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June 22, 2017

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This is my personal love story with Los Angeles expressed through projects that I’ve worked on at KFA.

 
I am a native Angelino and was born in Boyle Heights. My teenage and college years were spent working in my parents’ Mexican fast food restaurant.  So, when Barbara and Wade asked me to work on the design of Café Gratitude in Venice as my first solo KFA project, I was over the moon excited. It was a small restaurant tenant improvement project at 512 Rose, a then newly constructed mixed-use housing development designed by KFA.  For me, working on Café Gratitude was like “playing restauranteur.”  It was a lot of fun! When this restaurant comes up in conversations with friends I say, “That’s my project!

My latest completed KFA project, Hollenbeck Terrace, was quite a jump in size and responsibility for me professionally.  The former Linda Vista Community Hospital across from Hollenbeck Park is one of the most iconic historical landmarks in Boyle Heights.  The days of it being old and dilapidated are in the past, and it is now home to 120 low-income seniors.

A couple years ago at a fundraising event at Hollenbeck, one of the guest speakers was a future tenant.  She shared her story of being homeless and living out her car for several years. I happened to run into her later that day on the 2ndfloor, where she was about to get a peak of her new home.  I will never forget her reaction walking into her apartment for the first time.  She couldn’t believe it.  She was so filled with emotion that she couldn’t speak, and was excited to be able to call Hollenbeck Terrace home.  That was the single most humbling and inspiring moment I’ve ever experienced in my life as an Angelino, as a woman, and as an architect.

As I have grown into a more well-rounded architect and project manager, the projects I’ve worked on have also grown in terms of size and magnitude.  The current chapter of my L.A. love story focuses on the future Ivy Station in Culver City adjacent to the LA Metro Expo Line Station.

TOD projects like Ivy Station and other large campus design projects at KFA are paramount and necessary to the development of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities.  My favorite Ivy Station design element is the 1.5-acre public park, which will become a great meeting space for public events and daily outdoor activities for residents and neighbors.

Throughout my years at KFA, I have been nurtured and mentored to become a better person on top of being a good architect. From learning by example, I am paying it forward by volunteering as a mentor to inner city elementary and junior high school students.  I hope these kids are inspired to create their own journey, to dream big, to never give up, and to go after whatever will make their lives full.  My love for LA has grown thanks to being a part of the KFA family.

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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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