Wendy Tippetts still loves urban designing in a small town

Fulton Theatre Rehearsal Studio Addition, Lancaster, PA. Courtesy Toby Richards Photography
Fulton Theatre Rehearsal Studio Addition, Lancaster, PA. Courtesy Toby Richards Photography

In 1987, when Wendy Tippetts relocated to form Tippetts/Weaver Architects with Gary Weaver, Lancaster city was an unpolished gem.

“It was so rich in underutilized spaces” in the 1980s, Tippetts said. “We saw things we wanted to design.”

Thirty-six years later, after such projects as the Fulton Theatre expansion and Actors Housing, the Lancaster Science Factory, the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and Lancaster Conservancy, the imprint of Tippetts/Weaver is hard to miss.

And there’s still lots more to come, given the breadth of Lancaster’s high-quality construction, beautiful detailing and historical context.

Fulton Theatre Rehearsal Studio Addition, Lancaster, PA. Courtesy Toby Richards Photography
Fulton Theatre Rehearsal Studio Addition, Lancaster, PA. Courtesy Toby Richards Photography

The American Institute of Architects Pennsylvania recently named Tippetts/Weaver Architects as the recipient of the 2022 Architecture Firm Award – the first time since its inception in 2013 that it has been given to a firm with a female founder.

For 35 years, Tippetts was president of the company; she has recently moved away from that to become a special consultant with the business.

“T/Wa creates beautiful architecture for everyone, crafted with deep thought and care, constructed with materials choreographed in logical but poetic ways, that moves us in its power to reimagine the building stock of Lancaster, Pa., and the surrounding communities,” wrote Chris Dawson, one of eight architects from across the state to serve on the nomination committee.

Dialogue between old and new

As a student, Tippetts wasn’t the kind who knew exactly what she wanted to do. Her vocational story “is a little bit convoluted,” she said.

Tippetts enjoyed art in school and was extremely interested in geometry. Those two skills are ideal for an architect.

She and her mom, an artist, would also look at buildings, Tippetts said.

When she came to Lancaster from her native New England to attend Franklin & Marshall College, that solidified her decision to go into architecture.

She moved to New York City after completing graduate school in Oregon, and ended up freelancing for Lancaster city developer Ed Drogaris.

Tippetts and Weaver chose to open a practice in Lancaster because they were very interested in urban design in a small town “with a strong architectural vocabulary,” she explained.

Over the years, she also served on the city planning commission, where her feedback helped to change outdated ordinances.

Tippetts said historical buildings shouldn’t be copied but interpreted in modern form, a dialogue between the old and the new.

A new project she is very excited about is the “community hub” for helping people who are homeless, planned on the 100 block of South Prince Street.

It will be a nonconventional way of meeting this need, she said, and a learning experience for her.

The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority’s preliminary plans for the property center on a “community hub” that would include a new shelter, permanent housing linked with social services and a center for case management services. Other amenities and services under consideration are showers, a day center and access to computers.

Surprised at recognition

Tippetts said the firm was thrilled to receive the AIA Pennsylvania award – and surprised, given that “our competition is in major metro areas.”

Many of the winners are professors engaged in highly innovative work, she said. “We’re not part of the avante garde.”

“The Architecture Firm Award recognizes a Pennsylvania firm whose passion and practice have produced notable architecture for at least a decade,” a release said. “Deserving firms have demonstrated excellence in design and leadership through any combination of the following criteria: the breadth and/or depth of their portfolio, a healthy firm culture, influence on the practice of architecture, and exemplary outcomes for clients and/or society.”

Tippetts/Weaver Architects was chosen from a pool of four nominees submitted to the committee by the nearly 3,000 members of AIA Pennsylvania. It’s not only the first firm from central Pennsylvania to have been chosen for the award but also the smallest.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

TAIT announces leadership changes

Gemma Hodgson, chief commercial officer and Jess Chalifoux vice president of global business development for TAIT. PHOTO/PROVIDED
Gemma Hodgson, chief commercial officer and Jess Chalifoux vice president of global business development for TAIT. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Lititz-based TAIT, the global group of designers, fabricators and engineers for live and location-based experiences, announced a promotion and a new hire.

