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Meet the 2013 Curbed Young Guns: Carina Bien-Willner

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Curbed Young Guns, now in its first year, aims to identify promising up-and-coming talent (35 and under) in the fields of architecture, interior design, and urban development. For the next few weeks, Curbed National will run individual stories on each Young Gun; here's a look at a member of the Class of 2013 based in LA:

It's quite clear that Carina Bien-Willner, 33, isn't one to stay put. When she was six, she emigrated from Buenos Aires to Arizona with her parents, licensed architects in Argentina who opened a design/build furniture and cabinetry shop once settled in the States. One summer, while studying for her bachelor of architecture at the University of Arizona, she ventured to L.A. to work for Marmol-Radziner, a firm famed for its pre-fab (read: built off-site in a factory and transported) modern homes. After graduating, she landed a job working for the L.A.-based architect Jennifer Siegal, another prefab pioneer whose official firm name, quite literally, is "Office of Mobile Design." Even her undergraduate thesis was a variant of the topic. "My thesis was on nomadic architecture," Bien-Willner says. "My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, so I traced their movements as nomads during the Holocaust and after the Holocaust for a number of years. I did a lot of diagramming of their journey, and through that journey I asked a lot of questions to determine what their homes—even if home was an 8'-by-8'-by-8'-deep hole in the middle of the forest that was camouflaged so that people couldn't find them—were like during those years."

After her stint with Siegal, Bien-Willner was hired by the Santa Monica firm Belzberg Architects, where she spent the better part of six years as project manager for the first ground-up, permanent location for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. "I was 25, and the newest employee at Belzberg," she recalls. "I couldn't believe it. Obviously I had a very personal relationship with the Holocaust, but I think that all architects, young and old, dream of working on a museum because you get to be a part of a much larger conversation." One of a small team, Bien-Willner had her hands in all aspects of the project, from working on the design and being on-site once construction started to meeting with the museum foundation and city officials to get things approved.

Bien-Willner on "the role of the architect" in a community. >>