THE PEOPLE OF OUR CITY:  a summer series by Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA

Are you curious to learn more about the individuals who work in city government?  

Over the course of the summer, as a way for our membership of 3200+ architects and designers to further connect with the people that work for public agencies in the Los Angeles region, I am reaching out to a few dozen government employees and asking them each to share their personal thoughts about architecture, design and what Los Angeles means to them as a place.

Over the course of the next several months, we will feature these short profiles to further inspire a dialogue with our design community about the personal contributions we all make to the public realm.

If you'd like to share your thoughts or have suggestions for individuals that you'd like to hear from, please contact me at will{at}

Nathaniel (Nat) Gale
Transportation Project Delivery
Mayor Villaraigosa's Office of Transportation

How long have you worked for the City of Los Angeles:

I have worked for the City for approximately 3 years - 1.5 as an intern in the Mayor's Office of Economic and Business Policy while I was in graduate school, 1.5 as a full time employee in the Mayor's Office of Transportation.

What project are you working on right now that you're most excited about?

There are a few projects that I think will be transformational for the City that I'm fortunate and excited to be working on at the moment. The first is the 6th Street Bridge, with it's potential to reimagine civic plazas and open space at the base of the viaduct in both the Arts District and Boyle Heights. I like to think of it as a potential West Coast version of New York City's "High Line." Two other related projects are the MyFigueroa streetscape project on Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles, and the Broadway Streetscape Master Plane Phase 1 Implementation. As the first true "complete streets" projects for the City, I think these both have the potential to drastically shift the way Angelenos interact with their built environment, and will create a demand for more similar treatments throughout the City.

Describe some of your favorite features that give Los Angeles a sense of place:

My favorite feature that gives LA a sense of place is how multiculturalism factors into the built environment in many different ways. For example, I live in a sub-neighborhood of Koreatown called "Little Bangladesh," and within walking distance from me there is an old Jewish Temple that has since been converted to a Korean Presbyterian Church, one of the best taco trucks in the City (El Flaming Taco), an Islamic Cultural Center, a Buddhist Temple, and one of the City's best bicycle boulevards (4th Street) that goes through affluent (and beautiful) Hancock Park. This is Los Angeles.

What's your daily connection to architecture and design like?

Many of the decisions and projects that cross the Mayor's desk involve a physical reconstruction of the City, especially as it relates to major capital transportation projects. I have been fortunate to work for a Mayor who has a bold vision for how the City will look over the next 30 years, and wants to make sure we build smart and we build right. This has empowered me to take that vision into account with every decision I make and every meeting I convene. Too often decisions that affect the built environment get made in silos, without looking at the comprehensive plan or vision for the City. I feel it is my job to make sure the priorities of the City are taken care of expeditiously, without sacrificing the bolder long term urban vision.

In your opinion, what makes Los Angeles "Los Angeles"?

I think Los Angeles is blessed with incredibly high and diverse quality of life opportunities. I am constantly impressed by the variety of vibrant commercial and residential neighborhoods across the City, and how people from all walks of life come to enjoy their own slice of LA. From Downtown to Koreatown to Hollywood to Venice, Los Angeles has it all.

It's the year 2113 - describe what you see from the front steps of City Hall:

I see a Grand Park that has transformed the Civic Center into a vibrant place to live, work and recreate. While the Civic Center is such an active area during the weekdays, I wish there were more amenities that draw night-time and weekend activities. This is where I think Grand Park can help attract new and exciting development that makes the Civic Center a 24-hour neighborhood, especially with its close connections to the Historic Core.

In your opinion, who is tomorrow's most interesting Angeleno?

Tomorrow's most interesting Angeleno is the small business owner along our current and future transit corridors. Our city is poised to change unlike any other in America, and likely the world, because of the build out and continued streamlining of our Rail and rapid Bus system. Our current and future transit corridors will be crucial in maintaining the high quality of life that our elected leaders and citizens would like to foster. Small business owners are where this quality of life is the most directly impacted, as their shops and their storefronts are what transit riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and auto users will interface with most often. If we can assist the small business owner in making it easy for their storefront to be a draw to the sidewalk activity, we will create a better Los Angeles.

What's your favorite building/ place in the world?  Can you share a photo with us?

Favorite interior space - Bradbury Building, LA
Favorite exterior space - High Line in NYC - though maybe surpassed by the new 6th Street Bridge upon completion.
Favorite flexible space - the banks of the Spree River in Berlin in the summertime - though eventually I'm certain this will be surpassed by the banks of the Los Angeles River year-round.
Last updated: 01-Jul-2013 04:40 PM
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