Gemma Hodgson has been promoted to chief commercial officer while Jess Chalifoux, brand and marketing industry veteran, has joined TAIT as vice president, global business development with a focus on expanding and growing relationships, identifying and securing new business opportunities and strengthening the overall customer experience.

Prior to joining TAIT in 2006, Hodgson was trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK and then spent years working in stage management and automation for the cruise ship industry. “Her extensive technical knowledge and background has served to catapult TAIT’s tremendous growth in the cruise market and well beyond,” a release said.

“This promotion reflects Gemma’s strong leadership and her absolute commitment to putting our clients first,” said Adam Davis, CEO of the TAIT Group. “At TAIT, we are strengthening our dedication to delivering end-to-end projects from concept to delivery with a focus on understanding both the creative and the technical aspects of our clients’ needs and developing the best strategy to bring each of their unique visions to life.”

“I am thrilled to continue to build upon the accomplishments and partnerships we have established during the past 17 years I have been with the company,” Hodgson said. “I am constantly reinvigorated by the incredible breadth of our work at TAIT, by the vast number of industries we touch, and the overwhelming innovation we drive each and every day. Bringing on Jess will serve to further bolster our position in the industry and I can’t wait for her to hit the ground running.”

Chalifoux brings to TAIT over 20 years’ experience as a lead agency partner to clients all over the globe. She will report to Hodgson.

TAIT’s global team of more than 1,400 employees in 20 offices oversees the creation of complex movement for artists, brands, performing arts spaces and venues in over 30 countries, all seven continents – and even outer space. The company’s clients include Taylor Swift, Cirque Du Soleil, Beyoncé and the Olympics.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

HIA future proofs levee with an over two-mile long cement system 

Contractors walk across the articulated concrete blocks that make up HIA’s new levee system. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The design plan for a massive levee system rehabilitation project at Harrisburg International Airport (HIA) was shelved for nearly a decade because of its cost by the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority (SARAA). 

The project, which would cost an estimated $20 million to complete, was designed to rehabilitate HIA’s existing flood dike and levee system, first constructed in 1958. 

Over the more than 60 years since the levee was built, erosion, vegetative growth, ice jams and other natural forces have eroded the levee, making it more likely over time that the runway itself could be damaged by flooding. 

Knowing that there was time before the runway would see any damage and being unable to pay the upfront cost to modernize such a levee, the airport authority decided to slowly build the funding over years. 

A sudden opportunity for grant funding resulted in the authority scrapping its plan to shelve the project. 

The airport reopened the project and sent it to be redesigned by the Mechanicsburg office of Philadelphia-based engineering firm Urban Engineers following the 2018 announcement that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would be awarding $779 million in supplemental funding for infrastructure grants to 127 U.S. airports. 

“When the supplemental funding came out, we quickly updated plans and since this was a shovel-ready project, we were eligible for the $20.2 million,” said Scott Miller, deputy director, marketing and public relations at HIA. “It came out of the blue.” 

Urban’s engineers had 45 days to modernize the project in time to be able to submit it for the grant. When finished, the project would be one of the largest articulated concrete block systems in the U.S., spanning 13,025 feet along the river. 

By replacing the soil levee with the new cement system, the runway would be expected to be free of erosion for decades. 

Urban oversaw the design and management of the project. The design for the project included the use of articulated concrete block mats along the slope of the levee and rebuilding of the riprap toe at the river’s edge. 

“It is one of the largest systems of its kind in the country. That’s what made it impressive—the amount of material we had to put down over a year and a half,” said Brian Peda, deputy practice leader of construction services at Urban. “It was unique to have something of this magnitude protecting a levee along the river. You don’t see something of this size every day.” 

Peda led the management team on the project, working alongside the project’s contractors, Bucks County-based KC Construction. 

SARAA secured funding for the project in 2019. Construction along the river began in full force in 2020, despite the pandemic. 

