March 30, 1997 - From the March, 1997 issue

AIA Elects/Elevates Eight from L.A. to FAIA

By Leon WhitesonTPR Architecture Critic


"Brenda Levin... has gained a national reputation for her work... In fact, it could be said that she has been the main design talent involved in giving new life to historic architecture in Los Angeles."

In a yearly ritual attracting attention throughout the United States, the American Institute of Architects awards the status of Fellow (FAIA) to some of its more distinguished members. Fellowship is conferred on members of at least ten years' standing who have made significant contributions to the profession as noted designers, contributors to public service or architectural education, training and practice, or heightened environmental awareness. There are but 2,000 Fellows among the AIA's approximately 58,000 members. 

Awarding the status of Fellow to Architects by their peers is important for several reasons. For the profession, it encourages an elevation of standards across the board and spurs practitioners to strive for the very best levels of achievement in their fields of expertise. For the public, it can help clients who may be in the process of choosing a member of the profession for a particular project to pick out the leading architects while providing a certain level of reassurance of competence. 

The Fellows elected this February included eight members of the Los Angeles chapter of the AIA, the second highest number elected to Fellowship in the U.S., after New York. The new Los Angeles Fellows represent a broad spectrum of achievement in a range of fields, including design, education and public service. This broad spectrum underlines the depth and complexity of the profession in our city and county and, it merits community attention. The new Fellows include several prominent designers with national reputations in their fields. Michael Rotondi, principal of RoTo Architects and native Angeleno, is the director of the Southern California Institute of Architects, a widely admired design school in Marina del Rey. Formerly a principal in the firm Morphosis with partner Thom Mayne, Rotondi has a global reputation as an avant-garde designer whose work has helped establish Los Angeles as a world center of innovative architecture. He has been invited to lecture in a number of prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. 

John L. Ruble, principal of Moore Ruble Yudell, is another local designer with an international reputation. Originally established with the late and famous Charles Moore, the firm, which Ruble heads with partner "Buzz" Yudell, has continued the unique fusion of Modernist and historic idioms that made Moore a leader in the Post-Modernist movement. Moore Ruble Yudell's portfolio includes high-profile public commissions in the U.S. and Europe, particularly Berlin. In Southern California their most recent major project is the award-winning Escondido Performing Arts Center. 

Brenda Levin, principal of Levin and Associates, has gained a national reputation for her work in the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic structures. In fact, it could be said that she has been the main design talent involved in giving new life to historic architecture in Los Angeles. Her achievements include the renovation and restoration of such local landmarks as the Wiltern Theater, the downtown Oviatt and Fine Arts buildings, Mid-Wilshire's Chapman Market, and, currently, the Carriage House Gallery of the Huntington. Her work, in her practice and her membership in the Los Angeles Conservancy, has raised public consciousness about the vital need to honor Los Angeles' architectural traditions.

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Two new Fellows active in areas with a strong public service component are Michael Bobrow and Frank Dimster. Bobrow, Design Principal of Bobrow/Thomas and Associates in Westwood, heads a firm with wife and partner Julia Thomas which has specialized in buildings serving the health care field. Their innovative designs for hospitals across the U.S. have helped lead the way in a rapidly evolving sector in which change is a constant. Dimster, principal of Frank Dimster Associates and an Associate professor of Architecture at the University of California, has long been active in the area of affordable housing.

Charles Oakley is a leading member of a rare species, the full-time campus architect. As Campus Architect and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Design and Construction at UCLA, Oakley has supervised and implemented a $1 billion, decade-long expansion of the Westwood campus that includes projects by a host of the nation's top architects, along with innovative designs by younger firms. Working quietly behind the scenes, Oakley has helped change the long­standing policy of mediocrity that dominated campus design in the post World War Two era, transforming the character of UCLA. 

Of the two remaining Fellows, Michael Hricak, of the Venice based Rockefeller/Hricak partnership, is the current president of the local chapter of the AIA, while James J. Amis of Pasadena is senior manager for joint development for the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The new Fellows, who are now entitled to use the designation "FAIA" following their names, will be invested May 17th in the College of Fellows at the 1997 AIA National Convention in New Orleans.

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