AIA|LA Counts Down to the 2011 Design Awards Ceremony and Party presented by Italian Living Umbria with Honorary AIA|LA Award Recipient, Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA

Last Updated: October 20, 2011

AIA|LA Counts Down to the 2011 Design Awards Ceremony and Party presented by Italian Living Umbria with Honorary AIA|LA Award Recipient, Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA

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AIA|LA Counts Down to the 2011 Design Awards Ceremony and Party presented by Italian Living Umbria with Honorary AIA|LA Award Recipient, Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA

The AIA|LA Design Awards countdown has begun! In honor of the event, AIA|LA will be sharing interviews, videos and editorials of the Presidential Honorees and of the Awards Party.

In our last edition, we catch-up with our very own, Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA AIA Los Angeles' Director of Government and Public Affairs, who has very recently been awarded the Presidential Honor of Honorary AIA|LA.

You are originally from Texas, what attracted you to Los Angeles?
What's attractive about the design profession? Or, what brought me to Los Angeles? I moved to LA in 1995 as a writer. My first few jobs were for boutique film companies that needed stories evaluated and repaired. I was a script doctor, and my primary challenge was to strengthen the core of the narrative by consolidating unnecessary scenes and characters. Axing fluff. Killing babies. We had odd terminology that simply meant getting rid of the remnants of 'process'. As a writer, process is vital. However, once you've written the story, it's equally important to remove the scaffolding - that trail of evidence that demonstrates how the writer conceived the form often gets in the way of experiencing that story from a reader's perspective. To only leave the essence of what is needed not only resulted in better stories, they also resulted in stories that were less expensive to film.

Certain leading architects and designers in Los Angeles have explicitly reinforced these same core principals that I learned as a writer. Perhaps it's a condition created by the demands of LA (or perhaps it's simply a condition of our time here on earth) but the most striking feature of Los Angeles-based architects is their discipline at 'sage reduction'. Cooking design down to its core. The successful ones have boiled their designs down to the pure essence of what is needed structurally and emotionally to tell the story about how individual components of the built environment help Los Angeles evolve into a more compelling and delightful place.

How did you get started with AIA Los Angeles?
Ten years ago, I had just returned from a year-long trip living in a small house overlooking Lake Maninjau in Sumatra.  Down to just a few hundred bucks to my name, I needed a job and applied haphazardly for anything that would provide the next paycheck.  When I interviewed for the position at AIA|LA, I didn't have much knowledge of their programs or initiatives.  However, as a kid I used to draw houses, floor plans and subdivision maps.  It was a hobby of mine from the age of five or six onwards.  So, perhaps the bones of architecture were in my blood.  At first, my job at AIA|LA was purely administrative.  However, with mentors such as Merry Norris, Bill Fain, Martha Welborne, Li Wen, John Kaliski and Paul Danna my position slowly evolved into what it is now.  As the Director of Government & Public Affairs for AIA|LA, I have one of the most dynamic and enjoyable jobs in Los Angeles.  On behalf of the architecture profession, my responsibility is to help shape public policy so that design excellence becomes first and foremost on everyone's mind.  It is my responsibility to correct the perception that design is only about aesthetics. 

Like a lens might correct one's vision, the AIA|LA is in the position to inspire civic leaders and policymakers that design excellence will not only save the taxpayer money, but that it will provide a far greater return on investment than a purely-engineered solution.  Design is about system-wide performance.  It's about finding the most direct and effective solution to a problem, and at the same time, delivering a platform that enables an exponential amount of opportunities to further evolve so that unanticipated behavioral trends and land-uses have opportunities to be integrated into the system holistically.  We have to account for these solutions now.  Not later, when it's too expensive to integrate new ideas into existing conditions. Design excellence and performance-thinking enables us to coordinate all of the layers of contributing forces in such a way that nourishes a diverse network of cultures and, at the same time, optimizes the resources needed to make the world a healthier place.

What does receiving an Honorary AIA|LA Presidential Award mean to you?
I am extremely grateful.  However, I don't think I deserve it yet.  There is still a ton of work to do.  The Sixth Street Viaduct for instance...we need to influence the way capital projects are delivered in this city to guarantee design excellence.  We need to restore the paradigm that the architect should be leading these projects.  Sure, engineering is key.  But we have to solve problems beyond the terrestrial demands of physics and chemistry and mechanics.  We have to design bridges (and infrastructure!) to solve tomorrow's problems - problems and challenges that can only be perceived from a system-wide perspective.

The Sixth Street Viaduct isn't just a mobility enhancer - it's a dynamic place situated at a key nexus of the Los Angeles River.  It's a place with a view shed to die for.  Let's rally around the opportunity to design a viaduct that not only looks good and performs well, but one that becomes a destination all unto it's own.  A viaduct that has a restaurant suspended below it, for instance.  Or an observation deck.  Or, a viaduct with the capacity to connect to a city-wide system of sky gondola's that connect Downtown LA to Griffith Park and the LA River to Point Mugu.

Ahhh, but I've digressed.  Yes, to become an honorary member of AIA Los Angeles:  thank you.  It's an honor that I will cherish for a lifetime.

2011 Design Awards, presented by Italian Living Umbria
Wednesday October 26 from 5:30pm


If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities for the 2011 Design Awards Party please contact Carlo Caccavale.

Last updated: 11-Dec-2012 10:57 PM
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