One-time sensitive aspect of the project was the water level of the Susquehanna River, according to Peda. 

Drone footage provided by KC Construction shows the finished levee along HIA’s runway. PHOTO/PROVIDED

“They built the levee from the bottom up. Once they got out of the flood level there was nothing stopping us,” he said. “You can’t just place this stuff in the water. It won’t be a decent base.” 

On days when the flood levels were high, the team worked on the higher end of the levee where flooding was less likely. Peda noted that 2020’s flood levels were particularly low, which allowed the team to quickly build enough of the cement system to get above flood levels. 

Another unseen obstacle for the team was the nature of working on an airport itself. Construction equipment cannot freely move back and forth across the runway, or it will interfere with the FAA’s navigation aid equipment communicating with planes. 

“If you have a large piece of metal driving through a critical area, it can harm the signal of the plane. The FAA tower doesn’t let us operate in those critical areas,” said Peda. 

This meant that the teams had to work with the FAA to shut down the navigation equipment on days with clear skies, meaning that the pilots would land manually. On days with bad weather where the equipment was necessary, the contractors had to work with the FAA to discuss which access point to the levee they could use. 

The team completed the project in July 2021. 

The project recently received a Diamond Award in the Water Resources category at the annual Diamond Awards for Engineering Excellence, hosted by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies. 

“We would like to congratulate the SARAA and other key partners on the successful completion of this project and on this award from ACEC/PA,” said Eric DeDominicis, PE, deputy practice leader for aviation at Urban. “Far too often, infrastructure challenges are not addressed until there has been a disaster. In the case of SARAA’s levee at HIA, the authority was able to work with our capable team to resolve a water resource challenge before failure.” 

Correction: The story previously referred to Urban Engineers as Union Engineers.

Wormleysburg real estate development and consulting firm forms new entity 

Wormleysburg, Cumberland County-based real estate development and consulting firm, Integrated Development Partners (IDP), has separated its civil engineering and building design services into a new entity. 

This month, Integrated Development Partners announced that its civil engineering and building design services will operate under the new name of IDP Consulting (IC). 

The firm’s separation from IDP will provide more opportunities for employees and distance the company from any real estate transactions or future business enterprises, IDP wrote in a press release last week. 

The new firm will continue to do business from its 430 N. Front Street location with Justin Kuhn as managing partner. Employees Terri Delo and Elliot Shibley have been promoted to Partners at the firm. 

“Each has shown a true commitment to make IC the best it can be and are a large part of who we are today,” the company said in a statement. 

IC’s experience includes handling complex land transactions, zoning, master planning, entitlements, design and construction challenges and more.  

IDP owners Kuhn, Mike Kennedy and Jonathan Bowser formed two companies last year as part of their “Integrated” family of businesses which include Integrated Land Transfer and Steel Works Construction. 

Lancaster packaging class brings real-world consumer testing to students 

Three potato chip designs made by students for Tom Newmaster’s packaging design class at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. The designs were put through similar customer testing paces that real brand packaging would be. PHOTO PROVIDED

Students taking Tom Newmaster’s package design class at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCAD) this semester will be tasked with designing a mockup package design for a brand of their choice and taking that design through actual consumer testing.

Newmaster, a founding partner of Lancaster-based design and branding agency FORCEpkg and a packaging design expert with over 25 years of experience in the industry, has taught at the private art college in Lancaster for 11 years.

One of his newest additions to the class involves having his students take a design of their making through real-world consumer testing.

Newmaster’s students choose a brand from a list of categories and then look to improve upon that brand’s packaging using a full report on how that brand did in its market.

The designs the students come up with will then be submitted for testing where thousands of consumers will give feedback on the designs. The students can then use that feedback to update their work and turn in a final product.

“I have never heard of anyone else doing this. Taking major market research data and allowing students to use that to redesign (their projects),” he said. “Since they are young designers that haven’t seen this before it will probably be a unique challenge for them.”

Testing of that caliber can cost a company tens of thousands of dollars but was provided to the class for free by Chicago-based marketing consultant Designalytics.

