UVA alums plant architecture firm in Jackson Ward

frazier and herbert

Forrest Frazier, left, and Andrew Herbert in front of their office at 311 N. Second St., which they designed. (Jonathan Spiers)

After teaming up with another Wahoo this spring, a local architect who recently relocated from New York has turned his first investment in Richmond into the pair’s home base.

Forrest Frazier and fellow UVA alum Andrew Herbert formed Architecture AF in April after several years crossing paths on projects in New York. They have since set up an office at 311 N. Second St., a mixed-use development that marked the team’s first local architecture project and Frazier’s first real estate investment in the area.

The pair previously worked independently in New York but collaborated regularly, said Herbert, a Charlottesville native who splits his time between Richmond and Brooklyn. While establishing their firm in Richmond, where Frazier and his wife relocated last year, he and Herbert are maintaining work in New York for clients such as mobile game studio Dots and GIF database Giphy.

“We wanted to take advantage of the New York and Richmond markets,” said Frazier, a Lynchburg native whose New York work included a stint at Tod Williams Billie Tsien. “The idea was to keep the New York work and keep a majority of our overhead in Virginia, which is a cheaper market for labor and rent.”

In Richmond, the firm has done work for modeling agency Modelogic and is signed on for more projects, including Spy Rock Real Estate Group’s conversion of the McKinnon and Harris building in Scott’s Addition and a recently revived historic rehab in Church Hill, where Frazier resides. He met the latter project’s developers, John and Benedicte Whitworth, after moving to a house down the street from theirs.

Architecture AF has made a mark locally with the Second Street project, which won it a Golden Hammer award this year for best adaptive reuse.

The $450,000 project, which transformed the building with a modern façade, includes a studio apartment on the ground floor and two one-bedroom apartments on the second floor, in addition to the 1,000-square-foot commercial space that Frazier had planned for a retail tenant before deciding to fill it themselves.

“The more I got into it, I was never going to get an opportunity in the foreseeable future to design my own space,” said Frazier, who purchased the 2,100-square-foot building with an investor last year for $119,000. “It was such a great opportunity that I honestly never went to any broker or put it out for lease.”

architecture af interior

Architecture AF fills the 1,000-square-foot commercial space. (Jonathan Spiers)

Previously used as a salon, the building was partly burned down and considered a non-contributing structure to the Jackson Ward Historic District, making it ineligible for historic tax credits, Frazier said. That also opened the project up to modern design.

“There was really not even a choice in whether we wanted to do (historic tax credits) or not, but not doing it was actually a blessing, because it let us just do what we wanted,” he said.

He and Herbert worked with contractor Larry Cluff of locally based Quality Home Construction and Investments. The office is equipped with smart lighting and VR technology for clients to virtually walk through projects-in-progress.

The Second Street project wasn’t the only recognition the firm received locally this year. Their 6,000-square-foot office conversion for Dots in New York also was recognized with a merit award by the Richmond chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The firm adds to a sort of architecture hub that has formed along a four-block stretch of Broad Street. Around the corner from AF is Architecture Design Office and Hummel Associates. Price Simpson Harvey is also nearby, while a couple blocks away, the convergence of Broad, Adams Street and Brook Road is home to Walter Parks Architects, ArchitectureFirm, Cornerstone Architects and KEI Architects.

Architecture AF also adds to a growing local architecture scene in the city that recently added Petersburg-based Enteros Design, which opened a Richmond office in Shockoe Bottom, Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater and Washington, D.C.-based Hickok Cole.

Scott’s Addition firm Moseley Architects recently combined with Baltimore-based Marks Thomas, which had established a local office last year. Other firms are also seeing strength in numbers, as Shockoe Slip firm Commonwealth Architects likewise absorbed Henrico-based Architects Dayton Thompson & Associates.

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Greg Montalto

Beautiful renovation! Talented architects moving TO our city to set up shop like this is evidence of how far Downtown Richmond has progressed in recent years. Kudos to these gentlemen and may that have great success helping transform Richmond in their vision.