In memory of Ken Liu, AIA, NCARB, ACHA, LEED AP 1951-2014
Ken Liu, who was born in China and grew up in Chicago, studied mathematics and art at Williams College and architecture at UCLA. While still a student at UCLA he began his professional career by joining the architecture firm Bobrow /Thomas and Associates (BTA), where he focused on the design of healthcare facilities and over the course of 10 years he rose to the level of Principal. While at BTA he met his future partners Ken Lee and Erich Burkhart. In 1986 the trio started the architecture firm Lee, Burkhart, Liu (LBL) and built it to become an internationally influential contributor to the innovative design and planning of health care facilities. Due in large part to Liu’s leadership, the firm garnered over 35 American Institute of Architecture design awards including a 2011 AIA firm of the year award. At LBL, he designed hospitals and clinics all around the Pacific in California, Washington, Hawaii, Guam, The Philippines, Korea and China. Liu was a member of LBL’s design team for many of Southern California’s most important medical centers including LAC+USC Medical Center, UCLA Medical Center and Santa Barbara Cottage hospital. He designed diverse hospitals and clinics for healthcare systems such as Kaiser Permanente and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Ken contributed to the revision of California’s hospital seismic safety regulations following the Loma Pieta and Northridge earthquakes. These regulations led to a wave of new seismically secure hospital construction across the state that continues today. As a part of that wave, Liu worked tirelessly to rebuild California’s healthcare infrastructure enhancing the design of over 100 hospitals around the state. Just before his death he had been applying what he learned in California to the reconstruction of hospitals destroyed by the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
In his design work, Ken challenged his clients and colleagues to consider the therapeutic benefits of good design. He was an advocate of patient involvement in the design process. Never hesitant to make a contribution, Liu’s undergraduate training in the immutable logic and beauty of mathematics made him a fearsome design debate opponent. In true mathematician fashion he often distilled his concepts into a series of “Liu’s laws”. Challenging the rational foundation of a “Liu’s Law” was an entertaining exercise in futility. His razor sharp wit and appreciation of a good story peppered with the occasional off-color joke kept these exchanges lively.
Californians in need of healthcare that is delivered in an building that is secure, respects human dignity and is in harmony with its environment will understand what Ken Liu’s life and work was about.
Ken is survived by his son Ryder, brothers Albert and Frank, friend and former wife Patricia, as well as many dear friends and extended family.