James F. Porter, FAIA




AIA Los Angeles remembers a friend and longtime colleague, James Porter, who passed away at the age of 72.

Jim graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California. He was a member of the USC Architectural Guild, and a member of the USC School of Fine Arts Board of Councilors.

In his professional life, among other noted local architectural practices, he worked with Frank O. Gehry and Associates and Charles Kober Associates before co-founding Altoon+Porter Architects in 1984 with Ronald Altoon, FAIA, and Harvey Niskala,
AIA. In 2012, at the age of 70, after 27 years with the firm, and upon full divestiture of ownership, Jim chose to retire and ultimately re-engage with the Gehry office. With Jim’s departure, the firm was renamed Altoon Partners.

With his keen interest in effective and efficient practice administration and project management, Jim created the “Collaboration Matrix” which carefully crafted responsibilities between architectural firms working in concert on projects.
Over the years, A+P collaborated with architect colleagues more than 70 times on projects in over 40 countries. The AIA adopted a version of this contract format that was based upon Jim’s pioneering collaboration concept, and included it in their AIA Architect’s Handbook of professional Practice. This was an acknowledgement of his significant contribution to the profession.Recognizing this, his American Institute of Architects College of Fellows nomination package contained the statement “Jim Porter has pioneered collaboration techniques for over 30 years and has mentored architects who have adopted his innovative contract documents for project delivery, resulting in projects in partnership with firms nationally and globally.”

Jim was advanced to the AIA College of Fellows in 2013, a commendation bestowed on only 2% of AIA members in their lifetimes. In the early 2000’s he transitioned his role into responsibility for managing the firm’s burgeoning Asian practice, growing and training staff in the A+P Shanghai office. There, he mentored local recruits, negotiated a long term collaborative relationship with a private Chinese practice, and came to be a resource to all members of the firm who traveled there on project assignments. Jim researched all the good restaurants in Shanghai, which was a special bonus for the travel weary.

Under Jim’s project management leadership, the firm completed work on the historic Engine Co. No. 28 and Grand Avenue Urban Design Plan, Los Angeles; Queen Ka’ahumanu Center and Waikiki BeachWalk, Hawaii; Al Mamlaka at Kingdom Centre, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; First City Department Store, Taichung, Taiwan; Marina City, Qingdao, PRC; Central World, Bangkok; and Sengkang and Buangkok Subway Stations in Singapore. Jim loved to travel, and thrived by engaging with other cultures. In every foreign city he seemed to posses a sixth sense in locating all their hidden treasures. Yet at work, he was tireless, possessing a solid work ethic.

And Jim gave back to the community as well. An enthusiastic and active member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Jim served on the ULI Urban Development/Mixed-Use, International Development, and Global Exchange Councils. He participated in several weeklong ULI Panel Advisory Services programs, and was a member of the ULI Policy and Practice, Advisory/Educational Services and Awards of Excellence Committees. At the local level Jim served on the ULI Los Angeles District Council Advisory Board.

Within the greater Los Angeles community, Jim was well known in cultural circles. He participated as a founder of the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles, a member of the Los Angeles Headquarters City Association Executive Board, the Los Angeles Music Center Fraternity of Friends, and many other cultural and civic organizations. People who knew him in these arenas would tell us that Jim was a real gentleman. He was a great good will ambassador.

On the personal side, Jim was a truly gifted trumpet player. He played in the Lawrence Welk Champagne Music Makers television orchestra during college, and, ironically, gave up that promising career to focus on architecture because he asserted that he did not want to travel so much. Several airline mileage programs are a testament to his questionable judgment on that issue. But, he balanced his road warrior duties with a love of golf, fine dining, and a passion for the arts.


Jim passed away peacefully at home after a short illness. His wife, Faith Porter, an acclaimed artist, sons Damon and Aaran, two daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren survive him.

We are advised that a memorial service has been planned and will be held at:

All Saints Episcopal Church
504 North Camden Drive
Beverly Hills, CA
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
2:00 PM

Rest well Jim Porter.

Last updated: 29-Jul-2014 03:35 PM
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