Newmaster previously worked with Designalytics to test new packaging concepts as part of FORCEpkg.

Tom Newmaster. PHOTO PROVIDED.

DESIGNalytics’ consumer testing involves a survey with a series of questions each related to a different industry.

“The value of their research tool is that a consumer isn’t answering 20 questions on a specific product or brand,” said Newmaster. “A consumer is asked one question on each category. They are just all pure instant response questions.”

Those responses will then be given to the students in order for them to take a second look at their project and make changes, something that a majority of students do not get a chance to do while still in school.

“If any of them apply somewhere with consumer products and that company does any market testing or data, that will be really impressive,” he said. “I don’t think someone looking to hire a young designer or marketing person will expect that.”

Even the largest brands struggle with subjectivity in design, often choosing their own personal opinion over consumer feedback, said Steve Lamoureaux, CEO and founder of Designalytics.

“It’s essential for the next generation of designers to appreciate, in a very tangible way, that their opinions will sometimes differ from those of their target audiences,” said Lamoureaux. “Designers tend to shy away from data, so we wanted to give these students an opportunity to learn just how valuable data can be for effective design, and how to use it most strategically.”

Newmaster has offered a version of this project for years but last semester was the first time he brought in real consumer data through the partnership with Designalytics. Previously, the project was based around students designing their own potato chip packaging with a brand that they created.

Newmaster shifted the project to have students pick from a list of different consumer package categories because improving a leading brand may look better on a resume. It also works better with Designalytics’ survey method since the surveys are built to ask one question per industry.

“(Designalytics) would need to run eight to ten surveys to get the results they need,” said Newmaster. “Now they can do it in one theoretically.”

When Newmaster initially signed on to teach some of the college’s packaging design classes, he viewed it as a way to stay fresh on art and design principles as he leaned more into the business end of FORCEpkg. Today, his experience as a teacher has opened doors he didn’t expect it to and a majority of his employees are PCAD alumni.

“It shines positively on your business. There’s an aspect of giving back and sharing with the next generation,” he said. “The loss of your time in the business because you’re teaching a class is overshadowed by the positive impact.”

Newmaster’s project is unique in how it combines business strategies into the classroom but PCAD has been committed to fighting the misconception of the starving artist by creating relationships with area businesses, said Michael Molla, president of PCAD.

“(That real world experience) is incredibly important and today we are starting to see the real data of how artists and designers are working in art and design,” Molla said. “Artists and designers are the ones coming up with solutions for all kinds of challenges. Not just art projects.”

Designing office spaces with COVID-19 in mind

Commercial real estate projects have returned for architectural and design firms but they look different as businesses design office spaces with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses in mind.

Like most real estate firms, York-based architectural firm Mulá Group’s business slowed considerably in early 2020 as its clients paused projects and surveyed the damage caused by the pandemic.

Today the firm has seen a lot of those clients return, many of whom want to make permanent changes to protect their staff and clients from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Those businesses are incorporating UV lighting, air filtration, glass barriers and social distancing into their floor plans.

“It’s been all commercial design changes,” said Madelyn Wolfe, administrative coordinator at Mulá. “Some people do have the thought that in a couple months it’ll be different but other clients are preparing for a permanent change.”

Social distancing space has been a big topic of conversation among Mulá’s clients, with businesses looking to create social distancing space in break rooms, restrooms, locker rooms and more, according to Wolfe.

Along with designing social distancing spaces in their client’s facilities, Mulá has been asked to use UV lighting in its designs, which allows the facility to turn off its normal bulbs and turn on the UV lights at the end of the work day to help sterilize the rooms.

HVAC and other additional filtration systems have also been a much more common topic of consideration, said Wolfe.

“Clients are more frequently asking for systems that remove viruses and particles from a room,” she said. “It has to be designed in a way that allows the air to go through.”

At Mowery Construction in Mechanicsburg, Bill Sutton, vice president of customer experience has seen similar trends with the firm’s clients. Mowery is currently creating Members 1st’s new headquarters in Hampden Township, consolidating several separate offices into one building.

