From the President: Reflecting on 2021

By Dan Heinfeld

Almost like a Dicken’s novel, 2021 was complete with the best of times and the worst of times. The long and pervasive COVID hangover surprised us all, affecting just about every aspect of our society, families and work.

Within that solemn context, there were two occurrences in 2021 that count as the “best of times” for LPA. And both provided insight into our values, culture and the impact of our better design process on communities.

The first big highlight: in 2021 LPA was awarded the prestigious AIA California Firm Award, the highest honor in the state for our industry. Given the number of outstanding firms in California — and the fact that it is the largest AIA state component in the country, representing 11,000 architects — this is a very special recognition that our better process is producing better results. The jury looks goes beyond individual projects to recognize firms that have “consistently produced distinguished architecture for a period of at least 10 years.”

The Firm Award, presented by our peers, is special in that it considers firm culture, influence on the community and role in the design industry. It is a reminder that what we do as a design firm is important: we create projects that shape and change lives. The award recognizes projects that stand the test of time, which is something that we talk about often at the firm.

On every project, we explore our client’s culture and values, the program, and local and regional site issues to guide our process and to give the project its purpose. We are problem solvers. We do not chase fashion and I believe that is one of the reasons that I believe our firm was recognized by AIA California for this award.

The jury comments provide insight to another reason why LPA was given the honor: “They were tackling environmental issues before Climate Action was even a term. To call them strong in sustainability category would be an understatement”

Long ago, we made the connection between sustainability, energy performance and design excellence. It is part of LPA’s DNA now. LPA’s submittal for the Firm Award included projects that were designed more than 20 years ago with features that would be part of any sustainable discussion today. Those design elements are as meaningful to their users today as they were when the projects were first occupied.

The second big firm highlight in 2021 for LPA was the recognition from the AIA Orange County, which honored LPA projects with eight awards. While project awards from AIA are nothing new, this was the 45th year in a row AIAOC has honored LPA with at least one design award, a track record that should make every member of the firm proud.

This level of consistency for design excellence is unique in this industry. The recognition for 45 consecutive years from a diverse group of design juries, commissioned to select and highlight examples of the best we do as profession, is a remarkable achievement. It is testimony to our talented teams and a commitment to an integrated, research-driven design process that is achieving results.

At LPA, we believe that every project, every scale, every budget should benefit from the same better process. It is probably the single thing that makes us unique in the industry — we never mail it in.

We share these two amazing firm achievements with our remarkable clients, who have entrusted us with their projects and their dreams for creating something better. Together, working as partners with our clients, we are changing lives by design.

Dan Heinfeld is President of LPA Design Studios.