named director of community engagement and will facilitate productive discussions with diverse groups and individuals impacted by WPA projects. John Stephens has been named director of operations and will oversee the firm’s daily operations, monitoring project progress and managing staff workloads to ensure timely completion. 

We have been growing as a firm and our staff has been making the adjustments and sacrifices to deliver success for our clients” says CEO Price. “These new titles are both a recognition of the work that this amazing team is already doing and a necessary step to assure that WPA will continue its work to build more resilient communities well into the future.

Since its founding in 2010, WPA has contributed to numerous projects that address social,  economic, and coastal resilience in Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, along with other communities in Virginia and North Carolina. Its current projects include the Ryan Resilience Lab for the Elizabeth River Project, the Perry Glass Studio at the Chrysler Museum of Art and the new Science Building for Norfolk State University.

The Ryan Resilience Lab is nearing completion

The Ryan Resilience Lab is nearing completion in the North Colley area of Norfolk. The new lab is located on Knitting Mill Creek and slated for a spring grand opening. There are a number of “preview events” during the month of November, go to elizabethriver.org for more information. WTKR recently toured the new Resilience Lab. Click here to see the segment.

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