Sutton said that his clients have also leaned into a larger focus on cleaning the air and minimizing airborne hazards in their offices and added that the largest focus he has seen with post-COVID office spaces has been a desire for improved flexibility.

Mowery hasn’t necessarily seen a decline in clients from the pandemic but instead is seeing companies reevaluate what office space they will need as they now bring remote work schedules into the mix.

“I believe most companies have learned about flexible and remote work schedules which has now complicated their decision making about new office space,” he said. “Inevitably, the companies that are thriving will need more office space and more flexible space.”

Sutton suggests that offices should have a mix of spaces for staff to use such as smaller phone rooms for sensitive conversations, small and large conference rooms and large community areas, highlighting the flexible space mantra that many companies seem to be making.

Mowery itself is planning a new office space and Sutton said that in designing the new space, the firm is focused on technology and flexibility.

“We want to afford our employees the flexibility to come and go with seamless interfaces with technology and their co-workers whether they are at home, in the office or on the jobsite,” he said.

However, the changes to facilities seen by some firms are not universal, according to Jill Rohrbaugh, a Principal at Hanover-based Architecture Workshop.

Architecture Workshop has been busy helping their clients in education and manufacturing make accommodations and expansions to coincide with COVID-19, but has yet to see all of their clients future proof their incoming spaces.

“We haven’t had anyone come to us and say that ‘I want a pandemic free, cleanable office,’” she said. “Many haven’t yet thought of this as a forever thing.”

Penn State Health moves forward on two expansions to Milton S. Hershey Med Center

Penn State Health is developing two projects at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center that will cost more than $37 million in renovations and expansions.

The Hershey-based health system announced last month that its Board of Trustees approved an expansion to the hospital’s medical intensive care unit and renovations on the ground floor for a new Department of Radiation Oncology.

Both projects are scheduled to finish in 2022 and will improve access to specialized health care services that in high demand on the Hershey campus, according to a written statement.

The $12 million renovations to the hospital’s ground floor for the Radiation Oncology department began in July and will allow the use of specialized imaging technology with greater precision when treating tumors, officials said. Offices and conference rooms previously on the ground floor will be moved to non-clinical space elsewhere in the hospital.

The renovations were designed by BDA Architects of Clark Summit and will be finished in multiple phases by February 2022.

Penn State Health also plans to renovate the seventh floor of the hospital’s south addition. Currently the floor houses the Neonatal Care Unit, Continuing Care Nursery and Pediatrics Progressive Care, which will move when the Children’s Hospital expansion is completed this fall.

When that move is complete, the Medical Intensive Care Unit, now on the sixth floor, will move in. The change will allow the unit to expand from 16 beds to 24. The unit is also expected to include a nurse and physician workspace, equipment storage, anesthesia space and soiled and clean storage.

FLAD Architects of Madison, Wisconsin is currently designing the renovations to the floor. The project is planned to begin in fall 2020 and completed in spring 2022.

Local health systems improve efficiency with newest hospitals

One of three of UPMC Memorial’s heart catherization labs before it was open for use on Aug. 18, 2019. PHOTO/ IOANNIS PASHAKIS

When UPMC Pinnacle set out to design West Manchester Township-based, UPMC Memorial hospital, the system laid out its imaging and emergency departments next to one another, and operating rooms were expanded to leave room for advances in surgical equipment such as robotics.

The layout was similar in design to UPMC Pinnacle’s West Shore hospital, which opened in 2014. The designs of both allowed for quicker, more efficient medical care that older hospitals can’t always achieve even with extensions and renovations, said Paul Toburen, senior vice president of facilities and support services for UPMC Pinnacle.

“A lot of hospitals in the US have aging infrastructure,” he said. “As they continue to grow, they grab the available land around them and they renovate the space. When you are building a new hospital you have the ability to do it right the first time.”

Where aging hospitals may have departments that work together on different floors or wings, a new hospital gives architects the opportunity to put them together, improving efficiency and work flow.

At UPMC Memorial, two departments, such as imaging and emergency, that are generally used together, could now be neighbors.

