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June 22, 2017

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Partner In-Charge, Ivy Station

 

My passion for Architecture stems from growing up as the son of an architect in northern England. I would work in my father’s office making blue line prints, refilling ink pens, doing site surveys in the driving rain and visiting job-sites with my father. I loved then, and I still love now, the people, the process and the influence of design and construction on the community. There is art and science, as well as a lot of dreaming, arguing and communication, that goes into every project. At each step of the way, I love the cumulative nature of the process, the working of a collaborative team towards a common goal and the satisfaction of happy clients.

Design is the single greatest value we, as architects, bring to our clients and our communities. It must have both leadership and collaboration, can be messy and fun, but it must respond to critical questions of location, climate and the client’s program. I believe we all, architects and non-architects alike, know great design when we see it. That is the magic of working on design and in a business that values design.

I design by hand, using pens, pencils and watercolors, not only because I have deliberately stayed away from computers, but also because I believe it is the best way to arrive at a solution with flow, integrity, good proportions and the right feel for the site. Of course, there are lots of architects who produce brilliant work on computers, but I enjoy the speed, the fun and the artistry of hand drawing—and I think some of our clients enjoy it also.

I have been very lucky over the past four years to work on Ivy Station, in Culver City, which is one of those projects that you just hope comes along once or twice in your career. At my previous firm, Tom Wulf at Lowe Enterprises invited me to form a team and enter a competition for the 5.5-acre site at the Culver City light rail station. This was a chance to design a real TOD adjacent to a busy stop in a City that is motivated to approve and back a great design. We won with a master plan that emphasized the pedestrian over the vehicle and created a large, public park right next to the station. When I came to KFA the project came with me thanks to the strength of the KFA team. We are now completing construction documents and nearing the start of a 3-year construction period which will produce one of the great TOD projects in California, knit Culver City together and create a place for community to flourish. One thing you learn very quickly as a partner, you are nothing without a talented team of smart people around you.

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June 22, 2017

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In May 2017, AIA|LA held its inaugural, daylong Encompass conference that focused on problems and solutions concerning diversity, inclusion, and equity within the profession of architecture. KFA celebrates AIA|LA’s effort in creating the proper forum for continuing the vitally important conversation about diversity and inclusion.

AIA Statement on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, 2017

The American Institute of Architects, as part of the global community, champions a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession of architecture to create a better environment for all. Achieving this vision has a direct impact on the relevance of our profession and the world’s prosperity, health, and future.

Among the speakers was Andrea Urmanita, AIA, a rising star at KFA and a board member of the Association of Women for Architecture + Design (AWA+D). Invited to share her personal journey as a woman and as a first-generation American, she discussed how her cross-cultural upbringing formed conflicting expectations about career success and how taking ownership of her career was key towards gaining confidence and becoming a licensed architect.

Much work remains to be done to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity within the profession, in order to attract future generations of architects and to mentor and retain emerging talent with diverse backgrounds. The Encompass conference was a valuable chance for AIA|LA members to speak candidly and identify real action items to achieve as a chapter.

Andrea focused on the need to capture and retain the pool of young talent that the architecture profession risks losing: those who don’t get the validation that they’ve earned, those who don’t have a clear picture of the career ahead, and those who don’t make it to positions of leadership. Among the key issues she raised:

  • Aspiring architects must take ownership of their own career development, and tirelessly seek out work environments and opportunities to gain a better understanding of the profession.
  • Architecture firms need to recognize the untapped talent and leadership potential within their staff. It’s in their best interest to encourage staff to integrate personal interests into office culture, provide opportunities for mentorship, and cultivate their young professionals towards leadership and career growth.
  • Members of the profession, at any level, can become engaged both in and out of the office. Participate actively in professional organizations such as AIA|LA and AWA+D to advance and support fellow colleagues at different career stages.
  • Every future architect can create her or his own path, regardless of gender or race, and not allow the habits and expectations of past generations to hinder their success.

With 42 years of sustained, visionary leadership by Barbara Flammang, AIA, and Wade Killefer, FAIA, KFA has developed a culture that values and celebrates diversity and inclusivity. KFA encourages intern development program (IDP) participation, and the firm’s leadership strongly supports architectural licensure, paying for study guides and test fees and creating a competitive test-taking culture. Currently, 50 percent of the firm’s architectural staff is female, 49 percent represent minority groups and 50 percent of our eligible architects are licensed. The firm has developed an internal mentorship program that supports the growth of every staff member. KFA respects the talents of its employees, and compensates them fairly and equally.

Our firm looks forward to further participating and supporting both AIA|LA and AWA+D in their missions and visions for broadening the landscape for current and future architects.

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