Located at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk provides waterfront access that attracts visitors from all over. Most homes face the Elizabeth River or the city’s creeks and canals. Living by the beach is also possible in Norfolk’s eastern shore coastline. Best of all, the city has a low cost of living, making living by the water in Norfolk an affordable option. One of the reasons why living in the city is affordable is due to its many available apartments and multifamily buildings. These structures are built with the help of architects in the area. 

The below list includes nine of the most outstanding architects providing services in Norfolk and other parts of the country. All architects on the list employ sustainable design practices and are members of the American Institute of Architects. Most have award-winning projects and have received positive attention from the press. They have been in the industry from one to four decades.

VIA design

319 E Plume St, Norfolk, VA 23510

Established in 1991, VIA design works to elevate peoples’ lives and inspire communities. This goal drives the team’s passion for creating designs and adapting to challenges in each project. Collaboration is key to enriching the lives of each community member. The firm delivers plans and designs that respond directly to its clients’ needs, as it considers the location’s cultural context and environment. This approach is applied to projects of varying size and scale.

Over the last three decades, the firm has honed its expertise in services, including interior design, landscaping, and graphic designs. Having mastered a variety of services, the firm is a master in creating multifamily housing as well. One of its projects in Norfolk is Rotunda Lofts, which won the Award of Excellence for Best Multi-Family from the Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate (HRACRE). Handling an adaptive reuse project, the firm has converted a circular vintage building into an iconic structure in downtown Norfolk. Formerly an office building, the 1970s structure has been reimagined as a residential condominium containing sixty-six loft-style units. Because of the structure’s unique shape, planning the design and layout of each residential unit is crucial. Using its expertise, the firm delivered superb results. Each unit is designed with a pie wedge layout, creating a unique living space only experienced in this iconic building. 

Leading the firm in creating unique design solutions is company founder and president Donna Phaneuf, FAIA. An architecture graduate of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Phaneuf has developed an impressive portfolio over the years. She has experience in urban redevelopment and is knowledgeable on waterfront floodplain sites, perfect for designing buildings in Norfolk.

RBA Architects

432 Battlefield Blvd S #101, Chesapeake, VA 23322

RBA Architects specializes in residential design, and its expertise covers single-family, multifamily, and mixed-use projects. Since its beginnings in Thomas Retnauer’s home in 2001, the firm has applied historical architecture principles to develop its projects. Under Retnauer’s vision, the firm designs homes while considering detailing, proportion, and vistas. As a LEED AP BD+C, Retnauer is a leader in the Hampton Roads area regarding sustainable methods. Through his guidance, the firm has served and satisfied clients throughout Hampton Roads.

In Norfolk, the firm has helped build East Beach Townhomes. A waterfront residential facility, the building reflects a traditional Tidewater style popular in coastal southern homes. This style is chosen to fit the location’s climate and showcases a high level of craftsmanship. Residents enjoy the location’s warm climate and the stunning Chesapeake Bay views in the wraparound porches and balconies surrounding the structure. This multifamily residential building is truly a home that brings residents and the community back to simpler times.

For the firm’s more complex projects, they have been featured in different publications, including The Virginian Pilot, Yield PRO, and Living in Luxury. Aside from residential projects, the firm has expanded its sectors to include commercial, hospitality, and religious projects. In 2016, the firm earned the Small Business of the Year Award from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

HBA Architecture & Interior Design

One Columbus Center, Suite 1000, Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Founded in 1974, HBA Architecture & Interior Design is the longest-running firm on the list. For over forty-seven years, the firm has been acknowledged by different organizations and institutions as a top firm in Virginia. Some publications that have featured the firm are Tidewater Family Plus Magazine, CoVaBiz Magazine, and The Virginian-Pilot. Affiliated with the US Green Building Council, the firm has been recognized for its environment-friendly methods, landing it a feature in Leadership for Green Schools. 

Leading the firm in creating designs that serve communities is Bill Hargrove, AIA. Hargrove is HBA’s Chairman Emeritus and founding principal. Establishing the firm with Dan Brockwell, Hargrove’s vision is to deliver architectural services with integrity through collaboration. For Hargrove, the company’s greatest asset is its people. By working together, the firm continuously grows and produces award-winning projects. 

One of the firm’s award-winning projects is The Roebuck Lofts. It has recently earned the 2019 Merit Award for Best Renovated or Historic Rehabilitation from HRACRE Excellence in Development Design. Located in Norfolk, the building is a century-old warehouse that has deteriorated over the years. Through the firm’s help, the rundown warehouse has been converted into a modern apartment building. With fifty-one apartment units, the building features luxury amenities, including a rooftop terrace with fabulous waterfront views. With the intent to preserve the historical structure, the firm incorporated original details into the apartment units’ design. The result is a modern building with a distinct flavor of the past.

Cox, Kliewer & Company

2533 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23452

Established in 1984, Cox, Kliewer & Company’s passion for design comes from a passionate team. Headed by Gerald A. Cox and Lawrence W. Kliewer, Jr., the team’s passion has resulted in outstanding projects. Providing architectural and design services, the team has made many excellent commercial, industrial, and residential spaces in over twenty-eight states. Each member utilizes his skills and expertise to complete these projects effectively. Cox, a Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University graduate, takes care of construction administration and documentation. Kliewer utilizes his master’s degree in Environmental Planning from the University College, London to provide architectural design, landscape planning, and interior design services. 

