Architect W. Douglas Gilpin Jr., ’74 FAA, MARCH ’76, designs with a keen eye toward preservation and sustainability, talents that earned him the prestigious Milton LaTour Grigg Award in 2022 from AIA Central Virginia.
Gilpin’s architecture firm has offices in Charlottesville, Va., and historic Block Island, R.I., and its projects have been featured in numerous national magazines. Gilpin’s work ranges from historical preservation and renovation to new residences, and his portfolio reflects the breadth and eclecticism of his influences: Walter M. Macomber, the first resident architect of Colonial Williamsburg; Chicago’s David Adler and Howard Van Doren Shaw; modernist Eero Saarinen; and postmodernist Charles Moore.
Every building has embedded energy, Gilpin says. If you can reuse a structure, you eliminate the environmental impact of demolition, transporting waste to a landfill and manufacturing new building materials. “It’s a sustainability issue,” he says.
Gilpin’s American Institute of Architects recognition brings his body of work full circle. After completing his degrees at Illinois, he worked for the award’s namesake, Milton LaTour Grigg, a Virginia-based architect best known for his restoration and preservation work on Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello. On Gilpin’s first day, Grigg told him, “Now that your school has taught you the essentials of design, structures, construction drawing and contracts, we’ll teach you humility.”
While Gilpin has made his name and career working on the colonial architecture of Virginia and the East Coast—including maintaining the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson—he still calls his time at Illinois “the best experience of my life, other than getting married and having a daughter. [Illinois offered] a lot of camaraderie.”