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Local Architects On The Future of Their Profession

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The Central City Association, a group of downtown-centric local businesses, held one of their membership luncheons today at the Omni Hotel, an event which asked: “Architecture Panel: After the Housing Boom?What’s Next?” Good question. Moderating was Scott Johnson of architecture firm Johnson Fain, while the panelists--all architects--offered up slide shows of their work and answered questions. What is next in terms of projects, according to the experts: Overseas work continues. Schools and transportation, ie, work funded by bonds. And the silver lining? The downturn is going to make Los Angeles more like a European city, according to one of the panelists.

Summaries; quotes indicate actual quotes.

Downtown thoughts:

Karin Liljegren, Killefer Flammang: Adaptive re-use projects have slowed down in downtown. But Broadway is where the next wave of adaptive re-use projects is happening. Pocket parks, and affordable housing/mixed use income projects are still providing work. Parking, particularly in the historic core, is still an issue. Also: Commercial work would seem to be thriving: “Downtown restaurants and bars are packed?We are so bullish about downtown?.it’s the next wave [now] after the residences.’

On how to stay relevant:

Darin Schoolmeester, McLarand Vasquez Emsiek & Partners: "We have diversified our work...we’re doing military housing in Korea."

Private sector vs. public sector:

William Taylor, TFO: "Institutional work is saving the day for us, the public sector work is faring better than the private sector..." (All the panelists seemed to indicate that work is coming from the public sector.)

Why do foreign companies keep hiring American architects:

Eric Van Aukee, Perkins + Will: Basically, our expertise. “There’s an emulation of our institutions?.International clients are looking for our interpretation of their needs.”

There is a silver lining to the downturn:

William Taylor, TFO: We’re going to be centering more on an urban lifestyle going forward “and letting go of the idea of private ownership—a house with a yard”. Instead, we’ll be building centers around transportation and heading more towards a European city model. The downturn may be speeding up evolution of a young city [ie, Los Angeles will grow more quickly into a European city].

After the event, we asked some more questions. How do you make a good-looking school for LAUSD?

Scott Johnson, Johnson Fain: Johnson said he’s wants to see more of the "public side of schools." Currently, schools typically have an enclosure around the perimeter; school officials want to be able to lock down the school. Johnson said he’d like "to open up schools more" via the auditorium or food areas. It seemed similar to wanting to get away from fortress architecture.

What about one-person firms or smaller firms, how do they adjust to the market?

William Taylor, TFO: Be innovative. He said his firm will often approach developers with an idea. “Find a vacant building, and make a proposal,” he said. Go out and find the work first, and then find the investors. Additionally, team up with larger firms on projects.
· Central City Association [Official Site]