“Most hospitals were built 50 years ago and every five years they add a new wing; they become little mazes that are hard to navigate and understand,” said Jim Albert, principal at Hord Coplan Macht, a Baltimore-based architecture and interior design firm.

Hord Coplan Macht’s health care team has designed for inpatient and outpatient hospitals across the country, including WellSpan Heart and Vascular Center in York.

UPMC Pinnacle opened its new UPMC Memorial hospital in West Manchester Township on Aug. 18, 2019. The hospital’s design was based on the floor plan of UPMC Pinnacle West Shore, a hospital built in Cumberland County in 2014. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

What to improve on

Newer hospitals like UPMC’s West Shore and Memorial hospitals can increase efficiencies that may not warrant an entire renovation with changes such as decentralizing their nursing stations, said Toburen.

In a centralized nurse station, a hospital’s staff operates from one location for all of the patient rooms in their wing. Many new nurse stations have become decentralized with more than one work station for nurses and patient rooms with computers that allow them to complete charts from a patient’s room.

When Penn State Health built its new Lime Spring and Mechanicsburg outpatient facilities, it introduced self rooming capabilities meant to offer more privacy to patients.

With self rooming, a patient independently finds their own exam room in a designated wing. The provider then gives the check up from one location and the patient checks out in the same room before leaving the facility.

“We’ve changed the way we look at our offices and we try to build some efficiencies in,” said Dr. William Bird, a senior vice president with Penn State Health Medical Group. “Some of our offices like Mechanicsburg and Lime Spring have self rooming capabilities, so the patient can room themselves, which contributes to privacy.”

The mental health of hospital staff has also become a hot topic in hospital design. Good designs can reduce rates of clinical depression among health care providers.

Penn State Health’s most recent hospital, the Hampden Medical Center, projected to finish construction in Hampden Township, Cumberland County in 2021, includes natural light in staff break rooms with access to the outdoors.

“There needs to be an importance placed in making sure there are areas of respite for staff and that they get natural light and windows,” Albert said. “The way that hospitals build up over time can make that challenging.”

In its Lime Spring and Mechanicsburg outpatient facilities, Penn State Health offers lactation rooms for staff, and technology to have teleconferencing capabilities that allow staff to have meetings online.

The sometimes confusing layout of hospitals was something that both Penn State Health and UPMC Pinnacle have tried to combat with their newest facilities. The new hospitals use “wayfinding” techniques like clearer signage and patterned and color coded floor patterns.

“We really want navigation to be an easy part of the patient experience,” said Kent Eckerd, vice president of ambulatory development at Penn State Health. “We want wayfinding to be intuitive but we don’t assume it is.”

State regulations

Additions to a hospital to increase efficiency or comfort are at the discretion of the hospital system, but there is still state requirements for patient room size and privacy.

Pennsylvania’s hospitals are mandated by the state Department of Health to follow requirements that spell out standards every new hospital or renovation must follow.

“The guidelines are what the architect uses to get the basis of design when either renovating or starting from new,” said Toburen. “We have to get the minimum design to start with and from there you look at efficiency.”

To bridge the gap between what the firm’s staff is designing and the clinical needs of the system and its staff, Hord Coplan Macht keeps a registered nurse on staff.

As the architect’s work to find how they can make the staff’s jobs easier and more efficient, the nurse works with the hospital and its staff to help the architects understand how the space will actually be used when its finished.


Current new hospitals boasting innovations in care will need to hold up over the next 50 years as new rules and regulations result in new extensions and renovations.

When designing health care facilities, Hord Coplan Macht does this by making space for future chillers and boilers and considering where future expansions could build from.

On the ambulatory side, Bird said he expects telemedicine to continue to expand, allowing for more facilities to be able to offer more specialty services electronically.

At UPMC Pinnacle, Toburen said the hospital system takes a piece by piece approach, trying to be both forward thinking and reactive when it comes to how it can update its hospitals.

“There are always little tweaks, the industry is constantly changing,” he said. “We are always taking the best of the best from UPMC’s hospitals and developing a better model.”