The hardware on the wall seems to soften as R. Anderson “Rick” Moberg shares warm memories of his family and their early influence on his life’s blueprint, which motivated him to build one of the most prominent architectural firms in the region.
Gesturing towards the wall, Moberg says, “Most of those tools are more than 100 years old. Some are my dad’s Model A Ford wrenches and some of those tools belonged to my grandfather who did all types of cabinetry.” Moberg’s love for the art of drawing and drafting with pencil and ink started at an early age.
His uncle was an architect. “He did a lot of golf course kind of chalets in fairly upscale residences, and I would watch him as a little boy. He was always hand drawing and I was somewhat excited about that,” recalls Moberg.
One of his greatest influences was his father, who was an aerospace engineer working at National Advisory Committee Aeronautics, (NACA) and later, with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, (NASA). “I would spend time at NASA with my dad, where I got to see engineering, and I just had a passion for it so all through high school, I took drafting.”
In 11th grade, Moberg got a job with one of the first architectural firms in Newport News, Forrest Coile Associates. He worked before and after school as an office runner. After high school graduation, he went to Virginia Tech for five years and continued to work with the company every summer and during Christmas breaks.
“I went from office boy to president of the company within 25 years,” says Moberg with a smile. After 30 years with this company, he shifted to another firm. At this new firm — RWK Architects — he met H. Eugene Roberts. After five years of working together, they left the firm and established James River Architects in 2004. Moberg is president and Roberts is vice president. Bayport Credit Union is the firm’s oldest client and today, approximately 85 percent of its clients are repeat customers.
“We opened up and grew and then the recession hit and we went the other way. We came back with a significant list of ongoing projects. We have a lot of work that we’re very, very proud of,” says Moberg.
The list has several of the most eye-catching and highly visible structures in the area, including CHKD Health Center (Oyster Point); Wolseley North American Headquarters; Denbigh Community Center; Marketplace Office Building at Tech Center; Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; Orthopedic & Spine Center; Victory Family YMCA; and Yorktown Riverwalk Landing.
One of Moberg’s most cherished projects is his work with the USS Monitor Center of Mariners Museum. “I grew up on Elm Avenue in Newport News and every Sunday after church, my Dad and I rode our bikes through the Lions Bridge area. We would go in and buy a nickel Coke and a pack of Nabs and visit a different part of the museum each time. So, with my childhood memories, when I had the opportunity to design a project that was more than $30 million dollars for the USS Monitor Center, it was just a rush of excitement. I love the museum; it’s such an asset to our community and to know that I had a part in it was… yes, I have a deep family connection to that project,” says Moberg.
The firm also has a strong connection and commitment to the community and to the betterment of the environment. Moberg is certified in seven states and is a member of organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Commercial Interior Design Association. He is also certified as a LEED Green Associate. Core values associated with organizations such as AIA include human and civil rights, architecture that strengthens communities and policies that protect the environment.
As “net zero buildings” are part of the current vernacular, Moberg’s use of recycled steel, products with low volatile organic compounds, glass that is energy efficient, UV reflective and usage of other materials that use recycled content is a priority. While there are increased costs associated with “hitting new zero,” Moberg balances budget and efficiency with the reality that people are creatures of comfort and not everybody agrees with a change in lifestyle. “It can be a challenge,” Moberg says with a grin.
As a stroll through Moberg’s office reveals an impressive display of models and landscapes he and Roberts have designed, it becomes evident that it is nearly impossible to travel anywhere in the area without seeing a James River Architect’s creation. Each project stands as a beacon of success, and at their foundations stands a man who exhibits humility and gratitude that his youthful passion to design and draw evolved and is now being used and enjoyed by families representing multiple generations. His father and grandfather would be pleased.
TO THE POINT:
James River Architects
Contact: R. Anderson (Rick) Moberg, principal
Address: 11832 Rock Landing Dr., Ste. 304, Newport News, VA, 23606