Friday, April 20, 2012

Women Open New Roanoke Architectural Firm

Gwyn Gilliam (left) and Lora Katz have a new architectural firm.

Lora Katz and Gwyn Gilliam have opened Gilliam-Katz Architecture + Design in Roanoke after “first considering a different type of business, but really, this is all we know and love. We couldn't really commit to anything else,” says Lora.

She has been among the higher-profile architects in the Roanoke Valley for some years with several firms, most notably as the director of the local office of Clark Nexsen. Gwyn was recently part of a significant layoff at AECOM and had had her own architectural firm for 15 years in before that.

“I was ready for a change,” says Lora. “It all comes back to what makes you happy. Personally, I have had a tough year, but now have a new sense of calm and purpose. Gwyn had her own firm in Charlottesville for 15 years before moving to the star city. It just seemed like a good fit."

Their new office is in Gwyn’s basement and they have a part-time architectural intern./Lora has been at the point on some signature Roanoke Valley projects recently, most recently with IDG. She was involved in the dining renovation for the Wells Fargo Operations Center, renovations and additions to the Smith Central Activities Building at the 4H Center at SML and the gymnasium / classroom addition at Preston Park Elementary School. Clark Nexsen was previous with projects for HomeTown Bank, Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore, the Culinary School at Patrick Henry High School and the Gymnasium addition at Grandin Court Elementary School. Like Gwyn, she worked for AECOM, as well.

Lora points out that “we are the only female owned architecture firm in the Roanoke Valley, but the main thing is that we do it all. Most often the project manager or principal goes to meet with the client, then they go back to the office and tell their staff what to do to accomplish the goals of the client. Something usually gets lost in translation and the client wonders why something they said was not addressed.”

The women have a goal of “making residential design affordable, so that more folks will use architects.” She says that “I have an interior design degree and background and this will help us to not just complete the building, but to create the whole environment.” GKAD is working on commercial projects at the moment, as well.

--Story and Photo by Dan Smith

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