AIA|LA Interviews 2015 Presidential Honoree Sarah Lorenzen

On any given Sunday, 2015 AIA|LA Presidential Honoree Sarah Lorenzen is liable to be hiking. 
Photo: David Hartwell

“No one was home,” architect and educator Sarah Lorenzen wrote to us about her first intrepid visit to the Neutra VDL House in Silverlake. The quixotic introduction occurred before she could imagine overseeing research based on—and the preservation of—the residence, a responsibility she holds today.

Lorenzen also chairs the architecture department at Cal Poly Pomona. It’s her guidance of both institutions that led her to be named this year’s AIA|LA Presidential Honoree for Excellence in Education—which brings us back to the reason for our emails.

This year we’re interviewing Lorenzen, and other esteemed Presidential Honorees, based on the theme for the 2015 Design Awards Season: retro/future. 

Here, then, Lorenzen’s answers about LA and architecture—firsts, lasts, favorites, that quirky first visit to the Neutra VDL House, and… what should never change in the city.

AIA|LA: What was the first Los Angeles building (and relevant architect) to influence you?
Sarah Lorenzen, AIA:
I first visited Los Angeles in 2001, having driven down from San Francisco with a couple of friends over a long weekend. On that trip we visited Schindler's Kings Road House and then drove over to Silver Lake to see the Neutra VDL House. 

I remember that I found both houses fascinating, although it's hard to pinpoint what first captivated me about these spaces. Memory is a tricky thing. No one was home when we arrived at Neutra's VDL and there was no information about the owners or if it was even possible to visit the house. We drove around back and discovered that it was quite open. We slipped in through the carport and climbed up a spiral stair to discover a door unlocked... It seems so odd that 7-years later I would be taking over as resident director of that same house. Needless to say the very first thing we did before moving in was to fix the fences and erect gates at the back of the house.

Name a Los Angeles person, place, or thing that inspires you today and tell us why (as briefly or in as great detail as you wish).
I am really bad with top ten lists and the naming of favorite things, which I realize is not very helpful given your questions. So I'll do my best. My favorite person, place, and thing in the city is the one that I never expected to meet or see. What is most appealing to me about this city is that everything is always shifting. 

Favorite book or website/blog or Instagram feed?
At breakfast I always read or scroll through: my FB feed (completely addicting), the opinion & style sections of the NY Times (apologies to our excellent local paper), the Architect’s Newspaper, Archinect, and ArchDaily.

What's the thing you'd most like to change about Los Angeles in the future?
People that want to make Los Angeles more like New York.

What should never change in this city?
Griffith Park.

Where is your favorite place to go in LA?

Every Sunday we hike a different part of the Santa Monica, Verdugo, or San Gabriel mountains. I don't see running out of new trails over the next ten years. And all are within a 1-hour drive.

Join Sarah, Los Angeles cultural figures, and the city’s design community at Architects’ Night Out, the 2015 AIA|LA Design Awards. 

Here’s where you can buy tickets.
Last updated: 02-Sep-2015 01:36 PM
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