photo: Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, far left | Brooks + Scarpa, summer snap

"Sambo", Tarpon, and a Classic Thom Mayne Story

2017 AIA|LA Gold Medal Recipient Larry Scarpa, FAIA
Answers the Presidential Honoree Q&A

Dream commission? Check. A classic Design Awards ceremony story? Of course—hilarious, at that. The I.D. of who will be in the photo booth of this year’s Design Awards party with him? See below.

You could say that Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA’s, responses to the 2017 AIA|LA Presidential Honoree Questionnaire are reflective of his architectural language. The Q&A is always a light hearted way, to discover more about who you might run into standing at the bar at the Design Awards party. In Scarpa’s case illustrating an eye that sees the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

That line, was stolen, of course, partially, from Scarpa himself. The designer and 2017 AIA|LA Gold Medal winner frequently invokes “make the ordinary extraordinary.” That’s his shorthand for a design sequence that sparks curiosity, memory, and authentic experience in the spaces he conjures and through which Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, delivers wondrous, beautiful, influential architecture.

Here then, the site Scarpa would like to reconceive in LA, a classic Thom Mayne bit, and where you might find him on vacation:

AIA|LA: Favorite place to eat in Los Angeles.
My house.  Best Italian food around….except maybe Carlo’s house.

Dream Commission?
Any project with a budget north of $1000/sf.  I like doing projects with difficult and tight budgets but it would be a refreshing change every now and then to not have to worry about it.

What current site in Los Angeles would you reconceive?
LA River.
Why and how? Because it is one of the most important assets in the region and has the power to transform Los Angeles.

We have a photo booth at this year’s Design Awards. If you could pick one Angeleno to have your snap taken with, who would it be, and why.
A bunch of my buddies like  Lorcan, Hraztan, Montalba and others.  Combined they are bigger than any star!

Most influential piece of Los Angeles architecture to you. Include a why, if you’d like.
So many from Gill, Parkinson, Kappe, Lautner, Frank Israel, Greene + Greene, Wright, Neutra, Schindler, Gehry, Mayne, Gregory Ain and others. Hard to decide.

Okay, a commission or project that you’ve done. What should we know about it, that we don’t.
In the 90’s I asked my friend Sambo Mockbee to collaborate with me on a project I did for a non-profit group called The Gramercy Group.  It was a rehab of a 1920’s bldg in the Crenshaw area converted into child care and 18 living units for single teenage mothers. Sambo, myself and a group of eight SCI-arc students, where I was teaching at the time, designed and built all the furniture, and outdoor structures to provide shade for the mothers and infant children. It is Sambo’s only project in California and is know by only a select few.

If you had three hours off — or a full vaca—where would you likely be?
Fishing for tarpon in Florida.

Been to the Design Awards before? Name a moment that stands out, whether behind-the-scenes, hilarious, or inspiring.

Many times. A long time ago when I just started to receive design awards, I was waiting in line to pick up my single design award at the ceremony when I received a call from Thom Mayne who called about something which I cannot remember. What I do remember is that during the short conversation he asked if I was going to the design awards and I responded, “yes, in fact I am waiting in line to go on stage to pick up my award” and he said, "that's great, nobody from my office is there, can you pick up my awards?" (Which he received 2 or 3 of, as I recall.)

I said, “Of course.” His name was called right before mine, so I just stood on stage to collect 3 or 4 awards in a row. 

Afterwards, at the social events and holding all the award plaques, everyone came up to me and congratulated me for winning so many awards. Even though I tried to explain, “No, I only received one award, all the others I am just picking up for Thom”, the only thing that sunk in with the people attending the awards was that I went on stage, I was holding the plaques so I must have won all of the awards, not Thom.  After trying to explain this to more than 15-20 people, I just gave up and said; “Thank you” for the rest of the evening to everyone who congratulated me.

Scarpa designed projects would go on to win numerous AIA and AIA|LA awards.
A quick look at three Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA/Brooks + Scarpa projects:
Angle Lake Station

The Six
Lipton Thayer House
Last updated: 13-Sep-2017 04:17 PM
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