New Hire: Kai Hu, Project Architect

NEWS    |  APRIL 2016


Kai Hu
Kai's outdoor watercolor sketch of Baker's Park in Frederick, Maryland.

Kai Hu hails from the Cathedral Heights neighborhood of Washington D.C. and joined MV+A in April. With a Masters of Architecture and Urbanism from Notre Dame, Kai has extensive experience in urban design and mixed-use. Says Kai, “I design as an architect, paint as an artist, write as a columnist.  But I love to live and work where there is a sense of place, and I would rather design and build such a place than just sketch or paint it.”

APRIL 2016

Mid-Atlantic Region

The buildings we create are truly complete once people are using them. This makes wayfinding and graphics, the established cues for how people intuitively navigate a space, crucial to the urban experience. Read below to learn more from our in-house graphic designer, Catherine Merwitz, AIGA.

Graphics Tysons West | Tysons Corner | Vienna, VA
LEFT » Phase One in-line retail. RIGHT » Phase One office building and retail, wrapped around and into existing parking garage.

Environmental graphics and wayfinding – what does that mean to a retail-focused architecture firm?

“Graphics and wayfinding are the finishing touch on a building’s contextual integration and design quality. They are keystones to the interaction between a person and the built environment. Especially for buildings with complicated programs, wayfinding is critical- these are the signs at decision-making points, and high-quality wayfinding maintains ease and efficiency, good traffic, and makes a space and community safer.”

Graphics Collaborate North Bethesda Market | North Bethesda, MD
North Bethesda Market signage.

What are the various graphic design services needed on a retail project?

“First there is understanding the project needs relative to local ordinances that mandate signage sizes, locations, quantity, projection depth, levels of illumination, restrictions on ground signs versus blade signs, what is and is not considered a sign, and so on.

We then create a master plan that works within these requirements to meet the project identity. For some projects and jurisdictions, a project-specific set of guidelines is created to satisfy the local zoning requirements. From that, we provide overall design concepts and images to establish design standards for tenant signs, design and detail project identification and wayfinding signs. The end result is a project with a clear, well-designed and well-branded graphic image.”

Graphics Retail Design Brandywine Crossing | Brandywine, MD
Graphics Retail Design Brandywine Crossing | Brandywine, MD

Are there advantages to in-house graphic design capability at an architecture firm?

“As designers of buildings, we understand the demands of a space and of a client more deeply. The fundamental component is that the finalized sign package displays project information in an organized manner. But the artistic component is that a good graphics package is a beautiful, direct, and natural extension of our architectural work.”

Graphics Tysons West | Tysons Corner
Graphics Tysons West | Tysons Corner

Staff Profile: Catherine Merwitz, AIGA, ADC


On MV+A: One of the best things is the people I work with. Humans are social creatures, and we all benefit from being around others who are engaged and excited about their work. We have a highly collaborative environment, so on any given day I could be helping someone with choosing paints or tiles, or even going over a design concept for a new project.

On secret talents: I play many instruments- piano, guitar, and drums. I’ve been playing since I was a child and composing since my teens. The various music genres are a reflection of the numerous ways of thinking. Listening to music definitely helps me focus, but also creates space to better solve problems. It’s very restorative.

520 12th Street South, Arlington, VA 22202
Pentagon City