Cox, Kliewer & Company builds the best multifamily structures in Norfolk. One of these structures is the Monticello Station @ Wells Fargo Center. This mixed-use project has received the 2011 Excellence in Development Design Award – Award of Merit for Best Multi-Family from the HRACRE. The project reflected the importance of team collaboration. Combining their expertise, the firm’s team has successfully delivered full architecture, design, and construction administration services to the project. Through collaboration, the firm has expertly designed three four-story buildings that contain apartment units, a fitness facility, and rooftop courtyards. Surrounding these buildings is extensive landscaping that adds softness to the concrete complex.

TS3 Architects

1228 Perimeter Pkwy, Suite 101, Virginia Beach, VA 23454

Based in Virginia Beach, TS3 Architects believes that great designs are made through informed decisions. With a team of expert designers, architects, and illustrators, the firm formulates the best solutions to project challenges. Its member’s expertise is crucial in planning the appropriate budget, schedule, and technology for each project. While planning, these experts consider the style and function of a space, as well as how it impacts the environment. 

An outstanding leader proves crucial in directing a team of outstanding professionals. Fortunately, the firm has Thomas F. Smith III, AIA.  Smith is a graduate of the New York Institute of Technology with degrees in architecture and architectural technology. With his knowledge, he influences the firm in using state-of-the-art technology in all its services. Opening the firm in 2011, Smith uses his twenty-three years of industry experience to create sustainable corporate, medical, and multi-family residential communities. 

Within a decade, the firm has handled around sixteen multi-family developments throughout Virginia and Maryland. One of these is the award-winning Mezzo Apartment Homes project. It has bagged two awards including the 2020 Honor Design Award for Residential Development from the Virginia Beach Planning Commission. This sensational project has caught the attention of publications such as The Virginian-Pilot and Client News. With 282 units scattered in ten buildings, this massive development showcases the firm’s ability to manage large-scale projects.

RRMM Architects

1317 Executive Blvd, Suite 200, Chesapeake, VA 23320

RRMM Architects is headquartered in Chesapeake, VA with additional offices in Richmond, Arlington, Roanoke, and Rockville, MD. They are experts in a variety of procurement methods including CM@Risk, Design-Build, and Design-Bid-Build as well as PPEA.  The company’s portfolio includes spaces completed for a variety of market sectors, including K-12 Education, Higher Education, Federal, Municipal, Retail, Healthcare, Library, Multi-Family, and Community projects. The firm emphasizes the importance of working closely with its clients throughout the process to ensure that their needs and visions are incorporated into their new spaces.

For over three decades, the firm has achieved its goal. By providing dynamic design-build, architecture, and planning services, it has become part of communities in forty-nine states. It has many completed projects inside and outside of the U.S., including the Broad Creek Renaissance. In partnership with The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA), the firm has become an important player in reviving a neighborhood. By connecting the newly built homes to public spaces, it creates a sense of community. Exhibiting flexibility in design and layout, the firm has created a total of 600 homes with various styles and sizes. Most homes within this major development are designed using the traditional, craftsman, or Cape Cod styles.

Winks Snowa Architects

2119 East Franklin St, Suite 200, Richmond, VA 23223

Winks Snowa Architects specializes in multifamily housing projects. Its expertise covers high-end and affordable housing projects, condominiums, townhouses, and apartments. It manages student and senior housing projects, as well as single-family homes. As a master in housing, the firm has had the honor of creating Virginia’s first EarthCraft-certified multifamily project. This certification is given to projects that promote conservation of energy and natural resources and provide healthy indoor environments. 

Some of the firm’s projects are completed under the Virginia’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC). This proves the firm’s reliability in affordable housing. In Norfolk, one of the firm’s best multifamily projects is the Watermark. A waterfront property, this project features different amenities such as an outdoor pool with poolside cabanas and a fitness center. Featuring a Dutch Colonial style, the development’s exterior is surrounded by parking lots, offering accessibility to and from the property. 

Established in 1977, the brains behind the firm are Edward H. Winks Jr and James D. Snowa. Both AIA members, the two combine their expertise in creating incredible multifamily homes. Winks is a bachelor of the University of Virginia with over forty-four years of industry experience. Snowa is an alum of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, specializing in construction administration and building codes analysis. Under their supervision, the firm has caught the attention of publications, including Richmond BizSense and Richmond Times Dispatch.

The Design Collaborative Architects

424 W 21st St, Norfolk, VA 23517

Another Norfolk-based firm, The Design Collaborative Architects focuses on energy-efficient building design. With Richard J. Fitts and Edward G. Lazaron, LEED APs, as principals, the firm continues to produce green buildings for over four decades. Creating sustainable designs, the firm ensures that each project is finished cost-effectively and that it proves attractive as well. This philosophy is applied by the firm in every commercial, civic, or residential project it handles. 

The firm has handled a variety of residential projects as well. It has designed custom homes, apartments, townhouses, and condominiums for different market segments. A sample of its multifamily projects is the Link Harbor Condominium. In this project, the firm created a link between the residential building and the waterfront. Directly facing the Lynnhaven River, this project resembles modern floating homes. Taking advantage of the location to its fullest, the firm has designed the residential units with spacious balconies. Downstairs, each unit has a porch with stairs offering direct access to the dock and the waterfront. 

For its outstanding designs, the firm has gained recognition from various organizations. It is a two-time winner of the Design Award from the City of Virginia Beach. It has graced various publications including the AIA Virginia and Metal Mag.