Architects Saving the World: One Spa Night at a Time

It doesn’t take much to save the world. The power of women supporting women, for example, translates into women in architecture supporting breast cancer treatments and programs. For the second year in a row, charity spa night hosted by AIA|NOVA WIA (American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia chapter Women In Architecture) and Circe of Alexandria come together for a relaxing night of mini spa treatments, refreshments and networking to raise funds for The National Breast Center.

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Ellen and Theresa addressing the Spa Night attendees Photo Credit: Melissa Daniel

This story doesn’t end with a simple donation and a hand massage. It’s a story of an architect/client relationship and how supporting one another can save others. Ellen Vlasak, co-owner of Circe of Alexandria Salon and Spa, was battling breast cancer years ago when she spotted her next business opportunity. “At the time I was in the middle of chemo and when I walked in [to Circe], I was bald and jokingly said to the staff ‘Can I get a haircut?’” Overwhelmed by the kindness and respectfulness of the salon staff, Ellen knew right away, “When I walked out, I told my husband ‘I want to own that business.’” The key to a successful business is a great staff, Ellen concluded, “[This business] is geared toward the client and having the expansion that Theresa did… gave us the opportunity [to offer the clients more amenities]” When the decision came to expand Circe of Alexandria, it was up to Goggle to find them an architect. “One of my staff researched ‘women architects’ in the area and found Theresa del Ninno of Maginniss + del Ninno Architects to help us expand the space,” Ellen said.

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Photo Credit: Maginniss + del Ninno Architects

Architect Theresa del Ninno AIA, LEED BD+C explains the design intent of Circe of Alexandria 6,000 sf space. “Tied together by a new, graceful, spiral stair, the design expanded the day spa into the second floor, more than doubling the space and separating the salon area from the quiet spa functions. Juxtaposing the stair accent wall of reused barn board siding against the smooth sweeping curves of the glass shelved retail walls, the architects developed a soothing interior with a tactile depth.” From custom casework to the unique program of VIP treatment rooms on the second floor, the space “presents a series of carefully sculpted spaces along a unifying curved passageway.”
Spa night was one of many fund raising events our Women in Architecture Committee do to create opportunities to connect with new committee members, the community and other professional organizations. Theresa, a Steering Committee member, came up with the idea of spa night so that all the proceeds benefit The National Breast Center. “October is breast cancer awareness month… and Theresa asked if we can donate our space and was absolutely more than happy to do that,” Ellen said.
So…how can architects save the world? Well at spa night Ellen said it best,

“It is very important women, women in architecture and women across the world be aware of breast cancer awareness and that a mammogram can save your life.”

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